When Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller originally teamed up in a college entrepreneurship class back in 2012, they had no idea it would literally change their lives, let alone the lives of countless others. But here we are.
The pair met while at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and saw quickly that they worked well together after the success of their first project: Selling 200 hats in only two days. Now, five years later, they are the co-founders of Love Your Melon, an apparel brand known for its cozy knit beanies, dedication to putting a hat on the head of every child battling cancer in America, and unwavering support of nonprofits who lead the fight against pediatric cancer.
The hats, or “beanies,” as they are often called, are the heart and soul of this millennial company, with each one being made right here in the United States. According to the co-founders, Love Your Melon has worked tirelessly to produce hats that are comfortable and soft enough for a child’s bare head, as well as stylish.
Love Your Melon first set out with an initial goal of donating 45,000 beanies — one for every child battling cancer in America. But after surpassing that goal, the team set a new goal of donating $1 million to pediatric cancer research and providing immediate support to children and their families.
“To date, we have donated more than $2.5 million dollars and over 90,000 Beanies,” Quinn tells Babble.
Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer and the average age of diagnosis is six years old. Quinn and Keller chose pediatric cancer as their mission because they saw it as a large population of vulnerable people who weren’t being supported by the structure of our society.
“Pediatric cancer research and support for kids battling cancer is not funded heavily and we wanted to have the largest impact possible,” says Quinn.
And they have more than delivered.
Fifty percent of the profits earned from Love Your Melon sales is given to groups and nonprofit partners including Alex’s Lemonade Stand, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Make a Wish foundation, and many more. The donations help their nonprofit partners fund pediatric cancer research initiatives and provide immediate support for families and children battling cancer.
And while this crew seems to work round-the-clock designing, creating, and distributing their beanies, caps, and apparel, there is one thing they make sure to save time for: getting out and seeing the kids their products help support — the ones who are courageously fighting cancer each and every day.
“One of my favorite memories is of a visit to a 12-year old named Dawson, who according to his nurses, usually kept to himself and never talked to anyone,” Quinn tells Babble. “At first when I knelt down by his bed and talked to him about what we were doing, he didn’t respond, but as soon as I looked around the hospital room and spotted model airplanes, I got an idea.”
“I asked Dawson if he wanted to go fly with us and his eyes lit up. According to his parents and nurses, it was the first time he had smiled in months. We talked for a while, I gave him a beanie, and a few weeks later when he was healthy enough to leave the hospital, we took him on a helicopter ride … It was amazing.”
All it takes is one visit to the company’s Facebook page to see how this small but mighty team is changing lives. The page shares personal stories from children battling cancer, accompanied by photos of them sporting their own beanies and standing alongside team members from Love Your Melon. A quick scroll through the comments also shows the many thousands of messages of support that have been left for those bravely fighting their disease.
It’s those personal messages that keep this company moving forward in their pursuit to find a cure and make a difference in the lives of children fighting cancer. In fact, they believe so passionately in the one-to-one interaction that takes place when giving one of their beanies to someone, they even created a “Campus Crew” program to help with their mission.
According to Quinn:
“Our Campus Crews have been able to help us expand our brand immensely. We now have 12,000 college ambassadors at over 800 campuses that help coordinate, plan and operate Love Your Melon Donation Events. This is a critical component of our company, as it’s important for us to donate our beanies in person and make a positive personal connection with the children we see.”
When asked about what Love Your Melon’s plans are for the future, Quinn is quick to answer that the ultimate goal is to have the largest impact possible for their nonprofit partners, in order to work towards a cure for pediatric cancer and improve the lives of families facing it.
And while there is so much uncertainty in the lives of children with cancer, it’s beautiful to see that one thing they can count on is the unwavering support and dedication of this team of superheroes, who are in fact changing lives — one beanie at a time.