AKRON, Ohio — With the sunny weather of summer arriving, one group is reminding others of the importance of using sunscreen anytime they plan to spend time outside. While it may not be on the top of everyone’s mind, Ryan Gray is sharing his story in hopes that it will become a higher priority for all. 

What You Need To Know

  • Ryan Gray’s wife, Ellen, died of cancer in her twenties

  • He founded Ellen’s Effort, which raises funds for cancer awareness

  • It and other organizations promote loving your skin, including about $5,000 of sunscreen to the YMCA of Summit County

“Ellen was vibrant and athletic and active,” said Gray. “Almost all the boring clichés of someone who was young and happy to be alive.”

Ryan met Ellen Gray in college. They fell in love and got married, but their lives came to an unexpected halt when Ellen was in her late twenties. 

“She got sick and it all happened really fast,” said Gray.

Ellen found a bump as she was going through her hair one day. She asked Ryan to take a look and he immediately knew she needed to see a doctor. Her skin cancer diagnosis came soon after, and within a year of being diagnosed, Ellen died.

“She would be 42 right now,” said Gray.

Ellen is the inspiration behind “Ellen's Effort,” which raises funds and awareness for cancer. 

“The personal story is in our hearts and it's something we think about all the time,” said Gray.

Though a personal story, it’s one that is personal to a lot of other people, too.

According to cancer.org an estimated 5.4 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, which is why Gray wanted to take things a step further. 

“We want to do more,” said Gray. “We want to be bigger; we want to appeal more broadly.”

Working with the North Canton Medical Foundation, “Love Your Skin Stark County” was born. The group then partnered with the YMCA of Stark County to provide sun block for summer camps, daycare programs and pools in North Canton.

Just less than $5,000 worth of sunscreen is provided to make it easier for others to protect their skin while taking advantage of sunny, hot summer days. 

“We can still have fun and we can still protect ourselves,” said Gray.

Gray, now remarried with a couple kids of his own, shares the memory of Ellen which has now turned to her legacy. 

“It's awful to think this way, but if there's silver lining that we can take from her passing, it's that we're not invincible,” said Gray.

Gray, along with the North Canton Medical Foundation, continues spreading the word to love your skin. 

Love Your Skin does more than provide sunscreen. Funded by the North Canton Medical Foundation, they provide screenings, because early detection is key.

For the past 10 years, they've hosted different events to raise money for the foundations cancer relief fund, ultimately raising awareness about the risk of melanoma. The relief fund provides temporary financial support to cancer patients needing immediate assistance with cancer treatment related costs.

Find more information on Love Your SkinEllen's Effort and the North Canton Medical Foundation at their websites.