About four years ago, radio personality and former Air Force member Tim Reed, Ph.D., had a brush with skin cancer. He had surgery at Walter Reed. And while everything went fine, the experience drove home the importance of having access to good health care and getting any noticed skin changes checked.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America, and it’s also the most treatable if caught early. Still, many lack the urgency to routinely visit a medical professional to examine their skin.
“I started having conversations with some peers and everyone generally seemed to be aware of the importance of skin checks, but it always seemed to be a ‘C’ priority,” Reed says. “I started thinking about how we could meet people where they are and offer cancer screenings in those settings.”
Through connections from his radio days, Reed decided to combine concerts with cancer screenings. That was the genesis of We Rock Cancer, a McLean-based nonprofit that brings a mobile screening unit out to sites to offer free skin cancer exams from board-certified dermatologists. The organization’s mission is to facilitate early detection and prevention of skin cancer by attracting people with awesome music and events.
“We get about 50% of the event attendees taking advantage of the free screenings and about half have a finding that requires further follow-ups,” Reed says. “So, we know we’re making a difference and creating awareness.”
We Rock Cancer has grown since its beginnings, having since added other events — athletic and cultural — to its calendar. The organization’s tempo is about once a month, and it’s popped up at all types of places, from a 10K race to a barbeque festival, to a live music performance at venues like Jammin Java, City Winery and Boro Park at Tysons.
“We decided to do races because runners are dressed exactly as they should be for skin cancer screening and they are a high-risk population because they are outside a lot,” Reed says. “We have an event coming up on October 16 at Burke Lake, which will be a 5K/10K/half marathon.”
The Boro was very interested in tying its summer concert series into the We Rock Cancer schedule and planned two events for 2021. The first was a rousing success, and the next will be held on August 12, with American roots artist Moose Jaw Bluegrass in concert.
“We will be there with our mobile screening unit in the adjacent parking area and [in] our tailgate tent to provide information and offer free screenings,” Reed says. “We want to get people on the right track to [discovering] problems early.”
On October 2, beginning at 6 p.m., We Rock Cancer will hold its third annual benefit at the Barns at Frying Pan Farm in Herndon.
“What we try to do at this fundraiser is to make it a night of rocking cancer,” Reed says. “It’s one of our biggest screening nights, and almost everyone who attends will get a screening. We’ll have five dermatologists at the event. But it’s also a night of eating, drinking and listening to fantastic music.”
“Brian is the only artist who has been to every one of our events, even last year when we had to pivot to a virtual event, he still came down and performed live,” Reed says. “We’re really excited to work with Laura and have her grow into our artist family of partners.”
There will also be a special rock ‘n’ roll auction with unique products and experiences for people to bid on.
While We Rock Cancer is still in its early stages, the feedback that Reed receives from patients and dermatologists convinces him this is a vital service, and he’s looking forward to growing even more.
“Our next outreach we are hoping for will be for workers in sun-intense environments, like landscapers, delivery people, lifeguards, golf course workers and jobs like that. There’s lots of cancer out there. Five minutes of visual observation with a trained medical doctor can help do the initial detection.”
Don’t miss the Third Annual We Rock Cancer event on October 2. Tickets start at $100 and can be purchased here. The Boro Tysons concert series that We Rock Cancer will be at is on August 12 and tickets are free. For more information, visit here.
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