EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings players recently participated in a Love Your Melon photo campaign to raise awareness for a charity program that helps cancer patients.
The Love Your Melon non-profit organization was founded by friends Zachary Quinn and Brian Keller in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas in 2012 and has grown to distribute more than 30,000 hats through sales and donations under a buy one, give one model. For every hat that is purchased, one is donated.
The idea that started in the Twin Cities has grown from Minnesota to Texas, New Hampshire to Nevada and places in between through an ambassador program that incorporates service-oriented high school and college students who commit to helping the cause.
Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Coon Rapids, Edina, John Jay and Minnetonka High Schools are part of the ambassador program. Once an ambassador group sells 100 hats, the members are able to deliver 100 hats to pediatric cancer patients.
As of this past weekend, Anoka High School had sold the most hats, and DECA Club members Kiley Bloch, Jordyn Olson, Taylor Nozzarella and Brendan Corbin were able to attend a Saturday practice at Winter Park and snap photos with Blair Walsh, John Sullivan, Chad Greenway, Joe Banyard, Audie Cole, Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith. Classmate Lucas Manke is also part of the ambassador group but was taking the ACT and unable to attend.
The students, who were accompanied by Student Achievement Advisor Katy Houlihan and business and marketing teacher Doug Orr, said the cause hits close to home because fellow Class of 2016 member Mikaela Gerick is currently battling cancer and because the memory of former student and Anoka football player Dylan Witschen remains strong at the school. Witschen, who passed away in June 2010, is honored at Anoka games at the 7-minute mark of fourth quarters.
The photo campaign ended Dec. 14, but not before Greenway, Walsh, Jeff Locke, Sharrif Floyd and Jarius Wright donned hats for photos for the University of Minnesota's campaign.
The hats and other items are available for purchase at loveyourmelon.com.