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Make Big Change Announces Merger With Melanoma Foundation of New England

BOSTON, Mass. (December 7, 2016) – Melanoma Foundation of New England (MFNE), a non-profit aimed at reducing the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, announced today that the organization will merge with the New Hampshire based nonprofit, Make Big Change (MBC).

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“We’ve been partnering with Make Big Change over the last year for our Practice Safe Skin program,” said Deb Girard, Executive Director, MFNE. “It was a natural fit to formally join forces and continue expanding our programs nationwide.”

Laurie Seavey will join the MFNE’s staff to manage the sunscreen dispenser program that originally launched back in 2015 as a pilot program in Boston, MA. Practice Safe Skin is a program that offers sunscreen as an effective preventive measure to help avoid sun over-exposure year round by partnering with communities, municipalities and corporations. MFNE now has sunscreen dispensers in all 50 states and recently attended the National Recreation and Parks Association conference in St. Louis, MO.

Seavey brings over 25 years experience as a Practice Administrator in Dermatology & Otolaryngology, serving the last 10 years at Dermatology & Skin Health in Dover, NH.. As Executive Director of Make Big Change, Seavey was instrumental in leading the charge bringing sunscreen dispensing programs to the City of Tampa, Atlanta and Texas and Boston.

“This is a natural “next-step” for Make Big Change,” said Seavey who will now work as the Practice Safe Skin Manager at the MFNE. “We’ve been working in cahoots with the MFNE since our inception on such projects as the initiation of sunscreen dispenser stations throughout the city of Boston. Our two missions work hand-in-hand, and we feel that now is the time to merge with the MFNE to help better position our goal of facilitating the education of preventative safe skin measures.”

Melanoma is rising faster than any other cancer with one person every 50 minutes dying from the disease. Studies show that with daily sunscreen protection, the risk of melanoma is preventable. A recent nationwide study conducted by the MFNE showed that sunscreen use drops dramatically in the colder months and is lower among southern states.

Business or non-profits wishing to purchase a sunscreen dispenser can do so by visiting http://mfne.org/practice-safe-skin/ or calling 800-557-6352.

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About Practice Safe Skin

In response to the Surgeon General’s 2014 Call to Action to address skin cancer as a major public concern, MFNE and partner Make Big Change (MBC) launched a pilot program called Practice Safe Skin during the summer 2015 to donate free sunscreen throughout Boston parks and Massachusetts beaches at no cost to taxpayers. Following the success of the pilot program, Practice Safe Skin is expanded to cities and businesses across the country and is now in all 50 states.

The Quest to Make Big Change in Portland, Texas: Q&A with Ethan Garza

When it comes to making big change, the route to change can come from myriad angles. Community leaders don’t have to be defined by age and years of service to a town. Serious social change can come by way of school-aged do-gooders just the same. For Portland, Texas’ Ethan Zuriel Garza, the impetus of making big change came by way of a school project. Upon collecting intel from area physicians, the Portland High School senior took to the internet to figure out what he could do to help educate and combat the incidences of skin cancers related to UV exposure from the sun – something that plagues the wellbeing of the citizens of Portland, Texas each and every day. What he found? Make Big Change. What he did? Took action.

The following is a conversation between Make Big Change and Garza in his quest to serve up some betterment for his community, both in school, and about town.

MBC: How’d you learn about Make Big Change?

Garza: Where I live, it’s common to find someone within my community who has received treatment for some form of skin cancer. As I was also apart of Medical Explorers, I discussed with my local physician on this topic. He had told me that if you lived in Portland your whole life, you’re bound to have some form of skin cancer. To find out details to tackle this problem, I looked to the web for guidance. I am fascinated about anything that happens in Boston as my dream college resides there (MIT). Boston is truly an amazing city with astounding people. I was fortunate enough to visit Boston the summer previous to my junior year in high school, and I was simply awestruck by how active the community truly is. Thus, I was introduced to Make Big Change and was provided with all the information to make a worthy presentation to my fellow classmen.

MBC: What led you to engage with Laurie Seavey, Make Big Change’s Executive Director?

Garza: As far as getting the project started along with making it possible, I am a part of a group from my school known as Y-LEAD. We were funded from a business near our town known as Cheniere. They sponsored the group for us to play an active role in improving our community. Individually, we came up with ideas that we later voted on as a group to determine which projects were worth pursuing.

I was ecstatic to get started with such a hectic upcoming school year, so I started as soon as I could to ensure that this project would become a reality. I’ve never done a project of this magnitude in which I would plan the details, and follow through with them. It was exhilarating to be able to see it all become a reality. I contacted Laurie Seavey at first to get a quote for Y-LEAD and make sure that the estimate was within our budget for the projects we wished to accomplish. Afterwards, I contacted Laurie Seavey to continue the project into fruition. She’s amazing! She was always reachable, polite, and more than willing to answer any questions that arose. I am honored to have been able to work with such an amazing person.

MBC: Tell us about your project? What was the scope? What were your goals?

Garza: My primary goals when thinking of a project to present to my group were the following: pursuing a project that was well within the budget as we pursued a few projects, and having a project that would be effective for my community.

The group as a whole had decided on three projects: modern water stations/fountains, a garden for our local nursing home, and bringing sunscreen dispensers to Portland! Everybody decided which projects they wished to work on, and I took this project on as a solo mission (not by choice).

MBC: How many dispensers did you purchase/install?

Garza: We plan on installing six sunscreen dispensers around the city and two within my school. Five are currently installed while the others are scheduled to be installed soon.

MBC: Where did you install dispensers?

Garza: The locations at around my city are as follows: public aquatic center, local soccer complex, municipal park (local park undergoing renovate construction), Sunset Hike & Bike trail (for running and observing/preserving wildlife), Indian Pier (Main local fishing area), and a sports complex that includes softball, soccer, baseball, and early age football. The two in my school will be installed in the band hall, and sports building that most athletes pass through since it’s by their locker rooms.

MBC: What good do you hope comes of them?

Garza: I hope to make the people in my growing town aware of the dangers of the sun along with providing some form of protection. Many people within my community spend a large amount of their time outside, and the sun is unforgiving.

MBC: What is your own personal philosophy in regard to sun safety?

Garza: I apply sunscreen when I plan on spending large amounts of time outside (anything more than 30 minutes at a time). Ex. marching band rehearsals, going to the beach, chilling at parks with friends, etc.. I wish everybody would be aware of sun safety. We live in a scorching climate, and each little bit we spend outside adds up quick. I hope less people experience sunburn, and are able to enjoy going outside for activities and not question how bad their tan(line) is going to be.

The Quest to Make Big Change in Tampa, Florida: Q&A with Kim DeGance

In the neighborhood of Palma Ceia, in Tampa, Florida, do-good samaritan, Kim DeGance and a group of her peers began researching what her and the fellow moms of the neighborhood could do for their kids and fellow community members in regard to proactively combating the amount of UV radiation that people are exposed to on a daily basis, living in such a sunny part of the country.

DeGance and her group contacted Make Big Change Executive Director, Laurie Seavey to discuss the acquisition and installation of Make Big Changes noted yellow automated sunscreen dispensers. To date, two dispensers have been installed at the local Little League Park, and one has been installed at Corona Park. The unit installed at Corona Park is actually on the property of a funeral home and you have to reach through the fence to access it (it’s easily accessible), which is, in turn, a message to people reminding them that SPF is your BFF and not protecting yourself against the sun’s harmful rays can indeed be grave.

Kim DeGance - Laurie Seavey
Kim DeGance (left) and MBC Executive Director, Laurie Seavey present to City of Tampa

Since the installation has taken place, the overall awareness initiative has expanded greatly, with DeGance and Seavey both standing before Tampa’s city council to present the benefits of the dispensers to the board. The next step is to install dispensers throughout the entire city, which would be a huge civic healthcare victory.Make Big Change caught up with DeGance to get a little insight into her work and what excites her about partnering with Make Big Change to facilitate what she deems as a major social initiative:

MBC: How’d you learn about Make Big Change? What led you to reach out and inquire about our sunscreen dispensers?

DeGance: I found out about Make Big Change from fellow mothers concerned about sun exposure at Corona Park. One of the moms found a grant we were hoping to apply for. In order to meet the grant’s requirements, we needed to have a sun awareness program in place, so I started doing research to see what we could put in the park, in order to bring awareness, and I stumbled upon an article in the Boston Globe, which mentioned the sunscreen dispensers that were set up throughout Boston. That left an impression on me, and upon sharing the article with my peers; we knew this could possibly be a great fit. I contacted Laurie and I told her, quite simply, that I was just a concerned mom who wanted to do this in Tampa. We’re not super heroes, we’re just looking for ways to improve the day-to-day of all in our community.

Being in Florida, we are outside so much, year round. This park is the closest to all the moms in my group, and the school that my kids go to, and you cannot go to this park during the middle of the day because it is so hot and the slide is so hot. So, it just got us thinking… and I’m a runner and I’m always outside and I’m always wearing hats and sunglasses… The writing was really on the wall. I always put sunscreen on the kids before they leave for school. The bottom-line for me is, I don’t think people fully realize that taking preventive measures against UV radiation is a serious thing. You don’t fully realize how much it affects you, because there has never really been great education on the matter. It’s time to change that.

MBC: How many sunscreen-dispensing units did you acquire? Where were they installed?

DeGance: As a trial, we purchased one dispenser that we installed at Corona Park, and two that we installed at Little League facility where a large percentage of the kids play – and where a lot of us parents bake…

Corona Park is a public, neighborhood park. It’s surrounded by houses on three sides. It’s a park I can walk to in three minutes. The dispenser there is actually on the funeral homes property that abuts the park, and it’s facing the park because we are actually still in the midst of trying to get dispensers throughout the city of Tampa but as with any governmental agency, it takes time to get things approved. So not only does this placement facilitate a means to “have it there” without actually being on the property in a literal sense, but it also serves as a message of sorts. Skin cancer kills – combat yourself against it s best you can.

Installed dispenser as seen in Corona Park
Installed dispenser as seen in Corona Park

The other two, as mentioned, are at the Little League park, where I happen to be all the time because I have two boys who are five and seven years old. On the weekends we are there all day Saturday, and throughout the week for practice. There are times as a parent that you run out the door, and forgot to put on sunscreen, so I just thought it would be great here with all these kids and parents that don’t have time to go home and put on sunscreen.

MBC: What got you interested in pursuing an issue such as sun safety in the first place?

DeGance: Well, for me, I guess I lean towards things that affect me on a daily basis. If there’s change to be had, I get very proactive about it, because I want to see it come to fruition in person. If it’s a matter of doing a little bit of work to benefit a lot of people, then it’s something I want to do. I’m passionate about getting things of importance accomplished. This is one of those things.

Truth be told, I guess I didn’t realize the number of people that are affected by skin cancer on an annual basis. I mean, I think you hear of it, and I know my mom had a mole removed, and it was like, ‘okay go have it removed, you’ll be okay.’ But you don’t realize that people die from skin cancer. It’s not always that quick and easy to get it removed. Statistically I was shocked. I grew up in Florida; I spent so much time trying to get a golden tan. I used to think it was cool, and now people are protecting themselves due to initiatives like Make Big Change, and reading about it and realizing that we all need to protect ourselves from the sun’s rays because skin cancer does not discriminate. The other piece is that we need to educate our children and need to start protecting people at a younger age – making it much a part of their day to day like the act of brushing your teeth.

Once people see these dispensers and start talking about it, they are going to want to demand the city to get these out there. It’s a small step, but it’s a giant cause. I’m just one of many in my neighborhood association that is passionate about making this a reality. We’re truly all excited to be a part of it. A few small steps can lead to making big change.

To read more about how the Tampa initiative is progressing, check out any of the links below.

May 26th – ABC Action News, WFTS Tampa Bay: “Free Sunscreen Dispensers an Idea for City of Tampa” – http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/hillsborough-regional-news/free-sunscreen-dispensers-an-idea-for-city-of-tampa

May 26th – 10 News Tampa: “Nonprofit Offers Sunscreen Dispensers to Tampa” – http://www.wtsp.com/news/health/nonprofit-offers-sunscreen-dispensers-to-tampa/216238009

May 27th – Tampa Bay Times: “Tampa Council Warms to the Idea of Free Sunscreen Dispensers at its Parks” – http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/tampa-to-hear-pitch-for-free-sunscreen-dispensers-at-city-parks/2278958

July 14th – Bay News 9: “Parks Officials Present Plan to Install Sunscreen Dispensers Around Tampa” – http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/content/news/articles/bn9/2016/7/14/parks_officials_pres.html

July 15th – Fox 13: “Tampa Mom Crusades to Put Free Sunblock in Parks” – http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/174952345-story