Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Shelter from the Sun: Shade Structure Grants Reward Sun Safety Education

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Shelter from the Sun: Shade Structure Grants Reward Sun Safety Education

Article excerpt

Every year, over one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States.

Every hour, one American dies of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

And, while genetic factors play a role, the medical community agrees that protecting the skin from birth against the sun's UV rays is the only real weapon against skin cancer. "We dermatologists tell our patients, 'The skin is like an elephant,'" says Dr. Elizabeth Martin, a Birmingham, Alabama, dermatologist and Youth Education Chair for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). '"It never forgets.'" Martin and her peers at AAD do more than offer statistics and warnings on the dangerous cumulative effects of sun exposure. They volunteer their time--and award tens of thousands of dollars--to equip schools, parks, and childcare facilities with high-quality shade structures for their outdoor play areas.

The applicant groups demonstrating the greatest need and the most robust existing programs of sun safety education receive $8,000 grants to shade their play structures and outdoor amenities. While playground shade structures represent just one of many effective sun prevention strategies, they offer organizations serving children a way to build sun safety into their infrastructure, Martin explains.

Martin points out that, while the facts pertaining to skin cancer prevention are straightforward, myths about sun safety practices nonetheless abound. She cites three in particular:

Myth 1: Installing sun shade structures is an expensive undertaking. AAD makes its sun shade program grants in the amount of $8,000 because this is the approximate cost of sheltering a typical commercial play structure. Whether the shades are metal or treated fabric, and whether the playground is brand-new or older, the AAD grant often covers the cost of covering the play area with UV-blocking shade.

There are certainly far more expensive options for playground shade: Many higher-end, modular shade structures, for example, are created to cover individual components of play systems. But a single rectangular canopy over a play area is an effective, economical way to protect both children and the adults supervising their play.

Myth 2: Skin cancer is an old person's disease. …

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