Good Deeds: Friend works to spread awareness about skin cancer

08/03/2014 11:28 AM

08/08/2014 2:41 PM

Most people dismiss melanoma and other forms of skin cancer as “just skin cancer.”

But to Kimberly Rubio, it’s much more than that.

“That’s the stigma that comes with it,” said Rubio, Kansas director of Addison’s Army Against Melanoma. “It’s frustrating because there’s so many people I come across that say, ‘It’s just skin cancer, how could you possible die?’ ”

Rubio’s friend and former West High classmate, Briana Cox, died two years ago from melanoma, the deadliest of three types of skin cancer. She was 33.

Cox — who lived in Phoenix at the time — learned of her diagnosis six weeks after giving birth to her second child, Addison. While Addison was in the womb, the cancer was transferred between mother and baby. Addison died of melanoma after her second birthday.

“The best way to handle it was to follow the dreams (Cox) had,” said Rubio, an aerospace engineering student at Wichita State University. “We wanted to help her find a venue or avenue out there. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Rubio and Cox’s husband, James, founded Addison’s Army Against Melanoma to help educate and spread awareness about melanoma through lectures, materials and events. Rubio organized a sun-safety obstacle course for children at Tanganyika Wildlife Park at the beginning of the summer and a 5K race last year to bring awareness to skin cancers.

The organization’s largest campaign, though, has been distributing about 70,000 coloring books to elementary schools in the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, Germany and Australia. The books, with “Safe Fun in the Sun” printed on the cover, give tips such as “stay out of the sun by playing in the shade” and “shirts with long sleeves can also protect your arms.”

“It seemed like a really good way to hit a lot of families and it wasn’t going to cost a whole lot of money,” Rubio said of the coloring books. “… Adults kind of get set in their ways. It’s easier to educate children.”

Addison’s Army will receive a $25,000 Excellence in Education grant from State Farm Insurance on Saturday to help print more coloring books, said Missy Dundov, a spokeswoman for State Farm.

“It makes my head swim and my heart flourish,” Rubio said of the grant. “We’re going to be able to hopefully incorporate all the Wichita-area schools.

“James wants to be able to distribute books where he lives. That way we’ll just be able to expand our boundaries.”

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