By Marc Darst, MD
I’ve been working with local schools to raise awareness about sun safety for several years. Recently, though, after the young mother of a child at one of our local elementary schools died of melanoma, we saw community interest for sun protection rise considerably. As a result, I nominated two elementary schools for the AAD Shade Structure Program. I was delighted to learn that one of the schools was among the list of 2013 grant recipients.
The program, which is funded in part by donations from AAD members, awards grants up to $8,000 to public schools and non-profit organizations for installing permanent shade structures for outdoor locations that are not protected from the sun. There is a desperate need for such shelters in North Carolina, where I practice. When developers build schools in the area, they tend to plow down all the trees on the property, leaving no shade areas to protect kids playing outdoors.
When I first learned of the AAD Shade Structure Program, one of the initiatives under the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer™ program, I knew my schools would be a good fit. I’ve seen an alarming rise in melanoma incidence in younger people. Recently, I treated five women under age 27 — cheerleaders and beauty queens who spent many hours tanning. Clearly, more needs to be done in our communities to protect people from the harmful effects of the sun.
I’ve worked closely with the community to raise awareness by regularly holding workshops at schools and using AAD SPOT Skin Cancer™ resources to educate kids. In addition I hold free skin cancer screenings days for parents. I leveraged the strong relationship I’ve built with the community to propose the Shade Structure Program, and it was greeted with enthusiasm by all our schools.
The grant process was much easier than I expected. It took only about 10 minutes of my time to write a short letter nominating the school and to fill out a few forms. In the case of the winning school, Marvin Elementary School in Marvin, N.C., the PTO took on the task of writing and submitting the grant.
The shade structure will have a tremendous impact on the community. Not only will it protect children from the sun, but it will strengthen your relationship to the community and make people more open to sun safety education.
The AAD has created an easy-to-understand process that’s accessible to non-grant writers. I highly recommend investigating a grant for your community. You’ll find information you need to start the process in the Volunteer and mentoring section of the AAD website.
Dr. Darst is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. He is in private practice at Darst Dermatology in Charlotte, N.C.