This year, Irving Oil’s Fuel the Care program marked its 10th anniversary.
During the past decade, Fuel the Care has provided fuel gift cards to more than 35,000 families with children throughout Atlantic Canada and New England who require medical care.
Jim and Jessica Bertolino live in Brewer.
Their daughter, Isabella Bertolino, was born in August 2008 missing 85 percent of her intestinal tract, the result of a disease called short gut syndrome.
Even though the family’s primary physician was just a mile away at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, there were no surgeons there who specialized in Isabella’s case.
The Bertolinos needed to travel more than 130 miles to Portland for Isabella’s surgeries.
“Fuel the Care has been a real help to my family,” Jessica Bertolino said. “With day care, working full time and having a child with significant health issues, the program has given my family peace of mind when dealing with long drives to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
“When my child was sick, it was almost impossible to think about anything else, from food shopping to paying our bills.
“Fuel the Care allows us to focus on our family when we travel, and not on the expense, and I am grateful for that.”
Isabella is now 3 years old. She has been home from the hospital since May and has been doing much better, her mother reports. Isabella still has two medical pumps that run 14 hours a day, during the overnight hours, but her doctors are very happy with her progress.
Irving Oil’s Fuel the Care is administered to families in Maine through social workers and hospital administrators at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, based in Brewer.
With many families facing monthly travel costs of several hundred dollars for accommodation, food and other necessities, Fuel the Care gives them one less thing to worry about.
“Fuel the Care means so much to the families. It’s a pleasant surprise to many of them, and it’s nice to have good news to share with them at such a stressful time,” said Josh Scroggins, director of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of EMHS.
Four additional hospitals participate in the Fuel the Care program in Atlantic Canada and New England: Saint John Regional Hospital in New Brunswick, Janeway Child Health and Rehabilitation Centre in Newfoundland, IWK Health Centre in Nova Scotia and Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.
“Many of us have seen how devastating it is for a family when a child becomes ill,” said Mike Ashar, president of Irving Oil. “We know Fuel the Care does not solve all of their worries when their children face illness, but it does allow them to have one less thing to be concerned about. Over the last 10 years, we have received tremendous, positive feedback from Fuel the Care families. So as the program continues to grow, we are proud to offer this service to ease the burden on families in communities throughout Maine.”
In addition to providing families with more than $2 million in fuel gift cards, Fuel the Care has also provided $350,000 in funding for research into childhood diseases. For more information about Fuel the Care, visit facebook.com/irvingoil.