British Columbia

Pilot project launches free sunscreen dispensers in Kelowna

In the same week temperatures soared well above 30 C in Kelowna, two foundations have joined forces to launch a new pilot project providing free sunscreen. Two touchless sunscreen dispensers have been set up in the city and anyone can use them.

Project founders say they want to spare others from experiencing skin cancer

Left to right: David Walker from the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, Coun. Maxine DeHart, Chris Lewis from Tourism Kelowna, Karen Wells and Kathy Barnard who were on hand at a launch for two new free sunscreen dispensers in Kelowna. (Submitted by Karen Wells)

In the same week temperatures soared above 35 C in Kelowna, two foundations joined forces to launch a new pilot project providing free sunscreen.

Two automatic touchless sunscreen dispensers have been set up, one beside the Kelowna Visitor Centre downtown and one at the Kelowna Golf and Country Club.

"It's nice sunscreen too. It's very white, and that's the zinc oxide, which is a very important ingredient, a natural ingredient," said Karin Wells, founder of Morgan's Mole Patrol.

Wells, along with Kathy Barnard, founder of the Save Your Skin Foundation, partnered up on this project because of the impact skin cancer has had on both of their lives.

Each dispenser holds about 1,000 millilitres of sunscreen. (Laurence Watt/CBC)

Wells' son Morgan died from melanoma in 2016 at the age of 33, and Barnard was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2003 and went into remission in 2007.

"What I'm trying to do now is raise awareness so that I can spare one family from going through what we've gone through," Wells told Daybreak South's Laurence Watt.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2017, an estimated 7,200 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and 1,250 died from it.

 "I can't say that I really would have done such a thing if I hadn't been through this tragedy," said Wells.

Pilot project

"Kelowna will be the first to put them up, I'm proud to say," said Barnard. She and Wells hope to later expand the dispensers to other cities across the province.

The City of Kelowna in a statement emailed to CBC said it hopes the dispensers help raise awareness that the Canadian Dermatology Society has found more than 90 per cent of melanomas are cause by UV exposure and that only 10 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds use sunscreen daily.

"Having it available to anyone who has not brought their own to our beaches and parks will help keep more residents and visitors to Kelowna safe from skin cancers."

One of the sunscreen dispensers is set up outside of the downtown Kelowna Visitor Centre, close to a number of beaches where tourists and locals hang out. (Laurence Watt/CBC)

The dispensers in the central Okanagan use Health Canada approved Bright Guard Natural SPF 30 and can hold up to 1,000 millilitres inside of them. Each dispenses enough sunscreen for approximately one arm at a time and is expected to be able to serve 300 to 400 people, said Wells.

She hopes people will use it if they forget to put sunscreen on when they go outside or to help reapply every two hours.


Setting up the first dispensers in Kelowna was a "bittersweet" moment for Wells.

"I mean, my son made such a sacrifice. But, you know, in his honour, that's why we're doing this."

Next year, Wells hopes to have more dispensers across the city.

Two foundations in Toronto started a similar project in 2017, setting up free sunscreen dispensers in parks and there are now more than 70 across the city. 

"I'd like to see this in all the schools. I'd like to see it on all the soccer fields. I mean it's endless. This winter, I'm going to be targeting the ski hills, because, they get more sun than we do in the winter," she said. 

Two foundations have joined forces to launch a new pilot project giving out free sunscreen. Two touchless sunscreen dispensers have been set up in the city and anyone can use them. 5:36


With files from Laurence Watt and Daybreak South


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