Team Truck Melanoma Raises Skin Cancer Awareness, One Gearhead At A Time

The Team Truck Melanoma race truck with a booth at an event.

At Crankshaft Culture, we say we’re United By Horsepower; we’re all gearheads no matter what we drive or ride. The power of this bond can be seen in some very unique ways, and sometimes even potentially lifesaving ones. Such is the case with Team Truck Melanoma. This organization seeks to spread awareness of melanoma, one gearhead at a time.

The association was founded by Troutdale, Oregon’s Ryan Kiernan in 2023. A long-time medical assistant in the field of dermatology, Ryan seeks to educate and inform people on all things melanoma and uses automotive as a way to reach out to fellow gearheads.

Ryan started in emergency outdoor medical and volunteering for search-and-rescue 18 years ago. He had a mentor with an academic interest in melanoma. Ryan said they were saving the world one tumor at a time. His mentor also had an interest in motorsports and fabrication projects.

In 2022, Ryan attended an event at Ironman 4×4 in Sherwood, Oregon and an idea struck him. He hadn’t seen anyone at an automotive event talking to people about sun protection or skin cancer.

“As silly as it sounds, I felt a little convicted,” says Ryan. “I thought to myself, ‘You’ve worked in this industry for eight years and hadn’t been to a cancer walk’.” Soon after, Ryan thought he could combine his love of cars with the desire to spread info about skin protection, skin cancer, and melanoma. “[This] could be a good excuse to build a race car.”

The Donation, The Team Truck Melanoma Race Truck

Ryan had always wanted to build a 24 Hours of Lemons vehicle. Here, teams race $500 cars and have a blast doing so. So what if he could combine the idea of helping spread melanoma awareness with a Lemons racer?

Then something awesome happened. Ryan got an anonymous $500 donation to buy a car for 24 Hours of Lemons. Specifically, a 1996 Chevrolet S-10 pickup. He’d already had a line on the truck, but this donation was a catalyst to help him move forward with Team Truck Melanoma.

“The truck ticked the right boxes,” Ryan said. It was rear-wheel drive, had a five-speed manual transmission, and was short bed.

Bringing Melanoma Awareness To The Track

So far, Ryan’s had a roll cage and race seat put in. It’s got a few other goodies done to it but is far from done. Regardless, he towed it to the NASCAR race at Portland International Raceway in June 2023, got a booth for his 501(c)3 organization, and began his mission.

During the stock car race, he and his cohorts offered free skin checks. During this weekend-long event, the team uncovered four potential melanomas. Rather surprised about this, Ryan said. “This needs to be bigger than just a race truck with a good message attached to it.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course, and the Lemons race truck remains unfinished. Ryan remains optimistic, however. The truck serves as a gateway to melanoma awareness and is a mutual interest he and eventgoers have. It can help break the ice about this disease.

“We have a race truck. It doesn’t run. We’ll get there,” Ryan says, “But it starts conversations.”

An Impactful Weekend at PIR

Ryan accounts a story of how a younger man and his buddy were at the NASCAR race. The younger man’s buddy was kind of “twisting his arm” to go get looked at. “Just have them look,” the man’s buddy said. It turns out the man had four areas of concern on his skin.

“Now, [doctors] know what to look for,” he says. “But people remember melanoma from 20 years ago.” Back then it wasn’t as understood or recognized, but things have changed.

“There doesn’t need to be deaths from melanoma,” says Ryan, “People can be so easily educated on what to look for. It’s silly to die from something you can find on your own skin.”

He states that melanoma can spread quickly. But if detected early, there’s a 95% survival rate five years out. However, it caught later, that rate drops to 30% at five years out, so early detection is key.

Plans For the Truck

I asked Ryan what plans he has for the truck. He stated the S-10 has an impressive case of rod knock, so the bottom end needs to be redone. He also mentioned the wiring needs to be sorted out.

“It has to do 24 Hours of Lemons just once,” he said. After all, “that’s what it started as.” He’s also interested in Lucky Dog Racing, but it depends on funding.

“I’d love to LS swap it,” he remarks, noting that he’d be fine if it ended up as a drag truck or a burnout truck.

“As much as I’d like to race the vehicle, I think that the truck has moved beyond that because it starts the melanoma conversation,” he says. He’d like it to become a cool beacon to come into his booth and have a screening, and he’s focused on outreach.

He tows the S-10 behind his kitted-out Toyota Sequoia on 35s, and he says a lot of the time, the overland crowd will first notice the Sequoia then see the S-10. He’s happy either vehicle draws people in.

How You Can Help

If you visit his website, you’ll have the ability to donate to Team Truck Melanoma. Donations go where they’re needed. The organization is all volunteer, and funds may go to the truck, or to pay for exhibit fees, etc. He reminds me that just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean they don’t have to rely on money, and it’s still a pay-to-play scenario.

“Whether it goes to our truck or to our outreach events, those donations go right back into continuing to spread the message of melanoma awareness, early detection techniques, and working with local dermatologists to get free skin checks done,” says Ryan.

What’s Next?

Ryan hopes to make it to The Off Road Games in Hurricane, UT in March to have a booth at this event, but it depends on the funding. His long-term goal is to take Team Truck Melanoma national and collaborate with dermatologists in the cities they visit.

Team Truck Melanoma booth with the Chevy S-10 Racetruck.

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