2016-17 Featured Students

Love Your Melon Campus Crew (November 2016)

Impact and change is often reflected in something as simple as a smile. When we reflect upon how we have contributed to the well-being of others, it often inspires a warm sense of meaning and continual action to better others' lives.

I owa State University's Love Your Melon campus crew and volunteer network, which includes more than 200 ISU students, hopes to keep bringing happiness to families across the Midwest, motivated by the incredible number of smiles they have created in their three years on campus.

"We aren't here to better ourselves," said Nettie Sparkman, senior in genetics and event management, and co-captain of ISU's Love Your Melon campus crew. "We're here to constantly work to better others."

Love Your Melon (LYM) started with a couple of university students in Minnesota looking to make a difference while creating a project in their entrepreneurship class in 2012. Their idea was to put a hat on every child battling cancer in America. They made 400 hats, kicking off their buy-one-give-one program. With every purchase of a hat, a child in the hospital gets one, too. Now, there are hundreds of colors of beanies – Love Your Melon's signature product – and a myriad of other items, including caps, scarves, T-shirts and jackets, Koozies, totes and purses, mugs and more.

With all of these cute, trendy items to choose from, Love Your Melon also strives to remind people of its mission.

"We want people to know we're not just an apparel brand," said Hannah Haler, senior in event management and events crew member of ISU's Love Your Melon campus crew. "We have more purpose than just creating trends."

Sparkman echoed those thoughts, emphasizing the disconnect between the apparel and donations, saying, "We want it to be known that all of these kids are affected and given happiness, and that's why people are wanting to buy [Love Your Melon products]."

Love Your Melon has found other ways to spread its mission, too. Soon after its foundation in 2012, other college and university campuses across the nation joined Love Your Melon's cause through the Campus Crew Program. Currently, there are more than 11,000 students involved across 736 educational institutions. These students help fulfill children's requests for superhero adventures, which are like small-scale Make-A-Wish grants.

Students build a day centered around what makes a child smile the most, and then take them on a fun-filled adventure for an entire day.

"You get to see the joy you create," Haler said. "You see the kids smiling and, even if it's just for a few moments, you get to see the parents be able to relax and not stress."

One of Sparkman's and Haler's favorite memories of being part of Love Your Melon is taking a little boy named Malcolm on a superhero adventure.

Traveling in a limo, Malcolm got to do some of his favorite things, such as visiting the zoo, bouncing around at SkyZone and looking at trains.

Currently the ISU crew is planning another superhero adventure for children living in the Quad Cities.

"[Love Your Melon] feels like family," Sparkman said. "We're like super baby sitters, but we get to do it for a reason much bigger than ourselves."

That feeling of family extends to the relationships within the ISU campus crew, too. Haler joined Love Your Melon last spring after her grandfather passed away from cancer.

"After that, I wanted to get involved," she said. "I've met so many good friends through it, and I know they're always there for me."

Sparkman said Love Your Melon is an opportunity for students to meet like-minded people with the same core values. She said it's an opportunity for then-strangers who cared about the cause individually to join a group that enables everyone to care about the cause together, as a collective, through the opportunities in Love Your Melon.

"[Love Your Melon] helps students to impact change in their own way," Sparkman said. "To be able to give that to someone means longevity of our mission...Creating constant happiness will never stop, no matter who's at the wheel."

To stay updated on what the ISU crew is doing, follow them on Facebook (Iowa State Love Your Melon Campus Crew) and Twitter (@ISULYMCrew). To join Love Your Melon's extensive volunteer network, email Sophia Wakefield at sophiaw@iastate.edu to learn about meeting times and volunteer opportunities.

There are plenty of other ways to help Love Your Melon's cause. The most obvious one is to purchase their brand online, making sure to credit Iowa State's campus crew at checkout. You can also make donations to its partners, Pinky Swear (which provides basic needs support to families with children battling cancer) and CureSearch (which aims to end children's cancer with innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame).

"We get to affect change on such a high level," Sparkman said, "as well as see [the high-level change]."