Feature Article - October 2009
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Under Cover

Shelters & Shade Structures

By Dawn Klingensmith

Recess from the Sun

In spring, the Skin Cancer Awareness Foundation kicked off a program called "Shade Across America" to help schools, along with other recreational areas where children play outdoors, attain funding for shade structures. The Minden, Nev.-based foundation's objective is ambitious—to build shade structures over every playground and sports park in America, said William Barth, founder and president.

The occurrence of sunburns during childhood is linked to skin cancer later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And many advocates fear that sunscreen alone offers inadequate protection because parents and kids often neglect to reapply, with a sizable number of them not putting on enough in the first place.

The foundation's goal is not to bring kids indoors, since exercise and play are essential to their health and development. Instead, it aims to step up UV protection by stressing the importance of shade structures, versus relying solely on sunscreen. The foundation partnered with a Dallas-based manufacturer of shade structures to spread that message.

To that end, the program includes an educational component and a mascot, UV Man, who visits schools and community events to teach kids sun safety. Barth also developed the concept for a UV Warning Signal, for use at aquatics centers and other outdoor recreation areas. (See "Run for Cover".)

The program's other goal is to promote an online auction that schools, organizations and communities can use to raise money for shade structures.

The online auction underwent a trial run in September and, as of this writing, is expected to be up and running in October. Barth said the foundation will attract bidders through its online magazine, Sun Smart Connection, which has 9,000 subscribers, and other marketing efforts. The magazine's coverage includes products on the market being used to shade outdoor play areas.

For more information on the initiative, visit www.skincaf.org.