Mary Colette Coyne founded the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign...

Mary Colette Coyne founded the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign after her daughter's death. Credit: Thomas H. Coyne

When Mary Colette Coyne’s daughter died less than six months after her diagnosis with melanoma in 1998, she believed there had to be a higher reason.

“I believed there was a purpose; I felt it was not by accident,” Coyne, 88, said of the death of her 30-year-old daughter, Colette.

The New Hyde Park resident found that purpose just four months later, when she created the Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign, which strives to increase public awareness of the dangers and causes of skin cancer. Since its inception 25 years ago, the nonprofit has raised more than $200,000 and hosted events ranging from free cancer screenings at local beaches to an annual charity walk called Miles for Melanoma.

Coyne also became a passionate proponent of legislation to prevent minors from using tanning beds, which can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by 75% among those who start using them before age 35, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In 2005, her efforts led to Nassau County passing the Colette Coyne Skin Cancer Prevention measure, which prohibited the use of tanning beds by minors without parental consent, Coyne said.

Shortly thereafter, Suffolk County passed the similar Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness law. State legislators then passed a law in 2012 prohibiting anyone under 17 from using commercial tanning beds, which was followed in 2018 by legislation prohibiting anyone under 18 from using tanning beds.

“I’ve read about people who say they don’t care about skin cancer; they’d rather be ugly when they’re old and beautiful and tan when they’re young,” Coyne said. “I want to say to them that you may not live to get old if you continue with tanning beds, because they are so detrimental.”

One campaign member who praised Coyne’s efforts is Corey Eisner, whose wife, Mary Ann, died after what he called “a fierce battle” with melanoma more than 20 years ago. Eisner, of Levittown, recalled Coyne showing up at his wife’s wake despite him having never met her before.

“She learned that my wife had passed of melanoma and came to offer her condolences and to talk to me about the disease,” Eisner said. “She is a one-of-a-kind person. She drew me into the organization because of her desire to educate people on Long Island about the dangers of skin cancer, which I was total unaware of until my wife became ill.”

Donald Gleason, of Stewart Manor, survived a diagnosis of Stage 3 melanoma in 2005 and is also a member of Coyne’s organization. He occasionally visits local schools to speak about sun safety.

“She’s extremely determined,” Gleason said of Coyne. “She’s a wonderful person and she’s done a fabulous amount for the community.”

The campaign’s next walk will take place at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on May 11. Those interested in participating or making a donation can visit the campaign’s website at ccmac.org. Attendees can also receive a free examination from a volunteering dermatologist.

Nominate a Long Islander who goes above and beyond or serves as an inspiration to their community. Send details and photograph to Michael Ebert, michael.ebert@newsday.com (photos should be high-resolution). Photos may be used in other publications affiliated with Newsday.

Fisherman facing prison … Nassau extends red light cameras … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Heuermann house searched ... Palm Tree Music Festival bid denied ... Nassau 911 call system back up ... School budget preview

Fisherman facing prison … Nassau extends red light cameras … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Heuermann house searched ... Palm Tree Music Festival bid denied ... Nassau 911 call system back up ... School budget preview

Latest Videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME