Student club has soft spot for children with cancer
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Do you love your melon?
No, not your cantaloupe or honeydew, but your noggin, your noodle, the place you hang your hat.
Probably few at GCU adore their melons as much as one group of students whose “Love Your Melon” crew recently gained the status of University club.
On the surface, it may seem that this group is all about hats — hats in pink, purple and lemon hues, hats of nearly every color, knit beanies, baseball caps and hats with cuffs.
As fun as it is to sport the merchandise, the club’s purpose isn’t to look stylin’. It’s to help children who are fighting for their lives against cancer.
“As the children begin to lose their hair, the hats provide warmth and comfort,” said Ryan Sanborn, a sophomore and only male member of the group.
Their mission recently caught the eye of Debbie Accomazzo, the University’s community outreach manager and race director of the GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, a March 12 event that features a 10K run, a 5K run/walk and a quarter-mile Cancer Survivors Walk.
“The alignment of our missions was a match made in heaven,” Accomazzo said. “I’ll be assisting them in building their network of families who are affected by a diagnosis of pediatric cancer, while they’ll be partnering with me on promoting and participating in the race.”
After spotting their Twitter account, Accomazzo met and began collaborating with the students. When they formed a club, she signed on as advisor. She is introducing the students to the run’s beneficiaries, Children’s Cancer Network and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and expects club members to have the important role of supporting cancer survivors and their families.
“Collaboration is a beautiful thing, as is a jauntily adorned melon,” Accomazzo said. “The most beautiful thing in the world would be an end to childhood cancer.”
Club President Julia Cummings, a junior, said proceeds from Love Your Melon merchandise helps childhood cancer victims in two ways:
- Last year, more than 400 Love Your Melon crews at universities in all 50 states donated more than 50,000 hats to sick youngsters, Cummings said.
- The national organization also donated in 2015 more than $1 million to its partners, the Pinky Swear Foundation, which helps patients’ families, and CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, which pushes for research.
Started in Minnesota
The GCU club is seeking more members, and new joiners don’t have to be from Minnesota, even though that’s the home state of nine of its 10 members. Several even went to the same high schools.
Minnesota is also the home of Love Your Melon, founded in 2012 by two students during an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn. The idea spread like wildfire, Sanborn said.
“Their brand has thrived off social media,” said club secretary Hannah Wolfe, a sophomore.
Following suit, GCU’s club now has four members dedicated to updating social media accounts, including @gculymcrew on Twitter and @gculoveyourmelon on Instagram.
The group has sold a few hats here and there — such as during December’s GCU Student Market — but most sales come from loveyourmelon.com, where buyers can indicate they support the GCULYM crew. Hats sell almost as quickly as the organization offers them for sale.
Giving to a child
The club has earned enough points from the national organization to give a hat to a cancer patient, Wolfe said. Cummings said their club wants to do something special for its first recipient: A scavenger hunt on campus, with a hat, of course, as the prize.
It will also participate in the GCU Club Fair on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and hold an information session 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, in Building 6, rooms 204-206.
Meanwhile, you can probably spot members on campus, their colorful caps atop their melons.
“We love wearing our hats,” said Cummings. “It gives us a sense of purpose.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or Laurie.Merrill@gcu.edu.