Sunscreen Dispensers: Healthy Trend Spreading Through Michigan’s U.P.

If you live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or have spent any vacation time there lately, you might have noticed bright yellow sunscreen dispensers at parks, beaches and other recreation hotspots.

Image of a hand getting sunscreen from a bright yellow sunscreen dispenser.
One of the sunscreen dispensers Just Believe has been able to disseminate across the U.P. in action. (Courtesy photo)

They look just like soap dispensers, but contain sunscreen with SPF to keep skin safe from harmful UV rays. An organization called Just Believe is responsible for acquiring and distributing the dispensers in the U.P.

The non-profit formed in memory of Jodi Ball, who was diagnosed with stage four melanoma in 2011. She died two years later at the age of 38, leaving behind a husband, son and daughter. Before she died, Ball made it clear that she wanted to establish an organization that would educate people about sun safety and prevention.

Image of Jodi Ball.
Jodi Ball. (Courtesy photo)

Her family and friends in the Negaunee and Gwinn communities formed Just Believe to honor her wishes. Ball’s mom, Delight Hill, serves as trustee and chair of the organization’s Awareness Committee. Just Believe now offers sun safety education to all kindergarten, 6th-grade and high school health classes in Marquette County. The main message: “Use sunscreen, use sunscreen, use sunscreen,” Hill said, and she’s not joking.

Grants from organizations such as the Superior Health Foundation, local rotary clubs, exchange clubs, Kiwanis groups and community foundations have helped Just Believe carry out their mission, and the funding has allowed them to disseminate 59 sunscreen dispensers throughout the U.P. Hill said it’s extremely rewarding for her to see children and their parents using the dispensers. She doesn’t want any other parent to lose a child to a preventable disease.

“It is folks like Delight Hill that are ambassadors for us that really help us promote our mission,” said Laurie Seavey, Practice Safe Skin Manager at Impact Melanoma, the organization Just Believe purchases their dispensers from.

About 600 to 700 dispensers are distributed across the country every year and Seavey said they’re working, particularly in places that pair them with a strong sun safety educational component.

A study out of the University of Colorado showed a decline in melanoma rates in the northeast part of the country, where Impact Melanoma is based, calling out their programming as one reason why. (Impact Melanoma was previously known as the Melanoma Foundation of New England.)

“We know, 80 percent of all melanomas are preventable with the appropriate use of sunscreen,” Seavey said.

The dispensers are making their way into the lower peninsula as well. Seavey said she knows of dispensers in Harbor Springs, Sleepy Hollow State Park, and Comstock Township near Kalamazoo.

Find more information about Just Believe at their website and Facebook page. Visit Impact Melanoma’s website to find information about acquiring sunscreen dispensers for your community and to access online resources.

Find more skin cancer stats, identification and prevention tips here, provided by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America Report.

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Main image photo credit: Alanna Risse

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