For individuals and families in Otsego County facing cancer and undergoing radiation treatment, transportation can be an added hardship. Petoskey is the nearest radiation treatment facility, requiring a 90-mile round trip for anywhere from 5 to 45 consecutive days. Patients can be drained of energy as treatment progresses, making the drive more difficult. Many patients and their family members are working, and taking time off for weeks on end creates financial and emotional hardships that compound dealing with the disease itself. It’s overwhelming.  

Considering this burden, the Otsego County United Way provides transportation for radiation patients through its T.A.C.K.L.E. program.  Two key components of this effort are volunteer drivers and a dependable vehicle.  In 2023, the program transported 18 patients to 332 treatment sessions. During these trips, more happens than delivering riders from one destination to another. Patients who are farther along in their treatment provide comfort and inspiration to those early in their cancer journey. Friendships are forged, recipes and cookbooks are shared, and everyone who rides in the T.A.C.K.L.E. vehicle is reminded that they are not alone as they face cancer. 

All those miles add up ,and in early 2023, the OCUW started to look for a new vehicle to replace the 11-passenger van. The search took into consideration the maximum number of riders, ease of use, and the limited budget. Before long, the funding came together, including a $6250 grant from the T.A.C.K.L.E. Fund of the OCF, and other contributors and sponsors, transforming this from a wish on the list to a real possibility.  

After hours of research and test drives, The United Way purchased a Chevy Traverse from Jim Wernig Chevrolet in November 2023. According to Kim Akin, Executive Director of the United Way, it was important that they purchase locally. The new vehicle is a 4-wheel drive with heated patient seats and is easy to drive. 

Currently, the T.A.C.K.L.E. program is powered by 20-30 drivers who are part of the United Ways Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and it is covered by a rotation of local Rotary members on Fridays. Drivers make the trip from Otsego County to Petoskey about once every 4-6 weeks. According to Laurie Andrews, RSVP Director, “the drivers get as much as they give through this program.” 

Watch the video below to hear firsthand from a volunteer driver and medical staff touched by the T.A.C.K.L.E. program.

As the foundation of the community, our team is dedicated to connecting many unique caring partners that make Otsego County the place we choose to live, work, play, and love.  We often say, “We connect the people who care to the causes that matter.”  Why do we focus on bringing together dedicated nonprofits and generous donors?  We believe together, we can do more for this community that we love.  We think this story is an excellent example of the following partnerships in action: 

 T.A.C.K.L.E.- Together Against Cancer Kept Local Everyday was formed in 2016 by employees of NuEnergy, LLC (formally known as NuEnergy Operating).  After years of fundraising for the American Cancer Society, this group of dedicated volunteers wanted their efforts to stay local, so they started this grassroots effort and came up with a clever name.  Annually, they organize fundraisers, including a golf outing generously sponsored by Otsego Resort.   To participate this year, save the date for June 26; additional details are coming this spring. To learn more, visit

T.A.C.K.L.E. Program of the Otsego County United Way (OCUW) – includes transportation to radiation as well as assisting those cancer patients experiencing financial hardship heightened by the disease.  Until 2018, Otsego County had a van to transport patients to treatment sessions that were sponsored by the American Cancer Society. When the American Cancer Society moved to one driver: one patient model and pulled their funding for the van serving Otsego County, the Otsego County United Way stepped up.  To learn more about how to volunteer or directly support the T.A.C.K.L.E.  Program, visit

T.A.C.K.L.E. Fund of the Otsego Community Foundation – In addition to turning their focus to local efforts, T.A.C.K.L.E. wanted to do it in a way that would last forever.  In 2018, they established an endowed fund at the Community Foundation with the purpose of permanently supporting organizations that bring comfort to cancer patients.  T.A.C.K.L.E  serves as the advisory committee, making grant recommendations from the fund that will forever generate resources.  As a fund one of 100 charitable funds under management, the OCF provides administrative services, including investing, grantmaking, and a platform for fundraising.  Since 2018, the Fund has received 652 individual gifts, ranging in size from $7-$15,300, and has awarded $91,000 in grants to local organizations.  To make a gift to the T.A.C.K.L.E. Fund of the OCF, visit