Sunscreen Dispensers - Remembering David Petit

Dear Islanders,

Though it’s been chilly and cloudy this week, we’ve already had many blazing summer days. My dog and kids love it, and so do I. And seeing people outside, walking, biking, and kayaking — enjoying our natural resources — never fails to make me smile. I’m sure many of you feel the same.

Millenia of sun

Cultures throughout history celebrated the sun; Romans, Greeks, Aztecs, and Egyptians all have their own version of sun gods and goddesses. We see appreciation of the sun in our literature — both ancient and contemporary.

In Greek mythology, Hades kidnapped Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, and held her captive in the underworld. Demeter, goddess of agriculture, growth, and the earth, was so distraught that the earth became a frozen, sunless winter. Eventually Hades promised to return Persephone for a period of time each year. Every year when Persephone was united with her daughter, her happiness melted the snow and the sun began to shine again.

In the C.S. Lewis classic, The Chronicles of Narnia, a series my kids love, the tyrannical rule of Queen Jadis results in a Long Winter, a hundred-year period of darkness, despair, and cold. Father Christmas and Aslan, symbols of hope and resurrection, return to Narnia. The snow stops falling, and Narnia blossoms into spring, then summer.

Sun protection is no myth

Though the sun represents joy and life, even the ancients recognized its potential danger. Homer’s Odyssey describes the protective clothing the Greeks wore to reduce sun exposure, and Egyptian scrolls describe natural ways to prevent sunburn.

Free sunscreen for all

With modern technology and medicine we know how dangerous overexposure to sun can be. Melanoma is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer. Every hour someone dies after fighting melanoma. The good news is that melanoma is preventable — slap on some sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, or get in the shade before you start to burn.

IMPACT Melanoma is a non-profit organization that provides education, prevention, and support for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. As part of IMPACT’s Practice Safe Skin program, IMPACT and Roswell Park installed sunscreen dispensers at Veterans Park on Grand Island.

The free dispensers are for public use, and the goal is to prevent sun overexposure in children and adults. If you’ve ever been there on a Saturday in the summer for a baseball or soccer game, you’ve felt the sun beating down on you.

Remembering David Petit

These sunscreen dispensers were donated in memory of Grand Island resident David Petit, who died in 2008 at the age 55 after a battle with melanoma. Doctors at Roswell told him that that this deadly skin cancer was likely caused by sun damage that occurred when he was a child. His family hopes that making sunscreen readily available in public places will raise awareness about skin cancer and reduce the number of diagnoses in the future.

I am grateful to the Petit family for their contribution, and encourage you all to use and respect the new dispensers at Veterans Park. This weekend there’s quite a lineup of events there. Relay for Life, Little League Opening Ceremonies (finally), and  Miracle League Niagara Power Day. 

Electronic recycling

Speaking of events, be sure to check out our website’s new Community Events Calendar, and follow our Facebook page for news and event information. This weekend, June 9 and 10, there is an e-waste recycling event at Town Hall. Marston Power Equipment and Pinto dumpsters generously organized and sponsored this opportunity to safely dispose of your old TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics. For more information, go to

Highest regards,
Nate McMurray