Dick Auty has learned that volunteering gives people a purpose, builds compassion and caring for friends, neighbours and many wonderful strangers, and also helps to effectively use a variety of skills.
Dick has spent more than 70 years in the Okanagan, having gone to school in Penticton before moving to Kelowna in 1963. Here he worked for 33 years as a first responder with the Kelowna Fire Department, where assisted in saving a few lives in that role. Since 1998 he has provided support to those fighting for their lives through the Cancer Car Program, run in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Freemasons BC.
“The Freemasons of BC started a volunteer program in 1988 to drive cancer patients from their home area to the nearest cancer clinic at no charge to either the patient or the Cancer Society,” explains Dick. “When the Cancer Clinic opened in Kelowna in 1998, I was privileged to take part in the setup of the local program, and have overseen a wonderful group of volunteer drivers and dispatchers from Kamloops to Oliver. At one time there were more than 210 volunteers working in the program.”
“As a Freemason I knew about the program in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, and was anxious to do my part to assist cancer patients when the program set up in the Interior. As I had retired in 1996, the timing was perfect, and the years just seem to have flown by,” continues Dick. “Being awarded the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers in September 2021 was an honour that I would never have expected, but it certainly motivated me to continue promoting the program.”
In addition to his 24 years as coordinator of the Cancer Car Program, Dick has also volunteered with the Kelowna Curling Club and Major Men’s Fastball. One of his favourite volunteer memories comes from 1986.
“The Kelowna Curling Club hosted a bonspiel which was lead up to the Calgary Winter Olympics — winners qualified for the trials to determine the eventual Canadian representative — as the Media Coordinator, I had the honour of being interviewed on television with Russ Howard and Ed Werenich, two of the top curlers of the day. As short as I am, they were both shorter!”
Dick also gives back to the community by donating blood and has given more than 160 times.
“Until you get involved, you will never realize how little effort it takes to make a difference in the lives of those whom you assist, and how much it is appreciated by those individuals,” says Dick. “Volunteering is better than a hobby – particularly assisting people who through no fault of their own cannot access necessary treatments without transportation assistance.”