If you were to stand in a central location on Concordia’s campus – by the bell tower, in the Knutson Campus Center atrium – on a brisk February day, you would see dozens of Cobbers bedecked in beanies.
These aren’t the infamous golden caps given to every Concordia freshman during Orientation week, though. Thanks to a nationwide organization and one Concordia senior, there is a new beanie on campus.
Love Your Melon is an apparel brand with a mission: to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America. Started in 2012 by two students in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas, it now has more than 11,000 student ambassadors at over 760 colleges across the country.
Hannah Fordahl '16 is one of the thousands of college students across the country committed to the mission of Love Your Melon. Hannah attended St. Thomas her freshman year, and heard about the organization through social media and posters on campus. When she transferred to Concordia as a sophomore, she decided to bring the organization with her.
In January 2015, Hannah applied to get a Love Your Melon Campus Crew Program started on campus and quickly recruited friends as members. Concordia now has a full crew (20 members is the maximum allowed by the organization) and waiting list, and more than 20 regular volunteers.
Love Your Melon is not just about selling hats; they also hold events on and off campus. On campus, Concordia’s LYM crew is involved with Relay for Life and Dance Marathon. Off campus, four to 10 crew members periodically dress up as superheroes and visit Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, stopping by rooms and giving hats to the young cancer patients. Members also organize household donation events, where they visit the homes of children battling cancer and give them a hat.
Recently, Concordia’s LYM group put together a special Adventure Event to assist the family of one of their classmates. They took their friend’s younger sister, who is battling cancer, on a helicopter ride around the Twin Cities. Campus crews “earn” such events by passing credit levels set by Love Your Melon – one hat sale equals one credit. Hannah and her crew have now surpassed the 850-credit level.
The hats have grown far more popular than the organization ever could have expected, and they recently had to end on-campus hat sales to keep up with orders. Now, hats can only be purchased online. After reaching their initial goal of reserving hats for every child battling cancer in America (more than 45,000), Love Your Melon has chosen to replace its “buy one, give one” model to further maximize their impact. Under the new program, 50 percent of net proceeds on every Love Your Melon product sold is donated to the Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch. Hannah estimates that Concordia’s LYM crew has raised more than $25,000 through hat sales and fundraising events since January 2015.
Hannah has many reasons to Love Your Melon. Several of her family members have been diagnosed with cancer. Her aunt died three years ago of brain cancer.
“Ever since she was diagnosed, it’s always been something that I’ve been passionate about,” she says.
But at the end of the day, Hannah and her crew know that their work is really all about the kids.
“The fact that it’s kids is even harder, so I think all of that is motivation to keep working toward the goal, helping the best that we can,” she says. “It’s helping raise money for children with cancer, and seeing the smile on those kids’ faces is just unforgettable.”
Hannah and 12 of her fellow LYM members will be graduating this May, but she’s not worried about the future of Love Your Melon at Concordia.
“I think it’s really rewarding for a lot of people,” she said. “I’m excited to see what they do.”
Katie Beedy '18 is a communication studies and multimedia journalism double major.