Education sophomore Maddie Friedman recalls scrolling through pages of a friend’s blog that chronicled the journey of her 8-year-old son, who was dying of cancer. Inspired after hearing the daily struggles of a suffering cancer patient, Friedman launched the UT chapter for Love Your Melon.
“His life and his journey inspired me to become a part of this,” Friedman said. “I wanted to be able to help other kids that were in a similar situation to him even though I couldn’t really help him.”
Launched last fall, the UT Love Your Melon crew is one of hundreds of university-led divisions of apparel company Love Your Melon. The philanthropic business sells beanies, T-shirts and accessories, donating a new hat to a child with cancer for every hat purchased. After a university-led crew sells a certain amount of hats, the company sends them on trips to patient’s homes and hospitals to deliver the hats directly to the kids. While Love Your Melon apparel is currently sold out, their new collection arrives on Feb. 8.
“Being involved with a charity organization like this sets you apart because you get experiences and emotions directly out of it,” Friedman said. “It makes me feel grounded and gives me a sense of purpose.”
When they aren’t visiting hospitals or patient’s homes, the UT Love Your Melon crew works to spread awareness through social media challenges and hat-selling events. They recently participated in a social media challenge that called all university-led crews to get celebrities to post pictures wearing Love Your Melon hats on their social media page. Ilaria Tare, psychology sophomore and the crew’s vice captain said they were excited to receive photos from Patrick Dempsey and Ashton Kutcher.
“It’s really cool to actually see how you’re immediately affecting people,” Tare said.
Winners of the crew challenges are awarded credits that add up to house and hospital visits, which allow crew members to visit the children they are helping and deliver the hats donated by Love Your Melon. The UT chapter recently accumulated enough credits to visit the Ronald McDonald House where they supplied each child a hat and spent the whole day with the kids. They are currently working on gaining enough credits to do a hospital donation event in Dallas.
“It was really rewarding to first-hand be with a child who was undergoing treatment in a hospital and hang out with him,” Friedman said. “We brought cookies to decorate, but we ended up just sitting there and talking with them. It made me feel like there was a real purpose to all of this work that we had put in.”
Friedman said the UT chapter has exceeded predicted sales this semester, so they have extra hats on standby ready to donate to children in Texas as they are diagnosed.
Psychology sophomore Megan Burke said she joined the UT Love Your Melon crew because she has always been involved with charity organizations, some of which pertained to similar cancer-related causes. She said she enjoys getting to see the direct results of her sales on the faces of the children who receive the hats.
“We get to actually give the hats to the children and spend quality time hanging out with them,” Burke said. “We just get to raise their spirits. We get to make an impact on their lives, but they make a much larger impact on our lives.”