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Cancer charity seeking CTA cards

January 02, 2012|By Tracy Swartz | RedEye

If your New Year's resolution is to be more charitable, there's an Evanston group that could use your CTA card.

No Wooden Nickels, which provides financial assistance to low-income cancer patients, is accepting donations of CTA and gas cards.

Since 2005, the group has helped Illinois cancer patients defray the cost of cancer treatment by paying for meals, medical equipment and transportation costs to and from treatment centers, among other ways, said Lorna Khawaja, the group's executive director.

"Our biggest request is transportation," said Khawaja, who formed the non-profit after her father, who advised her never to take wooden nickels, died of prostate cancer. "We have quite a few patients that do take the CTA."

Khawaja said last year her group received about 130 applications from across Illinois for assistance. Patients typically range in age from their late 20s to their 60s.

The organization, which relies on donations, grants and fundraisers, usually helps a patient for three to four weeks, Khawaja said. The maximum amount of help per participant is $500.

Khawaja said her group will provide gas cards to patients who have to drive to a treatment center. Some participants have to rely on family members and friends to drive them because they are too ill to drive themselves, Khawaja said.

"You do have some patients that do simply don't drive," Khawaja said. "They don't have anybody to advocate for them. Many times they will take public transportation."

These patients will generally use public transit to travel to hospitals such as Loyola University and the University of Chicago for their treatment, Khawaja said.

Apart from Khawaja's group, the Regional Transportation Authority, the funding arm for CTA, Metra and Pace, has a program through which people with disabilities can ride for free.

Riders can qualify for the program by enrolling in the state's Circuit Breaker program, which has helped low-income elderly people with property tax and prescription drug costs.

Last year, the state did away with a free-rides-for-seniors program, but low-income seniors are still eligible through the Circuit Breaker program.

Meanwhile, Khawaja said, No Wooden Nickels was "quite busy in 2011" and assistance from CTA riders, especially in the form of transit passes, would go far.

"That would go a long way to help out those patients, especially those who take the CTA in order to access their treatment," Khawaja said.

For more information about No Wooden Nickels, go to nowoodenickels.org.

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What New Year's resolutions should the CTA make? Send an e-mail to tswartz@tribune.com. Please include your full name, age and neighborhood.

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