When you join us at a Destination: Healthy Skin event this summer, you’ll be greeted by the smiling faces of Kerry and Sean, our 2018 event managers. We recently sat down with our newest healthy skin champions to talk about life on the road, their go-to sun protection strategies and why they’re traveling around the country for this important cause.
Q: You recently joined the Destination: Healthy Skin program. What motivated you to get involved with a project that will take you thousands of miles around the U.S., from Maine to California, and many points in between?
Kerry: I was born in Queens and raised in Syracuse, New York, and have spent much of my adult life living in various parts of New York City, with bouts of travel here and there. The travel bug has been in my veins since I was a kid, and I often dreamed of unseen, far-flung places I knew only through books and movies. In high school I traveled to Australia as a student ambassador, and in college I studied in Central America and Northern India. I have since traveled throughout most of the contiguous 48 states, and spent time in parts of Asia, Canada and Europe. Most recently, Sean and I have been spending winters in the U.S. Virgin Islands, living on St. Thomas and working in tourism. I love working with people and being a part of the creation of unique and engaging experiences. I am also a big animal lover, avid runner and enjoy reading, painting, eating Sean’s home-cooking and meeting new people.
Sean: I grew up in Florida, where I spent much of my childhood playing outdoor sports and spending summers at the beach. I left Florida to attend college in New Orleans. Since then, I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. I’ve lived in England and Spain, I’ve backpacked through Mexico and Central America, trekked in the Andes and the Amazon, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and even traveled throughout Southeast Asia. I’m also a scuba-diving instructor, and I enjoy sailing.
Q: Have you ever done anything like managing a road trip for a good cause?
Sean: This is not my first road trip, nor the first time I’ve worked for a good cause. However, this is my first road trip for a good cause. I have worked regional tours before, and a few years ago I embarked on a cross-country road trip for pleasure, but I have never tackled something quite like this. Kerry and I had been looking for a project where we could contribute to a good cause in a meaningful way, and we are very grateful to have this opportunity to go on the road to support this mission.
Kerry: I traveled cross-country when I was 24, doing community service projects in several different states with the AmeriCorps NCCC. AmeriCorps is a domestic Peace Corps of sorts, and the team I worked with rode around in a 15-passenger van. I have to say, comparatively, the Destination: Healthy Skin RV is a big upgrade! However, the opportunity to work with the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, FEMA and a wildfire team within the course of a year was quite an experience. I also toured the East Coast with the nonprofit Americans Elect back in 2012. As far as this program goes, I am thrilled to be a part of the team to drive awareness and save lives with The Skin Cancer Foundation!
Q: Have either of you been personally affected by skin cancer?
Sean: My dad, for much of his life, battled skin cancer. He had a light complexion, and in his youth he didn’t protect his skin. Later, he was unaware that medicine he had been taking increased his photosensitivity to the sun. After a dermatology appointment uncovered basal and squamous cell carcinomas, he meticulously applied sunscreen and wore a hat and long sleeves in the Florida sun for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, it was common during his regular checkups with his doctor to have additional lesions removed.
Kerry: Grandparents on both sides of my family have had skin cancers removed, but that didn’t always deter me from tanning. Growing up in snowy Syracuse, my friends and I coveted the tanned skin of those who traveled to sunny destinations in the cold winter months. Having a tan made you stand out in my community, and it said that you were well-traveled. Many of the girls in my high school went tanning for prom, and I fell prey to the crazy trend myself in my college years, despite the uncomfortable feeling that I was hurting myself in the long term.
When I was in my early 20s, I got a bad sunburn that seemed to completely change the texture of my skin and left me with a few scary marks. That experience changed me and the way I viewed skin health. Your skin does not stay clear and bright forever! It has taken time (read: years of experience and hopefully a little wisdom), but I think I finally have learned to accept and appreciate my skin’s natural glow and tone. Now, I strive to protect it rather than change it.
Q: How do you protect yourself from the sun?
Kerry: I am now the sunscreen queen, and I encourage all of my loved ones to protect their skin with sunscreen and proper attire. I apply sunscreen to my face and arms whenever they are exposed to the elements, and I use sunscreen as a base for makeup. I tend to work outside (my last job was on a boat), so I go through a lot of sunscreen and sport rash guards and hats when I can!
Sean: I try to wear a hat and sunglasses, and I apply (and reapply) sunscreen. It’s not always possible to avoid peak sun hours, but I try to minimize it. I spend a lot of time on the water, and I wear lightweight, long-sleeved rash guards whenever I’m on the boat.
Q: Were you nervous about driving the big RV?
Kerry: I was rather excited to drive it, actually! I have driven box trucks, trailers and various retrofitted promotional vehicles throughout the New York area, so I’m familiar with driving larger vehicles down tiny streets. Owning and driving an RV cross-country has always been a dream, and this road trip is a wonderful opportunity to hone those skills!
Sean: Cautious. I have experience driving many types of big trucks and trailers, though this is the first time driving an RV. I’ve already spent some time behind the wheel and my comfort level is growing. It’s really a very nice RV that drives quite well.
Q: Have you gone for a skin exam with a dermatologist? What would you tell others who might be reluctant to go?
Kerry: Yes, I’ve recently had an exam. It is important to check-in with yourself and a professional periodically to ensure you are on top of your health. Skin care is health care!
Sean: Yes, I have had several exams with dermatologists over the years. For anyone reluctant to go, I would explain that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. All of us are exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays, and no matter how much precaution one may exercise, everyone is vulnerable. A skin exam is painless and takes little time, and it can save your life.