According to the American Cancer Society, more than 76,000 new patients will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2016. Despite the fact that it accounts for only one percent of all those struck with skin cancer, it is considered to be the worst form of skin cancer, as well as the world’s fastest-growing form of cancer.
That’s why a group of high school students from Regina Dominican, Loyola Academy and New Trier have come together to lead the charge and help inform those about melanoma and the effects it has.
“I got involved because my mom is involved with the group,” Regina sophomore Viv O’Bryan said. “It’s also something that’s very important and now many people are aware of.”
Skin of Steel is a nonprofit based in Illinois with a mission to provoke revolutionary personal, behavioral and institutional change in dealing with melanoma. It’s made up of a board of directors, as well as a junior board. The junior board, of which O’Bryan is a co-chairperson, is made up of 15-20 students from Regina, Loyola and New Trier.
“We’re working for a collaborative tissue bank,” O’Bryan said. “Tissue is the issue because there isn’t enough tissue being saved. And right now we only have three banks in the United States, one in Pittsburgh, Chicago and on the West Coast.”
Earlier this month on May 3, the Regina lacrosse team, of which O’Bryan is a member, played its game against Whitney Young as a Melanoma Awareness Night, to help spread the word about melanoma and what can be done.
“Since this is our first year getting involved, we’re starting pretty small,” Regina lacrosse coach Colleen Speth said. “We’re bringing awareness to everything and we’re trying to get all the teams at Regina involved in this. Right now, a bunch of the teams have jumped on board as well.
“This makes a coach very proud and Regina too. I was so impressed when a 15-year-old wanted to be involved and take on this type of role. I had never heard of Skin of Steel, but the fact someone so young wants to get involved helps others look up to you. It’s empowering.”
For the game, the team sent out invites to people, wore black and yellow hair ribbons with the Skin of Steel logo on it. The Panthers defeated Whitney Young 17-6 thanks to six goals from Lily Hackett and three goals and five assists from Nora Byrne and improved to 6-7 on the year.
All those involved with Skin of Steel did a spin class on May 4, where they raised money for melanoma and skin cancer research. For the spin class, many people made Razoo pages, which are similar to GoFundMe pages, where people can donate by sending out the link to others. So far O’Bryan has raised around $600 and as of three weeks ago, the total raised was $4,500.
“We’ve been in contact with the people at Baxter International to see if we can work on getting sunscreen available everywhere,” O’Bryan said. “We want it to be as accessible as hand sanitizer is.”
If people are interested in donating, they can create Razoo pages and send the links out to others or visit the Skin of Steel website skinofsteel.org.
“Our goal is to make sure everyone is protected by having walks to spread the word, creating foundations and letting people know that no matter what you need to be protected,” O’Bryan said. “The collaboration with the different schools is great, as well as getting kids involved because not many people are knowledgeable.”
But from the sound of it, if it’s up to O’Bryan and her friends, everyone will know. And hopefully others will take a page from the Skin of Steel organization and make sure to protect themselves.