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