Tampa mom crusades to put free sunblock in parks

- Moms say it all the time: "don't forget to wear your sunscreen!" One South Tampa mom decided to take her protective instinct a step further by offering free sunscreen to anyone who needs it at Corona Park.

Kim DeGance set up a sunscreen dispenser in a location that really adds emphasis to her message. She didn't have permission from the city to put the dispenser in Corona Park, so she asked a neighboring business: Brewer & Sons Funeral Homes and Cremation Services.

Now visitors to the park can simply reach through the park's fence and lather on the free sunscreen, which is located in the funeral home's parking lot, to protect against skin cancer.

The irony of the dispenser's location isn't lost on this mom.

"I think it tells people: hey look you can die from skin cancer," said DeGance.

DeGance has personally funded three sunblock dispensers in South Tampa parks that, like Corona Park, offer little shade for children playing on playground equipment. She's working toward a grant that would fund a sun shade for part of Corona Park's play area and is also hard at work lobbying Tampa City Council about the need for free dispensers.

"Knowing that if I forgot sunscreen, I can go to a local park or I can go to Bayshore Blvd. and there's going to be sunscreen there for you to use would be nice," said DeGance.

In a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, councilmembers overwhelmingly agreed. Councilors gave Tampa's Parks and Rec. department the green light to move forward with a plan.

Tampa has more than 300 parks and trails. Councilmembers say they'd like to see the dispensers in as many of the city's outdoor recreation areas as possible.

"Skin cancer is something that is really an epidemic and when people are out in the parks, often times they're caught unaware. They don't realize how hot it's going to be and they're really looking for something to protect themselves and the more [sun block dispensers] we make available the better," said councilman Harry Cohen.

Details like sunblock brands, cost and SPF levels will all need to be sorted out by city officials, but Parks and Rec. director Greg Bayor says he's hopeful the dispensers could start popping up in parks this fall.

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