Love Your Melon

Natural Solutions - - Get Inspired - BY ERICA TASTO

FBrian (left) and Zach (2nd from left) with LYM crew. or 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.

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