Another Year in The Books

We’ve officially wrapped up one more year of Destination: Healthy Skin! Our last 2018 event was in Portland, Maine on August 12. Ending our annual road trip is always a little bittersweet: As much as we wish we could stay on the road all year it’s time to come home, give our RV a rest and start planning for next year’s journey. But before we close the books on 2018, we’d like to take a last look back and remember all the exciting places we went, the wonderful people we met and the moving stories we heard.

Kids Table
In Dallas: Some of our littlest supporters coloring pictures depicting what a sun safe day looks like.

This year’s program was tremendously successful in terms of how many people we were able to reach with free skin exams, sunscreen samples and educational information. Over the course of three months, the Destination: Healthy Skin RV traveled more than 12,000 miles around the country, stopping in 18 communities. Fifty-three volunteer dermatologists from these communities performed 1,243 skin exams.  About 60 percent of the people we served had never seen a dermatologist for a screening before. The physicians identified 356 potential skin cancers and precancers, including 19 suspected melanomas.

The physicians identified 356 potential skin cancers and precancers, including 19 suspected melanomas.

These numbers could never encapsulate, however, the many powerful stories we heard from people we met on our journey. Many participants had a personal experience with skin cancer, having either developed the disease themselves or watched a loved one go through treatment. Some folks said if it weren’t for Destination: Healthy Skin coming to their town, they would never have gotten a skin exam. We also heard from doctors who volunteered this summer, many of whom suspected they may have saved a life by performing screenings.

Dr D'Hue and patients
In Atlanta: Inside the RV, one of our volunteer dermatologists Gloria D’Hue, MD, greets participants waiting for screenings.

We’re so grateful for the support we received for Destination: Healthy Skin from our corporate partners and donors who responded to our Buy a Mile campaignThey helped keep this lifesaving program on the road.

It’s clear Destination: Healthy Skin made a difference this summer, and we can’t wait to get back on the road to provide more free screenings and educate people on the world’s most common cancer. We’re already planning next year’s program, and we’d love to hear your input. Have a suggestion of where we should go? Email info@skincancer.org with your ideas!

Rams Cheerleaders
In Los Angeles: The LA Rams cheerleaders stopped by to chat with participants and pose for photos.
Umbrella sun shade
In Nashville: We loved meeting this Healthy Skin Champion who knows that umbrellas aren’t just for rainy days!

Victories from the Road

As we near the end of our 2018 program, we can’t help but reflect on the many successes we’ve had along the way. The little ones, like finding a parking space big enough for the RV on a crowded street (it’s 38 feet long), and the big ones, like reminding entire communities about the need for daily sun protection and annual skin exams.

After each stop, we’ve been lucky enough to hear from event participants. Many send us a quick note of thanks and share words of encouragement as seen in the examples below:

“So awesome! I was in and out within half an hour.”

“I loved that fact that the RV was in the middle of the Farmer’s Market in Dallas . . . and they were having goat yoga just next door.  Wonderful. Keep up the good work. It’s very important.”

“What a great service, thanks so much.”

“I don’t have anyone to check out spots on my back that I can’t see, and I don’t have a dermatologist yet-so this was really helpful!”

“A memorable experience. Getting the screening was a good idea.”

“Wonderful professionals donating their time – thank you.”

Other participants have contacted us to say this program might have saved their lives and have shared updates on their follow-up visits. In one example, a woman who visited the RV in New York City, and convinced her husband to come back the next day for a skin exam, wrote to us and shared that her husband had been diagnosed with two melanomas which were identified by the volunteer dermatologist at the event. Two weeks ago, we heard from another woman whose squamous cell carcinoma was detected by another one of our volunteer dermatologists. If she hadn’t visited the RV for a skin cancer screening, her diagnosis and treatment would have been delayed.

These success stories fuel our work and remind us that we have a long road ahead in reaching our goal of reducing the incidence of the world’s most common cancer. We’re grateful for everyone who has visited an event, sent their support from afar or purchased a mile in this journey. You all have played an integral role in the success of this program.

Beyond the RV

While we wish we could hold events in every town and city around the country, with limited resources, that simply isn’t possible. Thankfully, there are other ways to learn about sun protection and skin cancer, even if you can’t make it to a Destination: Healthy Skin event this year.

Get to Know the World’s Most Common Cancer

Our website is a great resource for skin cancer information and, unlike our RV, it is open 24/7, 365 days a year. Visit our online home to explore the different types of skin cancer, learn the warning signs and how to perform a self-exam, and  find a local physician in your area.

Schedule Your Annual Skin Cancer Screening

Many insurance providers will cover the cost of a skin cancer screening as part of your annual preventative care. If your insurer won’t cover the cost, or if you do not have insurance, there are a number of free or low-cost options. Throughout the year, local dermatology practices often host free events which can be found through community papers and online forums. The American Academy of Dermatology also hosts screening events throughout the year through their SPOTme® program. Another option is to call your local university’s medical school and ask if the dermatology department has a free or low-cost skin clinic open to the public.

Think Sun Protection

At Destination: Healthy Skin events, we’re pleased to provide visitors with Walgreens brand sun care items. If a trip to the RV isn’t in the cards for you this summer, you can learn more about sunscreen options for you and your family on our website. When you’re in the aisles of your favorite retailer, look for our Seal of Recommendation which is a symbol of safe and effective sun protection.

Talk to Your Little Ones

The children’s activity table, a new addition to this year’s program, has become a popular fixture at local events. At this station, we ask our youngest visitors to draw a picture of a sun-safe day at the beach with their loved ones. This is an easy exercise to do at home with your children and a great way to start a discussion about sun-safe behaviors that will keep them healthy.

Share Your Sun-Safe Selfie

Over the past two months, hundreds of visitors have struck a pose in our photobooth. Now we’re asking you to join in the fun! Snap a shot of your best sun protection look and share it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #SunSafeSelfie.

Sign up for Our Email Updates

Every year, we change our route, so we can reach more people. If we didn’t stop in your city this year, please sign up for email notifications, so you will receive a notification when our 2019 schedule is announced. If you’d like to us to consider visiting a specific town or city, please email your suggestions to info (at) skincancer.org.

A Month in the Books

We’re celebrating one month on the road! In just a few weeks, we’ve visited seven cities and have held 14 community events.

Sisterhood band
The Sisterhood Band performs at an event in Nashville

A few highlights:

  • Our volunteer dermatologists have provided over 400 free skin cancer screenings.
  • The Sisterhood Band joined us for the afternoon at the Nashville Flea Market (pictured above). Artists Ruby Stewart and Alyssa Bonagura performed for fans and climbed onboard the RV for skin cancer screenings, showing just how quick and easy the whole process is.
  • Media partners have been incredibly helpful in helping to share news of these events in the community. In Virginia Beach, ABC meteorologist Crystal Harper joined us and took viewers on a tour of the RV.
  • Generous donors have sponsored over 500 miles in our journey. If you have yet to make a donation, there’s still time to get involved and show your support for this lifesaving program.

This week, we’re hosting five more events in Texas and we can think of no better way to celebrate our one-month anniversary. We hope to see you on the road!

The names of our generous sponsors line the walls of The Skin Cancer Foundation’s headquarters

Meet Our 2018 Event Managers

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.

A Day at the Beach

No two Destination: Healthy Skin events are identical. Sometimes we are in big cities, other events are in small towns. Occasionally, you’ll find us at a music festival, farmers market or even in a busy mall parking lot. Last weekend, we hosted an event on the boardwalk in lovely Virginia Beach. It was a great day on the shore as we shared sun protection tips and sunscreen samples with hundreds of people and performed free skin cancer screenings with the help of a local dermatologist.

Destination: Healthy Skin RV in Virginia BeachUnfortunately, we also saw our fair share of sunburns throughout the day. As we spoke to our new friends, we heard a few mistakes that beachgoers often make. Today, we’re sharing our top tips to avoid sunburns (and a bad day at the beach):

Prepare Before You Go

Far too many visitors to the RV said they only applied sunscreen after they got to the beach.  You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you leave the house. This is particularly important if you’re using a chemical sunscreen, because it takes time for the skin to absorb the chemical filters that help protect you. Sunscreen should be applied to your whole body, including your scalp, in between your fingers and toes, and to the tops of your feet.

Reapply Throughout the Day

When you ask people when they reapply sunscreen, it’s not uncommon to hear that it’s only after they start to notice that their skin is reddening. The problem with this approach, of course, is that damage has already been done. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating. You can set timers on your phone to help you remember to reapply.

Look Beyond Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one important part of a complete sun protection strategy, but it’s not enough. Be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and UV-protective clothing. Whenever possible, seek the shade with a beach umbrella or tent.

Get to Know UV Rays

UV rays can be sneaky. You may think you’re protected when you are lounging under your beach umbrella because the rays aren’t reaching you from above, but UV rays can bounce off certain surfaces including sand, concrete and water. Even in a shady spot, your skin may come in contact with UV radiation. It’s important to note that clouds don’t provide protection either. In fact, about 80 percent of the sun’s ray can reach your skin on a cloudy day.

Our next beachside stop? Miami on June 9 and 10. We hope to see you there!

Here We Go Again

The RV is fully stocked, and we’re ready to go!

Last week, we kicked off our 2018 Destination: Healthy Skin program in New York City. Over the next three months, we will travel around the country to provide free full-body skin cancer screenings along with educational materials and Walgreens brand sun care items. While our RV is the same, we’ve made some great changes which will allow us to reach more people.  Here’s what you can expect from this year’s program:

More dermatologists: We have more dermatologists volunteering for the program this year than we had in 2017. This means we’re able to increase the number of free skin cancer screenings offered at events.

Different locations: Our roadmap looks a bit different than it did last year. We’re bringing the program to a few new cities including Virginia Beach, Nashville and Miami. See the full schedule.

Ways for the little ones to get involved: We’re pleased to offer a children’s activity at each event to help our younger visitors learn more about sun-safe behaviors. We’ll also have sun care items designed specifically for babies and children.

Interactive activities for the whole family: We want to make sure a visit to the RV is educational, memorable and fun. This year, we will have a photo booth and interactive trivia to test your skin cancer knowledge. In select markets, Walgreens specially trained beauty consultants and pharmacists will be on-hand to distribute sunburn alert stickers, educate visitors on the importance of sun protection, provide recommendations for sun care and sunburn treatments, and educate patients on medication that can cause photosensitivity.

More ways to support the program: This summer, our RV will travel 10,000 miles and reach over 30,000 people. It’s a long journey and one we can’t do without your help. Please sponsor a mile of our trip and help us save lives.

Along the way, we’ll share updates from the road. Please check back often or sign up for email notifications. Together, we can raise awareness and save lives.