Meghan Barrett is a Senior at UW-La Crosse expected to graduate in May 2016 with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Originally from Plymouth, Minnesota this superhero is spreading smiles wherever she goes. President and founder of the Love Your Melon club here at UW-L, Meghan knows what it's like for families and patients battling cancer and works hard to do what she can for them. Grab some tissues for this one (Don't worry, they're happy tears!)...
Tell me about Love Your Melon Club. What do you do? What is its mission/purpose?
Love Your Melon Club is a group of 20 ambassadors that are dedicated to raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer. Love Your Melon is an apparel brand that is run by college students all over the country who are on a mission to put a hat on the head of every child battling cancer. For every hat that we sell online or on campus 25% of the proceeds go to CureSearch for pediatric cancer research and another 25% goes to Pinky Swear Foundation for direct family support (gas for trips to the hospital and other costs). However, even though selling hats is important to raise those funds, the more we sell as a club the more we get to go hand deliver to the kids in the hospital while dressed as superheroes. Our club had the opportunity to visit Mayo Clinic in Rochester this semester, and we delivered about 50 Love Your Melon hats to children in the inpatient and their families. Last year, we were also able to send many boxes of hats to children that were not nearby. The purpose of a single hat is more than you can ever imagine. After the effects of chemotherapy, many children and teens struggle with the insecurity of a bald head, along with the painful reality of cancer. These hats, delivered by superheroes, tell them that we love their melon, and they should too. We also bring art and craft supplies and other fun games into the hospital to be a distracting and fun part of their day.
How did you get involved with Love Your Melon?
Two college students over at the University of St. Thomas about 3 years ago started this company in an entrepreneurship class as just an idea. They received such positive and motivating feedback that they decided to put it in action. They donated their very first hat on October 22nd to a girl battling cancer in their home, and then they started to make connections with hospitals in Minneapolis and began to donate there. These two founders, Brian Keller and Zachary Quinn, did most of these donations on their own or with their friends, and I followed them on social media from the very beginning. I loved everything they did and never thought I could be a part of it. Then, I saw a post about becoming a college ambassador and starting your own “campus crew” or club of 4-20 people, and I immediately gathered people and contacted them!
What made you decide to become president?
Since this club is new, I took the responsibility of president. It was not something I was voted into; it was more just assumed, since I began the process and was in contact with the school. I could not have started it without the help of the original ambassadors last year who were so supportive and encouraging. We, all together, got the ball rolling with spreading our mission on campus and encouraging people to support us.
What do you hope to achieve as President this semester/or year with Love Your Melon?
This semester and year, I hope for our club to be more involved with other clubs on campus. We want to collaborate and have a cool event that shows the strengths of many clubs. We also will be helping out with Dance Marathon on November 20th, and I hope that we can raise a lot of funds for Children’s Miracle Network and really get a lot of people to come and dance! I also hope that our club can do more events with children battling cancer and their families in our community. Although visiting the hospital is what we usually do, a lot of cancer treatment is done via outpatient. We want to make sure we can give to those kids too! That being said, that is why our crew is so diverse in the sense each ambassador brings something new and unique to the table.
What do you enjoy most about Love Your Melon?
The thing I enjoy most about Love Your Melon is definitely the superhero visits to the hospital. Never in a million years did I think I would get a chance to dress up as something different than myself and bring smiles to kids’ faces. Those smiles that I saw in the hospital, and even in-home donations, are smiles that I never want to be erased. Those kids are the real superheroes, and the fact that I get to hang out with them is unlike any other experience I’ve had. I also have to say that I absolutely love the beanies and have limited myself to only buying one more if UW-La Crosse colors come out (go eagles).
What have you gained/learned from being a part of this club?
I have definitely learned how to effectively communicate our mission via email. I have had to send multiple emails to the founders to get started, to our university and even to hospitals and families when we have events. Even though I am not a marketing or sales major, I have learned a lot about how to market to a population and really know “what sells”. Also, although this is a very common saying, the phrase “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know,” is definitely the most true statement out there. Connections are everything, and I don’t think our club would be where it is today without them!
I have gained so many friendships, ideas and rewarding experiences as a result of being a part of this club. It is truly awesome to be a part of a club where there are 19 brilliant minds all coming up with ways to help children with cancer and even to get involved on campus. Although some days can be stressful, like in any club, I have grown immensely from this group and the experiences we share together.
What advice could you give someone who may also know someone battling cancer?
Some advice I would give is that, even though they are battling a serious disease, treat them like you normally would and be silly with them. It is a hard time for everyone and the stronger you are, the stronger they will be! Some of us have experienced very sad situations while in the hospital delivering hats, and it can be difficult to remain the fun superhero. Although our situation is different, because it is only for a few hours, just remember that your smile can go a long way!
Are you involved with anything else on campus?
Not currently! I used to be involved with the Optimist club, but Love Your Melon takes up most of my time these days. I also have a job at the YMCA!
What are your plans after you graduate?
This past summer I worked at a camp for kids with special needs called Camp Knutson. I hope to go back next summer after I graduate to put off the “real world” a little longer. After that, I feel like my options are endless for where to go with Recreation Therapy, so I guess we’ll see where life takes me!