For most people, October 22, 2012, was a day like any other—but for two sophomores in college, that day would change the course of their lives forever. With the mission to improve the lives of children battling cancer, the duo decided on that day to put their plans into motion. The result was the nonprofit Love Your Melon, an organization dedicated to putting a hat on every child fighting cancer in America.
“Zach [Quinn] and I were just two individuals when we launched Love Your Melon that night, but it is incredible to see the impact everyone can have when we all come together,” says Brian Keller of his cofounder and fellow supporters. Now, every subsequent October 22 is a reason to commemorate this effort: “Love Your Melon Day is about setting aside one day a year to help these children going through one of the toughest times imaginable and to celebrate the impact we have all had together.”
LYM began with a buy one, give one concept. To date, they have sold enough hats to give one to each of the roughly 45,000 kids in America fighting cancer. However, their mission doesn’t stop there.
“My vision for Love Your Melon is to improve therapeutic treatment programs at hospitals across the country. It is a crucial part of the treatment process, as it has been proven to reduce stress and create positive thoughts, thus increasing their chance of survival. Almost all of our hats are given in person by costumed superheroes,” says Zach.
“The superhero theme works perfectly as an icebreaker to games and activities during our events,” adds Brian.
“It is fulfilling and satisfying and it puts things in perspective,” Zach explains. “We all have things that we worry about every day: encounters that irritate us, responsibilities that keep from what we really want to do, and events that set us back. But few of us have ever been stuck in a hospital room for months at a time. There is nothing that compares to it. The amount of frustration, anxiety, and sadness that children battling cancer and their families go through is unimaginable.”
Sometimes, a smile is the greatest reward of all. Zach recalls a favorite memory, during a visit to Dawson Parker’s room at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis: “I entered the room and immediately noticed the model planes and helicopters that he had brought with him. I knelt down beside his bed to talk to him and he would barely even look at me. We had just started our program Cloud Rides [organizing adventures for children, based on a helicopter ride they planned for friend and cancer patient Zach Sobiech when he had just weeks to live] and, remembering that, an idea came to me. I asked Dawson if he wanted to go on a helicopter ride as a part of this program. According to the nurse and his parents, that was the first time he smiled in months. Shortly after that encounter, we organized the adventure and he had the time of his life.”
LYM completed two tours in 2014 to spread hats and positive vibes from coast to coast, which inspired their establishment of the Campus Crew Program. Zach and Brian founded LYM as part of a collegiate entrepreneurship class—so who better to help them fulfill their mission than college students?
“As we went from college to college [on that first tour], we met students that joined in to help sell hats, spread our mission on their own campus, and even came to the hospital with us to give the hats away. The Campus Crew Program is the opportunity for college students to be a part of something larger than themselves,” says Brian. “With the range [the program] provides, we will be able to reach every pediatric cancer hospital by the end of the year.”
“Without caring hospital staff, visitors, and activities, a hospital room can feel like a prison. When kids and families see superheroes enter their hospital rooms, their eyes light up with excitement,” says Zach. “It is an amazing feeling seeing their positive reactions and understanding the impact we are able to make simply by being there.”
LYM also helps fund research and support families financially by partnering with the Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, two national nonprofits: “We are directly funding their programs with 50 percent of net proceeds from Love Your Melon product sales,” notes Zach.
Learn more about LYM’s inspirational work and how you can get involved by visiting loveyourmelon.com.