On a mission to improve the lives of children battling cancer, two sophomores at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota founded “Love Your Melon”—an organization with the aim of putting a hat on the head of every child battling cancer in America. Upon hearing about the organization’s success in her home state of Minnesota and inspired by its mission, Rachel Stout ’18 decided to become an ambassador for the cause and started a Love Your Melon “Campus Crew” last month.

“[The group’s purpose was] something that seemed to resonate with me,” Stout said. “I wanted something here at Bowdoin that I could get involved with, and I hadn’t really found anything like Love Your Melon. When I thought of it and found out that it was so easy to start, I got excited.”

“All of the kids in our campus crew have been affected in some way by cancer, and that’s kind of the reason so many of them are so rooted in this,” said Clare McInerney ’18, a member of Bowdoin’s Love Your Melon Campus Crew. “I think everyone has someone they’ve known and loved that they’ve lost because of it.”

In addition to spreading the word about the cause, Stout hopes to increase the number of students on campus wearing Love Your Melon hats. 

“Basically [my goal is] to get as many people on campus aware and wearing a hat,” Stout said. “We’re going to try and get a bunch of posters with everyone who has a hat and get different teams and groups to wear hats.” 

With every hat that is purchased through Bowdoin’s chapter, the school receives an equivalent amount of credit, and when certain amounts of credit are attained, the campus crew is given hats to personally deliver to children with cancer. 

On October 22, just a week after beginning the group, Stout and two other members of the Bowdoin College Campus Crew were already dressing up as superheroes, visiting children in hospitals and handing out hats.

“We were given the opportunity to go to Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland and give out hats to the little kids,” Stout said. For Stout, these personal interactions are what got her involved with the cause in the first place.

“Cancer is an awful thing, but there’s something about spending time with kids who are going through chemo and losing their hair and getting to put a hat on their head that’s special,”
Stout said. “It’s a really neat thing to be able to impact a little girl in a hospital for 15 minutes and have her forget about what she’s going through.”

Though McInerney has not gone on one of these special visits, the group has still been powerful to her in other ways, as it has allowed her to see how widely cancer affects people.    
Since its founding in 2012, the organization has now spread to more than 200 colleges across the nation. Each participating school represents the brand through promotions, sales events and charitable programming initiatives. 

The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to encourage people to buy beanies and caps from Love Your Melon. For every hat that is purchased, one is donated to a child with cancer and half of the total proceeds made by sales are donated to cancer research.

Stout began asking friends and members of different athletic teams around campus whom she knew would be passionate about the cause to join. Once the minimum of ten members was reached to form the campus crew, she sent in an application. Upon receiving approval a few days later, the club was up and running, making Bowdoin the first college in Maine and one of the only NESCAC schools to represent Love Your Melon. Both Tufts and Trinity also have campus crews. 

Although the group is only allowed a maximum of 20 people, anyone who wants to get involved, whether by participating in bake sales, volunteering or raising awareness, is welcome to do so. 

Though the group has many big plans  for raising awareness and going on further hospital visits, Stout is already happy with the work that the group has done so far.

“There was one little girl Haley who was five and when we walked in dressed as superheroes she just sat up right away and you couldn’t even tell she had cancer because she was smiling so excited for the hat” said Stout. “She was so strong the entire time.”

“That was the pivotal moment of this is what I wanted to do this entire time. Even if it was just that girl that I saw smiling, it was good enough for me,” Stout said.