Shade Starters

May 31st, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

When Empathy is Part of the Business Equation

By Chris Collier

In the absence of sun protection, nearly half of children with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) develop their first skin cancer by age 10. XP is an inherited condition characterized by an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight, according to the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) MedlinePlus. The disorder is rare and affects an estimated one in one million people in the United States and Europe. But it was one too many for John Hansen, owner of Suntrol in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dealing Kindness

“It’s such a rare disease throughout the country,” Hansen says. “I found out about it after watching a news article about this girl who had to live in her house with all the drapes closed and by candlelight because regular light bulbs were putting out UV [radiation].”

The young patient’s mother pleaded for help, citing a lack of necessary assistance. Hansen “went to bat” for those battling the condition, founding an XP Foundation in the late 1990s.

“We would tint their whole home, primary classrooms and hallways and do their primary vehicle at no charge,” Hansen says. “The manufacturers 3M and Eastman would donate the material, no questions asked. If it was a small job, I would tackle it myself. If not, I would call a dealer in that area and see if they would be willing to assist me. Almost everyone I asked was like, ‘Tell me when and where.’”

Solar Tint of Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the companies that provided additional labor. Then owner Gary Young’s team bolstered projects for four families—support that allowed Hansen to complete jobs efficiently and ensure financial sustainability. Gary’s son Jason now runs the business; he recounts helping those in need as a teenager.

“When I was in high school, my Dad told me I would work for him,” Jason Young says. “He took me on those installs to help out … You take for granted walking outside in the sun. You would see these little kids ultimately be in a spacesuit to be outside. It was mind-blowing at that age to realize how fortunate you are.”

The foundation was forced to shutter in 2007 due to a lack of funding. Working alongside supportive suppliers and dealers, Hansen helped make life easier for 35 families.

“I remember almost every patient and family,” Hansen adds. “You’re able to help them—it’s not costing them any money to help their family and prolong their life. They have so many other problems they’re trying to wrestle with. Why add financial stress?

Let There be Light

Skin cancer is America’s most common cancer. More than five million cases are diagnosed each year. The Skin Cancer Foundation, which cites window film in its Daily Sun Protection Guide, is illuminating the struggle; film shops are answering the call. Randy Humphries, owner of Tint Works in Murfreesboro, Tenn., covered an estimated 700 square feet of residential windows with film for an XP patient in September 2020.

“They live in a multi-million dollar neighborhood, and their windows were covered with cardboard and dark shades,” Humphries says. “[Post installation], she could eat a normal meal with her family without having to wear gear and sunscreen … Everyone in this industry dislikes doing divided-lite windows, but hearing her excitement, joy and outlook on life made me push through.”

Most people with XP develop multiple skin cancers during their life, according to MedlinePlus. These occur most frequently on the face, lips and eyelids. Cancer can also develop on the scalp, in the eyes and on the tip of the tongue. Humphries’ previous place of employment, Music City Window Tint of Brentwood, Tenn., provided the family with a free installation spanning three days. He left the quote in tears.

“Her mom had to walk around the house with a UV meter before,” he says. “We’re all friends to this day.”

Hitting Home

“My wife coincidentally got a [skin] check—we would have never seen it,” says Brian Timm, owner of Tint King in Billerica, Mass.

Lindi Timm’s doctors diagnosed her with stage one melanoma in June 2016 and removed the cancer with immediate surgery. Five years later, she has check-ups every six months. “We got it before it spread to lymph nodes—we were three months away from real problems,” Brian Timm says.

The discovery was a wake-up call for Brian Timm, who has installed film for several customers with skin-related issues during his 39-year industry stay. Photosensitivity puts its victims at risk for lasting skin damage and skin cancer from limited exposure to UV radiation, per the Skin Cancer Foundation. Timm installed film at one such patient’s home, classrooms and vehicles from fourth to eighth grade, “Letting in the light without the bite.”

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and dealers provide UV protection year-round. But Jason Young says window film’s potential is yet to be fully illuminated.

“My friends don’t even realize the benefits of what window film can do for them, whether it’s commercial, residential or automotive. I don’t think many people understand how harmful UV rays are,” he says.

Take it from Him

Paul J. Talbot, MD., is a partner at the Plastic Surgery Center of Hattiesburg in Mississippi. I chatted with the seasoned doctor to get his perspective on window film’s impact during Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

WF: How many skin cancer patients do you work with each year, and in what capacity?
Talbot: We see more than 100 skin cancer patients per year. Most of these patients come to me to remove the lesions. The majority of skin cancers we see are easily treated with resection. We also see around four to five melanoma cases per year, which are the skin cancers that can spread and kill you.

WF: What does Skin Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?
Talbot: It is our yearly day to do free screening of anyone in the community worried about a lesion or spot on their skin.

WF: Can you share some suggestions for avoiding skin cancer?
Talbot: Stay out of the sun at all ages. Sunlight acts as a fertilizer for skin cancers. The more you get, the faster they grow. If you reduce sun exposure at any age, you decrease the growth rate of lesions.

WF: How crucial is window film in the battle against skin cancer?
Talbot: Window film is another tool in the fight against the sun and UV exposure. Anything we can use as a barrier between us and the sun is of value to everyone in the fight against skin cancer.

Chris Collier is the assistant editor for Window Film magazine.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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