Lions Hop on Bubba’s Bus

Grace Allen
Issue Date: 
February, 2020
Article Body: 

Thanks to the Norfolk Lions, a recently implemented program at Massachusetts General Hospital is having a direct impact on the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families. The Lions provided the initial funding for “Bubba’s Bus,” which distributes Uber gift cards to families without transportation to and from the hospital during treatment.
The Bubba’s Bus initiative is part of the Bubba Strong Charitable Fund, a 501c3 Norfolk-based charity established in 2016 to support families impacted by a pediatric cancer diagnosis.
The Norfolk Lions Club, dedicated to serving the community of Norfolk, also promotes the mission of Lions Club International, the world’s largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.
Lions Club International focuses on five areas of need around the world: diabetes, vision, hunger, environment, and childhood cancer. Bubba’s Bus was a natural fit, said Kim Galvin, past president of the Norfolk Lions.
“We support families in need, and Bubba’s Bus also aligns with one of our cornerstone causes,” said Galvin. “We have had much success with our fundraising, so we were easily able to provide the seed money for Bubba’s Bus.”
Elyse Levin-Russman, the clinical social worker in the pediatric hematology-oncology unit at MGH, says the Bubba’s Bus/Uber gift cards have become an invaluable resource for the clinic’s patients and families. Transportation barriers can be great for some populations, especially patients with disease.
“The gift cards have provided much needed assistance to our most vulnerable families, many who are experiencing significant financial toxicities related to their child’s cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Levin-Russman.
In a letter, Levin-Russman details several instances when Bubba’s Bus gift cards alleviated some of the stress for the hospital’s young patients.
One 18-year-old girl, newly diagnosed with lymphoma, needed a way to get to the hospital for treatment. Her family members work and cannot take time off without losing money. Public transportation is both unsafe and uncomfortable for a cancer patient with low blood counts, but the Uber gift cards have made coping with her illness a little bit easier.
Another patient, a 6-year-old girl battling leukemia, and her mother rely on medical transportation paid for by Mass Health, but it must be arranged in advance. The child has had a number of unplanned hospital visits, emergencies related to her condition, and has relied on the Uber gift cards to get to the hospital and back home comfortably after a long clinic day.
The Norfolk Lions Club depends on several annual fundraisers for the money they then pour right back into the community or use to support Lions Club International’s cornerstone causes, like childhood cancer. The Christmas tree sales in December and the golf tournament in the fall are two of the biggest events that raise money for the group.
A new fundraising initiative this year is in conjunction with Novatos Bar and Grill, located in Norfolk. “Lions Chili” is now on the restaurant’s menu, and proceeds from every bowl sold will go to the Norfolk Lions for their charitable causes. It’s a unique way to help your neighbor, said Galvin, the former president.
“If you’re going to Novatos, order a cup of chili and you just donated seven dollars that we might use towards Bubba’s Bus, for example, or to help out a needy family in town,” Galvin said. “It’s a win-win.”
The community-focused Norfolk Lions rely on their many volunteers to organize, implement, and staff fundraising and other events in town. And not all the events are fundraisers, pointed out Galvin.
“Community Day, Chili Fest Hoe-Down, the Santa Parade…these are ways we give back to the community,” she said. “We want people to come and simply have a good time.”
Yet the Lions never lose sight of their main objective: to serve. And being able to fund Bubba’s Bus, for example, is a reminder to the 100-plus volunteers in the Norfolk Lions of the reason they do what they do, said Galvin.
“When we send out that Signup Genius email and ask people to come out one more time for something, knowing we can help a cause like Bubba’s Bus just makes it worth it.”
For more information about the Norfolk Lions, visit For more information about the Bubba Strong Charitable Fund, visit