In April, Love Your Melon threw 12-year-old Matthew a superhero-themed birthday party complete with capes, other hero-themed party items and a special superhero hat for the birthday boy.
Matthew, who is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is a bit of a real-life superhero himself.
As the many visitors to his Facebook page, Matthew’s Fight Against Leukemia, may know, he has had a tough fight, not only physically, but financially and emotionally as well.
So when Love Your Melon found out that his family’s financial situation and the distance of his friends might prevent him from celebrating his birthday this year, which falls on National Superhero Day, the organization decided to step in.
It raised money to provide Matthew with party supplies and tickets to a Cirque-du-Soleil-type show that he wanted to see.
About 13 members of WKU’s Love Your Melon crew came to the party to spend time with him.
Cody Mardis, president of the WKU crew, Matthew’s father said he had never seen his son so happy before.
This is only a taste of what Love Your Melon does every day.
The organization, which is headquartered in Minnesota, has a mission “to place a hat on the head of every child battling cancer in America”. It does this by selling its signature hats and other accessories online, then giving 50 percent of the profits to the fight against pediatric cancer. The beneficiaries of this money are the charitable cancer-based organizations CureSearch and the Pinky Swear Foundation as well as crews from college campuses across the country.
WKU’s Love Your Melon crew is a group of about 20 students who do the organization’s local work and raise awareness on campus.
One way the group does this is by setting up information tables at Centennial Mall or in Downing Student Union. Additionally, the crew reaches out through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about cases like Matthew’s.
“We’re their face,” vice president of the WKU crew Sydney Walsh said.
WKU is one of around 800 universities that have a Love Your Melon crew and has a service area that ranges from Matthew’s hometown of Fort Knox, Kentucky, into Tennessee.
Most of the members of the WKU crew are motivated by their own experiences with cancer, Mardis said.
“Even if we’re not the ones with cancer, we know what it’s like to be the family member of somebody with cancer,” he said. “If you have somebody you love like that, you want to let them know that you’re there for them no matter what.”
Although the WKU Love Your Melon chapter meetings are not open to the public, there are still a number of ways for students, faculty and community members to help out, Walsh said.
The number one way to help out, Walsh said, is to buy Love Your Melon products online at loveyourmelon.com. When students wear the products in public, it gets others interested in the brand.
Additionally, customers have the option to select their college campus when shopping online. When customers select WKU as their campus, Love Your Melon headquarters give the WKU crew “credits,” which can build up to be turned into gifts and money for local cancer patients. Matthew’s birthday party kit was possible because of these credits.
“A lot of research and statistics have proven that when you take the [financial and emotional] stress off of a family, the member with cancer, or any disease for that matter, is a lot more likely to survive,” Mardis said. “Any support you can give us to help these kids know that they’ve got people backing them is appreciated.”
Part of the WKU crew’s purpose is to provide emotional support to children battling cancer simply by spending time with them.
Mardis remembers visiting Matthew in the hospital and seeing a shirt that he made for himself which said, “Love is greater than cancer.”
Mardis said he felt that it encapsulated Love Your Melon’s mission well.
“It’s a pretty simple statement of, ‘Look, this isn’t about just getting you over your disease, this is about a personal relationship with people,'” he said.
Digital Reporter Chris Dimeo can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected].