Love Your Melon supports cancer patients

By Rachel Ralston
Correspondent

The cold rain that washed over campus on Thursday, April 28, left many students bundled up and groggy. But one person didn’t let the gloomy weather get him down — Nico Mclaughlin. Instead, he ran up to the counter at Piccolo Pronto with a wide smile on his face and a white lab coat that said “Future Scientist” on the name tag. On top of his head was a bright red knit hat.

The 4-year-old is currently battling a rare autoimmune disorder known as Evans Syndrome. On Thursday, Mclaughlin and his family visited the College for Superhero Day, hosted by the College’s Love Your Melon (LYM) crew.

LYM is a student-run apparel brand that raises awareness for children fighting cancer. It was founded in St. Paul, Minn., by college students Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller, both of whom were determined to help improve the lives of these kids.

The pair is now in charge of LYM crews at 736 educational institutions, according to their Website. LYM crews across the nation sell T-shirts, baseball caps and even scarves, but the signature product for the brand is their knit beanies. The company’s mission is to put a hat on the head of every child battling cancer. For each hat sold, another is donated to a childhood cancer patient.

In September 2015, junior art education major Emily Vogel founded a LYM crew at the College. Vogel serves as the crew’s captain and has worked hard to sell LYM apparel to her peers and raise awareness for the organization over the past year. On Thursday, she dressed up in a Batman costume with an LYM beanie that matched Mclaughlin’s.

“I was inspired to start (an LYM crew) because a friend of mine joined a crew at his school, and that was how I heard of it,” Vogel said. “I read the mission and thought it was awesome. It’s amazing how fast it grew because at the end of the year, there was a huge spike in the number of college crews. I’m glad I started one here when I had the opportunity to because now, in our region, it’s really popular.”

The crew members dress as superheroes for the special day. (Photo courtesy of Emily Vogel)
The crew members dress as superheroes for the special day. (Photo courtesy of Emily Vogel)

LYM co-Captain Julia McKinnies, a junior special education and English double major, dressed as Superman for the special day. Sporting a red cape and beanie, McKinnies smiled and laughed with Mclaughlin and the other LYM crew members as they ate together at Piccolo Pronto. McKinnies even decorated the restaurant chairs with smiley face balloons tied to the back, just for the young boy.

“Having the opportunity to meet a little guy like Nico and get the chance to make him smile is my favorite thing about being on the crew,” McKinnies said. “To get the chance to do something that they love for them, I think it’s awesome.”

After they finished eating, the crew headed to the Science Complex to fulfill Mclaughlin’s dream of being a scientist. Upon arriving, Mclaughlin was greeted by junior biology major Izzy Distefano, who wore a lab coat just like his. Distefano took him on a tour of the Biology Building before the crew set up a station where he could conduct some science experiments.

According to Vogel, the College’s LYM crew organized the day’s activities so that Mclaughlin could catch a glimpse of a day in the life of a student studying the sciences, which he hopes to do one day. For Vogel, LYM is about giving young cancer patients moments of beauty throughout their childhoods, which should be carefree, but sadly, cannot be.

“Today was so magical,” Vogel said, her face lighting up. “Someone he was close with passed recently, and how do you handle that when you’re so young? It’s interesting for me to see his perspective. He’s still so young and says he wants to go to school for science to find a cure for ‘All of the world so that no one gets sick ever again.’”