O'Toole Siblings Lead Fight Against Skin Cancer
Standing behind the sun shield at the lacrosse field behind James H. Vernon School are, from left, Colin, Sean and Caleigh O’Toole, CCMAC founder Mrs. Colette Coyne and Oyster Bay High School Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Mr. Kevin Trentowski. At right, are the The O'Tooles, Mrs. Coyne with lacrosse players in front of the sun shade.
The lacrosse field behind James H. Vernon School has a new feature that helps protect athletes from the harmful rays of the sun. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Oyster Bay High School students Sean, Caleigh and Colin O’Toole — a junior, sophomore and seventh grader, respectively — two sun shields have been installed to fully cover the dugouts used by athletes during practices and games. On the back of the sun shields is the message, “Melanoma is color blind. Be sun smart, always wear a hat, sunglasses, shirt and sunscreen.”
The O’Toole siblings have made it their mission to raise awareness and help fight melanoma and other potentially deadly, sun-related skin diseases after their Aunt Bonnie passed away from skin cancer several years ago.
At seven years old, determined to make a difference, Caleigh recalled drawing up a donation sign with colorful markers and asking parents and spectators at her brothers’ Police Athletic League (PAL) baseball games to contribute to the fight against skin cancer. She and her brothers sold lemonade at each other’s games and contacted sunblock companies for free samples to give out to the community as a thank you for their donations.
Springboarding their efforts further, they became involved in the Miles for Melanoma/Steps to Stop Skin Cancer 5K Walk/Run hosted by the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign (CCMAC). The organization honors the life of Colette Coyne who lost her battle with skin cancer at age 30 in 1998. This year’s walk/run takes place Sunday, May 19 at Eisenhower Park and features free skin cancer screenings and fun activities for the entire family. Register online @ www.CCMAC.org
Through their own fundraising and sponsorships in the walk, the O’Tooles have raised more than $9,000 for CCMAC. The organization, graciously acknowledged the O’Toole’s efforts by donating the sun shields at Vernon School with hopes that other school districts and recreational programs will follow suit to help protect other young athletes from the hazards of the sun. The O’Tooles presented the donation of sun shields to the Board of Education, April 17, 2018 and the Board accepted the donation.
Meeting at the lacrosse field before a recent game, Caleigh and her brothers warmly greeted CCMAC’s founder, Mrs. Colette Coyne, now 84, and her son Thomas, who helps run the organization. Brought together by tragedy, the O’Tooles and the Coynes are determined to save others in the name of their loved ones.
“CCMAC has been so helpful in furthering our mission,” Caleigh said. “Mrs. Coyne has inspired me to reach out and be this person who wants to make a difference. “It is amazing to come and see at practices and at games that people are asking questions about the sun structures that Mrs. Coyne donated. Everyone is so excited about them and it’s an amazing thing, for sure.”
Also building excitement is the participation in the CCMAC 5K walk/run this weekend. Teachers and coaches at Oyster Bay High School have been helping to get more students involved. Last year, Caleigh’s lacrosse coach Mr. Charlie Rizzuto obtained a bus for the team to participate in the walk. This year, participation has increased threefold, she said. The lacrosse team held bake sales, got sponsorships and again secured a bus to bring the team to the walk. The boys’ junior varsity and varsity lacrosse teams are participating, thanks to Coach Mr. Brian Soper, and other teams, such as the softball team, have expressed interest in joining.
As a seventh grader, Colin said, “With me being in the high school but still being in a middle school environment, I can now reach out to other students through my teachers because my teachers have every single student. For instance, my social studies teacher Mr. [John] Andriaccio is giving extra credit to every student who participates in the walk.”
“All the coaches, all the teachers have been so helpful in getting students to participate in the walk, which is really what it’s all about; it’s to get the turnout,” Caleigh said. “Mrs. Coyne has told me multiple stories about kids who come back saying, ‘I went home after one of your seminars at my school and I told my mom and we caught her skin cancer early.’ It is so preventable, so important to really stop this disease, and it is really amazing to see everyone’s passion for this cause grow from our passion.”
“We are so thankful to the community for their support,” Sean added. “We are going to continue to work with CCMAC and spread awareness because it’s what my aunt didn’t have and it’s what people need.”
For more information, such as the following life-saving tips or to register for the 5K walk/run, visit www.CCMAC.org.
- Avoid unprotected sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.,
- Wear protective clothing,
- Avoid tanning beds,
- Use high SPF sunscreen all year round,
- Do monthly self body checks
- See a dermatologist yearly.