Laura Vanic had some work to do after the Spring Involvement Fair.
In the past three months, Ohio State’s Love Your Melon Campus Crew sold close to 750 hats. In one day, it gained 100 new members.
It was up to Vanic, a third-year in accounting and the ambassador for the Love Your Melon Campus Crew, to add those 100 names and contact information from people who expressed interest in the club, onto the current list of members.
But she welcomed the task with open arms.
“It was a lot of keying in names,” Vanic said, laughing. “But it was awesome to have that many people interested.”
Her student-run organization is relatively new to OSU — she started it in January 2015, and it wasn’t officially recognized by the university until the autumn semester — but it is growing rapidly, just like the company it is affiliated with.
Love Your Melon is a for-profit company out of Minnesota that was founded by two college students in their entrepreneurship class during their sophomore year in 2012. According to its website, it grew out of “the simple idea of putting a hat on every child battling cancer in America,” through the “buy one, give one program.”
Vanic is from Minnesota, where the company was founded, and she said sometime last year she noticed her social media timeline filled with posts about Love Your Melon and its mission.
After realizing OSU didn’t have its own umbrella organization, she said she reached out to the headquarters in Minneapolis, expressing her interest. She was given the green light to bring the company’s goals to Columbus in January 2015.
It is one of 500 student-operated groups at schools throughout the United States that have “signed on as ambassadors to sell and donate hats,” according to Love Your Melon’s website.
It had just four members at its inception, a far cry from the roughly 160 it has now. The reasons for students signing up are wide-ranging, Vanic said, but the common thread is the desire to help children and their families that are battling cancer.
For Jenna Wilson, a second-year in neuroscience, her cousin’s fight with a brain tumor inspired her to get involved.
“It’s really special to be a part of something like this,” Wilson said, wearing a red Love Your Melon hat, one of the three she owns. “It’s just a bunch of college kids all devoted to the same mission, for some reason or another.”
Every member is able to participate in the volunteer opportunities and other events that occur on campus, Vanic said, but the original 20 are a part of the “active” group.
The reason for such classification is derived from the crown jewel of Love Your Melon’s outreach, which are hospital trips where hats, among other things, are distributed to children with cancer, Vanic said.
The entire 160 would not feasibly be able to attend the trips, she said, as with sick children there are strict rules about visits to ensure the patient’s’ health is not compromised further.
To qualify for hospital trips, campus organizations have to earn 250 credits, which are accumulated from purchases, Vanic said. When someone buys a product online, a drop-down menu allows them to indicate affiliation with any of the campus groups. Each time an individual selects OSU, a credit is earned for the club.
As the credits pile up, different outreach opportunities, such as the hospital trips, household visits or adventures, become available to campus affiliates to sponsor, Vanic said.
OSU’s Campus Crew was fortunate enough to partake in such a trip already during the autumn in conjunction with the Columbus Clippers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. They distributed the hats, colored pictures with the children and gave families “a couple hours not to think about treatment,” Vanic said.
“We go in with the goal of making (the patients) smile, but we all come out of there with the biggest grin, too,” she said.
One of Love Your Melon’s signatures is dressing up like superheros during outreach events to help create a fun-filled atmosphere for the children they’re visiting. The events are therapeutic for the families, Vanic said.
“The happiness that this entire organization provides is incredible,” she said. “Just silly college kids dressed up as superheros, and the smiles it creates, it’s just so much fun.”
Like its membership, Vanic said the number of credits stored up for OSU’s group continues to rise. It’s near 820, she said, which means more household visits, superhero adventures and hospital visits are on the horizon in the spring.
When the group isn’t embarking on large-scale events like those, it does smaller projects, like “Cards for Kids,” which is scheduled for Tuesday night at the Union, where it plans on making cards for the patients it will visit on its forthcoming hospital trip. Beyond that, it is planning a pediatric cancer night in partnership with the women’s hockey team on Feb. 5, Vanic said.
Love Your Melon has a Buckeyethon team registered, too, as well as plans to be involved with OSU’s Relay for Life selling hats.
Vanic descried the group’s growth as incredible.
“By the time I graduate,” Wilson added, “who knows where it will be.”