Sunscreen dispensers installed in Old Orchard Beach

Sunscreen dispensers installed in Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach town staff stand next to a sunscreen dispenser outside Town Hall. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Community and staff reports

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Sunscreen dispensers have been installed throughout the community, reminding people to slather on some protection while enjoying the sun and surf.

The installation is right on time for National Don’t Fry Day, a designation given to the Friday before Memorial Day by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to help spread sun safety awareness and encourage people protect their skin while outdoors.

The local program is administered in conjunction with IMPACT Melanoma, a non-profit providing education, prevention, and support for the most serious form of skin cancer, through a grant from the Maine Cancer Foundation.

“As a beachfront community, the summer season is our busiest time for staff and visitor,” said Old Orchard Beach Director of Human Resources and Communications, Fran Beaulieu. “The Town wants to be sure that not only our staff but everyone is safe while they are with us.”

She said when Town Clerk Kim McLaughlin brought the sunscreen dispenser program to the attention of town staff, they were immediately on board.

“To us, safety isn’t just a word, it’s a practice,” said Beaulieu.

The grant was originally issued in 2020, but the program was delayed until this year as the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down activity in town.

Sunscreen dispensers will be located at the police station, fire station, public works building, recreation department, waste water facility, Town Hall, Chamber of Commerce and Palace Playland. There will also be a portable unit that will be at different locations throughout the summer and into early fall.

“Each Town facility has a dispenser to remind staff that sun safety is important and we urge them to slather the sunscreen before heading out the door. Cancer has touched everyone in some way, and skin cancer is the most common type. It takes a few minutes to provide hours of protection for our skin," said Beaulieu.

Maine Cancer Foundation’s grant was originally offered as part of their Challenge Cancer 2020 initiative, which was aimed at reducing cancer incidence and mortality in Maine. Since 2015, the foundation has invested $15 million in support of this initiative, focused on prevention, early detection and screening, and access to care for all Mainers.

 “Ninety five percent of skin cancers can be prevented, and this partnership provides the perfect opportunity to protect outdoor workers, beach goers, and visitors, and help reduce the risk of cancer,” said Maine Cancer Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Tucker.

Data has shown that skin cancer rates are growing at epidemic numbers, according to IMPACT Melanoma. However, awareness about the importance of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer is still lacking. A study by IMPACT Melanoma of sunscreen use in Maine revealed that 44% of the 385 participants surveyed don’t worry about getting a sunburn and that sunscreen use is lower in all seasons in Maine as compared to national usage.

“We’re very appreciative of this ongoing relationship with Old Orchard Beach and Maine Cancer Foundation,” said IMPACT Melanoma Executive Director, Deb Girard. “We’ve made some really great progress within this community and have helped to spread awareness of the importance of proper skin safety throughout the great state of Maine. Together we’re saving lives and making a significant IMPACT that is creating a beneficial ripple effect.”

McLaughlin said the town of Old Orchard Beach is a place that not only welcomes residents, staff and tourists but wants to protect them as well.

Publisher Liz Gotthelf can be reached at [email protected].