ELLSWORTH, Maine — Cancer patients who live in rural areas often have to travel long distances several times a week for treatment in Bangor or beyond.

That kind of schedule can be a hardship, not only on the patient but also on the family or friends who provide transportation. Now, thanks to a $100,000 bequest from the estate of Franklin residents Robert Bruce Goodrich and his wife, Bea Goodrich, the Mary Dow Center at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital can make life a little easier for those patients in Washington and Hancock counties.

The hospital announced Tuesday the establishment of the Robert Bruce Goodrich Memorial Transportation Fund, which will provide financial assistance to cancer patients whose treatment requires them to travel to health care facilities other than Maine Coast.

“We can provide some treatments here,” said Jayne Wixon, clinical nurse manager at the Mary Dow Center. “But anyone who needs radiation treatment needs to go to Bangor. Sometimes, they’ll need to go to Boston for a second opinion or to sign up for a clinical trial.”

For patients living in outermost areas of Washington and Hancock counties, it can mean round trips as long as 300 miles, often several times a week for as long as six or seven weeks. That adds not only the hardship of travel, but an extra expense as well.

The Goodriches were well aware of the problem, according to Wixon. Robert Bruce, as he was called, was a cancer patient and knew firsthand the difficulties of traveling for treatments. Living far from family, they often had to rely on the assistance of friends and acquaintances for rides.

By the time his treatment was completed, he and his wife decided to establish a fund to help people in similar circumstances. Goodrich died in 2004 and his wife Bea died last year. It was then that the fund was established.

“They decided to establish a fund that would help people,” Wixon said. “They wanted something that would keep his name alive, that would help people and make it easier for them to face those hardships.”

The Dow Center made the transportation fund as simple as possible. It is available to cancer patients in Washington and Hancock counties. They do not need to be patients at the Ellsworth hospital.

The center documents that patients are receiving treatments and live in one of those counties and issues the them prepaid Exxon-Mobil gas cards. The amount on the card is determined by the distance the patient has to travel and the number of treatments received weekly.

The program provides more than just money, according to Jane Sanders from the hospital’s public relations department.

“If you’re hurting, it’s not just the money; sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up,” she said. “This shows that somebody cared enough to establish a fund. A hug and a gas card can go a long way.”

Although the cards are issued to cancer patients, they are not restricted and can be used to help pay gas expenses for friends or family members who do the driving.

The hospital began quietly issuing gas cards in December and already has provided 50 cards to patients in the two counties. Wixon said they hope to make this a perpetual fund at the center, and already have received two additional donations to the transportation fund. Bob Foster of fuel distributor RH Foster made a donation at the fund kick-off on Tuesday. Also, a group of friends of hospital board chairman Karen Stanley chipped in and made a donation in her honor. According to Sanderson, the group had been among friends and family who had provided rides for Stanley for cancer treatments last year.

The Dow Center has other similar funds and provides other types of assistance to patients. And gifts often help to keep those funds active.

“People who have been helped by it like to give back,” she said. “It feels good when you do something like that.”

For information about or to donate to the Goodrich Transportation Fund, call the Dow Center at 664-5430, or the hospital’s public relations office at 664-5337.