Sunscreen stations are proving popular in La Grande

·3 min read

Aug. 12—LA GRANDE — Amy Yielding, a mathematics professor at Eastern Oregon University, wishes that everyone could have known her sister, Rose, who lived in Arizona and died of skin cancer in 2018.

"She was always volunteering and involved in outreach," said Yielding, who described Rose as the most generous of her 10 brothers and sisters.

Few people in La Grande knew Rose, who was a microbiologist at Phoenix Children's Hospital, but today her presence is being felt throughout La Grande.

Rose's story is touching the lives of others thanks to Yielding, who is installing sunscreen dispensary stations throughout La Grande in memory of her sister.

"I feel like I am planting little Rosies," said Yielding, noting that doing this is helping ease her sense of loss.

To date, Yielding and her husband, Jason, and daughter, Josephine, have installed sunscreen stations at Candy Cane, Birnie and Riverside parks and the trailhead of the Mount Emily Recreation Area's Red Apple area. The sunscreen stations at Birnie and Riverside parks were installed in May and the other two were put in during 2021.

Yielding has installed all of them to make it easier for people to protect themselves from the sun's damaging rays so they and their loved ones do not experience what her family did.

"Rose died six months after she was diagnosed. It was devastating," she said.

Yielding believes that her sister, who was 35, developed skin cancer because of too much unprotected sun exposure when she was growing up in Arizona.

Oregon does not receive as much sun as Arizona, but people in the state are vulnerable to skin cancer just the same because of a false sense of security some people have. Yielding explained that because the state has so many cloudy days, people assume they are protected from the sun but that is not the case since the sun's damaging rays penetrate clouds.

The project has been funded with help from Grande Ronde Hospital through a small community events and projects donation account that is managed by the hospital and its public relations department. The account helps support, through small, one-time donations, those unique and local community efforts that otherwise may not have access to a traditional funding stream or subsidy source.

Yielding credits Casey Nichols, a dermatology board certified nurse practitioner at the hospital, with providing guidance on the project.

"(Nichols) hooked me up with the right people at Grande Ronde Hospital," she said.

Yielding also said Stu Spence, director of the La Grande Parks and Recreation Department, and Sean Chambers, who earlier served as the director of MERA, also provided major help in securing the city and county approval needed to install the sunscreen stations.

"Stu and Sean are amazing," she said.

Yielding noted that the sunscreen all the stations use is eco friendly.

The sunscreen stations have been well received over the past two years. Yielding said that in 2021 people pressed the dispensary buttons of the stations at Candy Cane Park and MERA about 2,000 times. Each pump of a button at the stations provides at least a teaspoon worth of sunscreen.

Yielding hopes that the stations not only result in more people using sunscreen but also that the hospital signs inspire more people to get checked regularly by a dermatologist for skin cancer.

The response to the stations had been so good that Yielding hopes to later install more stations at other parks around the city and at MERA, after receiving city and county approval. She is also hoping to create a mobile sunscreen station that could be set up for local outdoor events.

Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at 541-624-6016 or dmason@lagrandeobserver.com.