When UW-Eau Claire students in a small group communication course were challenged to find and address a social issue in the local community, one group decided to make it personal and partner with the UW-Eau Claire chapter of Love Your Melon, an organization founded and run by college students with a mission to improve the lives of children battling cancer.
“We needed to pick some type of issue and make an impact at the local level,” said Madeline Gray, an English major from Roseville, Minnesota. “Many of the students in the group, myself included, have been personally affected by childhood cancer. Jack Delahunt and myself both lost a classmate to cancer in high school and know firsthand the pain and shock that accompany the death of a peer. We wanted to do something to both solve the problem of childhood cancer and to help the kids currently battling cancer. We are trying to generate commitment to our issue and create a greater level of awareness for the organization and its mission on campus.”
Students involved in the Love Your Melon project include Gray; junior Jack Delahunt, a communication major from Stillwater, Minnesota; junior Katie Cudnowski, a communication major from New Brighton; junior Rebecca Nelson, a psychology major from St. Bonifacius, Minnesota; junior Anne Olson, a communication major from Minneapolis, Minnesota; senior Greg Sikowski, an economics and psychology major from Appleton; senior Katherine Allee, a communication major from New Holstein; senior Sarah Regenscheid, a kinesiology major from Hastings, Minnesota; senior Jeff Tiede, a criminal justice major from Le Center, Minnesota; and junior John Martinek, a journalism major from New Brighton, Minnesota.
To find out more about the Love Your Melon project, read a Q&A with Madeline Gray.
Why did your group choose to partner with Love Your Melon?
Love Your Melon is a fantastic organization that directly benefits children with cancer. For every hat they sell, a pediatric cancer patient receives a hat, and 50 percent of the profits go toward the Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch. It is also an organization that was founded, and is still run by, college students, and we wanted to support them. As a group, we felt that Love Your Melon provided us with an opportunity to get directly involved and actually make a difference in children’s lives.
What type of work is your group doing with the organization?
The big part of our project is an event we are co-hosting with Love Your Melon on Dec. 2 at The Cabin. That night is a jazz night, and we will be there selling Love Your Melon hats as well as baked goods. The goal is to sell 35 hats, which would raise $525 and provide hats for 35 children. We also want to raise as much as we can from our bake sale to donate toward cancer research. Leading up to this event, we are doing a lot of marketing and working with local grocery stores for donated baked goods.
What have you learned from working on this project?
I have learned a lot of different things so far by working on this project. As an English major, advertising and marketing are not areas that I have a lot of experience with. It has been both fun and challenging to learn to navigate those fields, and I would not have been as successful at it without the help of my groupmates. One of the things that constantly surprises me is how much everyone knows about different things, and how willing everyone is to take the time to help each other out.
I’ve also learned a lot about the “behind the scenes” aspects of events and organizations — how Love Your Melon works, how to reserve a space in Davies and how to get advertisements approved. Also, with this being a small group communications class, I have been able to see many class concepts applied in my group. In class we talk about things like how group decisions get made, who tends to step up as a leader, what roles there are in a group, etc., and then I get to live them with my small group.
What was it like working with students from other majors?
This has been a really enjoyable part of the project! We all have different skill sets and knowledge bases that have benefited our group as a whole. When we get stuck on something, chances are someone from the group has done something similar and can get us back on track. It makes things difficult in the sense that we have very different schedules and sometimes different ideas on the best way to approach a topic/issue, but that has also been a great learning experience. It has definitely opened my eyes to other ways of looking at a problem and made me more open to asking for help.
How does it feel to know your work has real-world impact on for those with childhood cancer?
I think the knowledge that our project has the ability to change lives is what really keeps us focused. We are all busy students and semester-long projects can be hard to keep in the forefront all the time, but because we all believe in our cause, our group is extremely dedicated. Every child deserves a childhood. Knowing that 35 kids can relax and smile for a few minutes when a superhero gives them a hat, and that the hundreds of dollars we donate to a research foundation could be the dollars that fund a breakthrough is powerful knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, many of us have faced the brutal reality of cancer in our own lives, and we just want to make a difference.