For two St. Thomas students, giving back this holiday season has made a positive impact on children’s lives.
Sophomores Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn sold their first batch of 200 Love Your Melon hats in four days after starting sales Nov. 23.
“(It) is pretty remarkable considering the fact that our mentor had told us we probably wouldn’t even be able to sell them in two weeks,” Keller said. “Now that we’ve begun the giving process, it’s been really incredible to be able to meet with these children who are going through such difficulties and struggles and be able to put a smile on their faces.”
The duo set up an online store and within four minutes, a woman from Illinois, who was said to have no previous contact with Love Your Melon, purchased three hats. Keller said many of the company’s original customers were friends and family, but they sold about 50 hats to “complete strangers” who haven’t heard of the business.
Quinn said the response is incredible and believes people are buying hats because they support the cause and want to give back.
“Our customers are not only shoppers, but they’re also donors,” Quinn said. “We’re not just selling these hats. We’re selling our vision and people really want to be a part of it as much as possible.”
Love Your Melon, which donated a hat for every hat bought, has given around 80 hats so far to Amplatz Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota, the Ronald McDonald House and individual families with child cancer patients. Keller and Quinn visited Amplatz Tuesday to give hats to children with cancer.
About one month ago, they met with Nicholas Engbloom, Amplatz external relations officer, to begin working on a collaboration. Engbloom said he was impressed with Love Your Melon and said it was a “very powerful thing” for the patients.
“I think it’s important to know that this is something coming from two young men who are wise beyond their years (and) can understand the concept of what pain and suffering is for a child,” Engbloom said.
Engbloom, a 2008 St. Thomas graduate, said it was meaningful to work with current St. Thomas students.
“I work with so many people during the holiday season. Everybody wants to give back,” Engbloom said. “But because of them being in the school of St. Thomas, it sparked a lightbulb for me to say ‘I will sit down with these two men knowing that they’re somebody that has attended the school that I graduated from.”
Engbloom said he wants Keller and Quinn to open their minds and marketing ideas nationwide. He explained that all children’s cancer research funds come directly to Amplatz and he hopes to continue to work with them in the future.
Keller said the experience at Amplatz was indescribable.
“It was incredible to be able to do something that would put a smile on their faces and something that their families could look at as a bit of hope and something that could make a small difference in a struggling time for them,” Keller said.
Quinn said he had a great amount of respect for the children receiving cancer treatment, not a feeling of pity.
“The personal connections we’re developing with these children are more substantial than we expected,” Quinn said. “The connection we’re feeling with them is really something not to be downplayed.”
Love Your Melon will present their hats at an event hosted by the Minnesota Vikings at Amplatz on Dec. 18. Vikings players, children undergoing cancer treatment and their families will attend the event. Keller and Quinn plan to give away 150 hats.
“A lot of the kids that we are working with will be coming down into the Family Resource Center and getting hats and we didn’t want to lose any of that excitement on that day,” Quinn said. “It’s really amazing to hear those children’s stories.”
Sophomore Tess Wang, who purchased a hat, said it’s fun to be able to spread the joy by doing something positive and helpful.
“Supporting the cause is easy and something many college students can do,” Wang said. “All you have to do is buy a hat. Something so beautiful, yet so simple.”
Sophomore Allison Waage said she thinks everyone should buy a Love Your Melon hat.
“It’s a $20 hat, but when you see the pictures of them, they obviously are extremely happy about it,” Waage said. “And it’s something you can do to make someone else feel love and appreciated.”
Waage said the hats easily spread awareness on campus.
“Sometimes when you’re in school on campus, you kind of forget about the world outside of St. Thomas,” Waage said. “It’s easy to forget that other people have issues too.”
Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.