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New UB foundation Love Your Melon gives hats to children with cancer

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When Kim Charleson noticed country-pop singers Megan and Liz wearing vibrant blue and pink “Love Your Melon” beanies in an Instagram post, she knew she wanted to learn more about the foundation.

Charleson, a junior social sciences and legal studies major, went to the Love Your Melon website to see what it was about. She ended up learning more than she anticipated.

Love Your Melon is a non-profit organization started by students in an entrepreneurial class at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. It began October 2012 and by 2013 the foundation became a nonprofit organization. For each Love Your Melon beanie someone buys, the foundation gives one to a child battling cancer.

Then, half of the proceeds from each beanie go toward Love Your Melon, while the other half goes toward the Pinky Swear Foundation, an organization that provides immediate care for children with cancer and CureSearch for Children’s Cancer Research.

“[Love Your Melon’s] goal is to put a warm hat on every child battling cancer by college kids in superhero costumes, something so fun for them,” Charleson said. “Fifty percent of net proceeds are going toward two amazing organizations which I find super amazing and important.”

The purpose of the beanies is to make children with cancer feel as though they’re not alone, Charleson said.

In 2014, Love Your Melon picked up ambassadors from other colleges to spread the word and continue placing warm, colorful beanies on the heads of thousands of child cancer patients. The hats on the website are $30 and shirts are $20. People can also purchase a $25 gift card. Each product purchased counts as one “point.”

University of St. Thomas managed to sell out of the hats within the first week and has sold 1,200 points so far. There are over 150 schools in the country participating in the Love Your Melon foundation.

Then, for every 100 points sold, colleges are given 100 hats to donate to a hospital in their district. Ten people in the club dress up in superhero costumes and take the hats to the children.

As of April 27, UB’s Love Your Melon group was at 20 points, so it needs 80 more points in order to receive the 100 hats to give to a children in a hospital in Buffalo or the Ronald McDonald House, a temporary home for the families of children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals for serious illnesses.

Charleson knew right away she wanted to become an ambassador when she saw UB was not on the list of colleges joining the foundation. She began by reaching out to the ambassador of the foundation.

“What I like the most is that we can make a positive impact for child cancer patients by wearing hats, something that everyone wears,” said Matt Kondziela, a junior political science major and Charleson’s boyfriend.

One of the rules to have a foundation is to have between four and 20 people on the team. They have to promote the foundation in order to get students to purchase hats in order to begin donating.

The foundation is a group of students, faculty and anyone else interested in participating and purchasing items in order to gain points for their school or to just help donate a hat for a child with cancer.

“When Kim [Charleson] asked me if I wanted to be a part of UB Love Your Melon, I thought it was a great idea and an opportunity to volunteer for a great cause,” said Tim Gigante, a senior economics major.

Gigante said he’s most excited to see UB Love Your Melon expand and gain more members as a result.

Charleson stresses it is important for students, faculty and anyone looking to help with the cause click the tab for UB when purchasing a hat in order to make sure they can receive the points. To get the word out, Charleson has created multiple sites for anyone who would like to help with the foundation. There is a Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts at @ublymcrew.

Kondziela said he sees Love Your Melon groups increasing across the country. He hopes more UB students and sponsors across the United States will recognize the influence of the organization.

“We can’t have more than 20 people on the crew, but people are going to be graduating and we can create a waitlist,” Charleson said. “We can still have ten more people on the crew, so I would love to have more people to be a part of it.”

Students do not have to officially join the club in order to participate. All it takes is for someone to make a purchase and add points so the UB foundation can start donating to local hospitals. If Charleson can get more people to donate for UB, then she has a better chance of winning contests for their group.

“Every month they do a different type of [contest],” Charleson said. “This month, it is who has the best photo on their campus or in their town with the Love Your Melon banner.”

Another contest is seeing which school has the most Twitter followers. The winner receives hats, sunglasses and other Love Your Melon items.

Love Your Melon started off as a group Charleson could join to place on her resume. She never expected to be the one to start the Love Your Melon foundation at UB. Even though she only started three weeks prior to founding the group at UB, she is passionate about helping this foundation as much as she can, she said.

“I chose get involved because it's a simple way to make a difference,” Charleson said. “Love Your Melon approaches cancer in a different way though.”

Marissa Fielding is a staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com


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