New York By Rail 14th ed. - Page 14

Empire Service RAILS TO RECOVERY Amtrak Helps You Travel for Medical Treatment L ast November Albany retiree Joanne Russell was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and her local oncologist recommended her for a six-week clinical trial treatment program at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Univer- sity Medical Center. “There were still a few spots in the program, so I had to decide fast. I had to travel down three days a week for six weeks,” Joanne says. A friend suggested that she contact Amtrak Government Affairs Officer Bill Hollister, who is based at the Albany-Rensse- laer Station and founded Amtrak’s Empire Service Rails to Recovery program. “We chatted, and he said, ‘Go on the Internet and apply,’ so I did,” Joanne recalls. She qualified for the program, and was able to ride comfortably back and forth to Penn Station at a significant discount, accompanied by her daughter, Jody DeMarco, an Albany schoolteacher, as well as by friends and other family members. For families faced with critical illness, traveling for specialized medical care can be financially and emotionally challenging. Rails to Recovery addresses these challenges by providing qualifying passengers with a Buy One, Get One Free discount on Amtrak Empire Service trains. “I traveled down on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for six weeks,” says Joanne. “On January 27, I got a call from Dr. James McKnight, who ran the clinical trial, that my latest tests had come back clean, and I was cancer free. It was my birthday, and that was the last thing I expected. I said, ‘That is the best present anyone could ever give me.’ It was such a surprise.” Since 2014, Amtrak has partnered with the Albany-based nonprofit organization Voices of Hope to facilitate travel for patients who register online with one of 26 participating agencies, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and Ronald McDonald House of the Capital Region. Voices of Hope is a consortium of nonprofit organizations located throughout the Capital Region that exchanges resources and ideas in order to bring hope and services to children and families touched by life-altering conditions. So far, more than 500 trips have been facilitated through Rails to Recovery. “Amtrak has provided a tremendous opportunity and an invaluable service to our Voices of Hope families throughout the Capital Region and across New York State,” says Voices of Hope Chair and Co-Founder Sandy Nardoci, who also is one of many Joanne Russell volunteers running the organization’s programs. Joanne stayed at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Jerome L. Green Family Center, located on Seventh Avenue near Penn Station, while having treatment. She says Rails to Recovery made her overall experience less stressful. “Going from Albany-Rensselaer to Penn Station is a beautiful 2.5-hour ride,” she says. “I hadn’t been on a train in years, and it couldn’t have been made any easier for someone like me, who doesn’t know New York City.” Since completing the clinical trial, Joanne continues to travel via Rails to Recovery to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center once a month for checkups. In the meantime, she is focused on making sure to express her gratitude to all of the people who helped with her recovery. “I had people come with me who I didn’t ever expect to say they could help, but they all said, ‘We’re there if you need us.’ God just gave me all these angels,” Joanne says. “I kept a journal during the treatment, and everybody wrote in it how I was. I wanted to thank everyone the best way I could, so I did a video thanking them, and had everyone who helped come up to my house to see it.” For more information, visit voicesofthecapital- region.org. Once registered with Voices of Hope, passengers can access Amtrak.com through the Voices of Hope website. TERMS AND CONDITIONS: THIS OFFER IS VALID FOR ONE (1) FREE COMPANION RAIL FARE WITH THE PURCHASE OF ONE (1) REGULAR (FULL) ADULT RAIL FARE. THIS OFFER IS EXCLUSIVELY AVAILABLE AT WWW.VOICESOFTHE- CAPITALREGION.ORG. THIS OFFER IS VALID FOR SALE 28APR16–27APR18 AND VALID FOR TRAVEL 01MAY16–30APR18. BLACKOUTS APPLY ON THE FOLLOWING DATES: 13–14APR17, 17APR17, 26MAY17, 29MAY17, 01SEP17, 04SEP17, 09OCT17, 21–22NOV17, 25–27NOV17, 22–24DEC17, 29–31DEC17, 02JAN18, 16FEB18, 19FEB18, 30MAR18 AND 02APR18. ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED A MINIMUM OF THREE (3) DAYS PRIOR TO TRAVEL. THIS OFFER IS VALID FOR TRAVEL WITHIN THE STATE OF NEW YORK ONLY. THIS OFFER IS VALID FOR TRAVEL ON THE FOLLOWING TRAINS: ADIRONDACK, EMPIRE SERVICE, ETHAN ALLEN EXPRESS, AND MAPLE LEAF. UP TO 2 CHILDREN AGES (2–12) MAY ACCOMPANY EACH ADULT AT HALF THE REGULAR (FULL) ADUL T RAIL FARE. THIS OFFER IS VALID FOR COACH SEATS ONLY; NO BUSINESS CLASS UPGRADES PERMITTED. SEATING IS LIMITED; SEATS MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON ALL DAYS. FARES ARE SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY. THE FREE COMPANION AND FULL FARE PASSENGER MUST TRAVEL TOGETHER ON THE SAME ITINERARY AND HAVE TICKETS ISSUED TOGETHER. THE COMPANION IS SUBJECT TO THE SAME RESTRICTIONS AND CONDITIONS AS THE FULL FARE PASSENGER. THIS OFFER IS NOT COMBINABLE WITH ANY OTHER DISCOUNT OFFER. IN ADDITION TO THE DISCOUNT RESTRICTIONS; THIS OFFER IS ALSO SUBJECT TO ANY RESTRICTIONS, BLACKOUTS, AND REFUND RULES THAT APPLY TO THE TYPE OF FARE PURCHASED. FARES, ROUTES AND SCHEDULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. ONCE TRAVEL HAS BEGUN; NO CHANGES TO THE ITINERARY ARE PERMITTED. OTHER RESTRICTIONS MAY APPLY. AMTRAK, ADIRONDACK, MAPLE LEAF, ETHAN ALLEN EXPRESS, AND EMPIRE SERVICE ARE REGISTERED SERVICE MARKS OF THE NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION. 12 | New York By Rail (TRAIN) PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK WILSON RAILS TO RECOVERY