On Saturday, May, 3 the ninth annual KENTucky Derby, mela-no-more skin cancer awareness event and fundraiser will make its return to Dewey Beach.
The event, which has raised more than a half-million dollars for the Melanoma Research Fund since 2006, kicks off melanoma awareness month and honors the memory of Kent McCullough, a Selbyville native and former lifeguard who succumbed to the fast-moving skin cancer nine years ago.
First organized by his widow, Kim McCullough, and members of his tightly knit group of college friends less than three months after his death, first KENTucky Derby raised nearly $65,000 for the Melanoma Research Fund and has since become the top independent fundraiser nationwide.
Last year, Kim said the annual party at Northbeach raised nearly $98,000 for research.
Hosting a party in Kent's memory with live entertainment, food, drink and auctions this year featuring the 140th Run for the Roses, Kim said she wants to carry on her husband's message of melanoma awareness via a celebration instead of a somber service.
"My kids love it, and it’s a way to continue to remember their dad," Kim said. "We have friends that visit and reminisce."
In the years since it's inception, the KENTucky Derby has continued to build upon its own success thanks largely, she said, to her husband's old fraternity brothers, family and friends, who continue to raise the bar for this fundraiser in honor of McCullough.
Having the event in Dewey only sweetens the deal, she said, as family and friends are typically happy to visit and remember their friend at the beach with a party.
The McCullough's ties to Dewey Beach ran deep before the fundraiser, Kim said, as they met at the Lighthouse bar in 1998. Long before her husband's doctor discovered a mole that concerned him on a routine visit in 2004, she said, Dewey Beach is where they basked in the summer sun.
Although Kent was unconcerned about his mole at first, Kim said his doctor quickly got biopsies and within 72 hours, Kent was informed of his fast-moving cancer. He began an intensive cancer treatment regime, but it failed.
Three months before his death, Kim said, her husband was focused on awareness and served as keynote speaker at the Relay for Life. She said he wanted to get the word out about the insidious skin cancer.
Less than 18 months after his diagnosis, Kent passed away.
"He passed away in February," Kim said. "We decided we can’t just not do anything. Now we’ve got to carry on the message."
"Every year," she said, "I find that I come across more people who have been affected by melanoma."
For more information or to buy tickets to the ninth annual KENTucky Derby and Mela-no-more fundraiser at Northbeach bayside bar and grill, visit mela-no-more.org.