Rosie Benford’s challenging Chatham to fight cancer one hat at a time

by: Teri Bradford

If you haven’t met Rosie Benford, you’ve probably seen her donning stylish outfits while jetting from Buhl to the Art and Design Center. Benford’s Biology major, Graphic Design minor, Women’s Leadership Certificate, and aspirations of being a Medical Illustrator keep her busy. However, she still finds time to be the president of the Beta, Beta, Beta Biology honors society, an Orientation Leader, and a future Resident Assistant. Though she’s always on the move, one thing Benford always makes time for is the organization she’s passionate about: Love Your Melon.
Love Your Melon (LYM) is a national apparel brand whose mission is to put a hat on the head of every child battling cancer. Half of the proceeds from revenue goes to purchasing a hat for a child. LYM donates money to the families of the children and their nonprofit partners that do research to find a cure. Benford explains that, unlike many other organizations, college students are at the core of LYM.
“[LYM] is run completely by college students. All of the different chapters have to be on a college campus run completely by undergraduate college students, which is really awesome. Even some of the regional managers that we report to as crew captains, those are still college students too,” said Benford.
Though she first heard of the organization through her fiancé, a student at Robert Morris University, it wasn’t until Benford’s uncle passed from cancer that she felt compelled to start a crew of her own after transferring to Chatham in the Spring of 2016.
“Not long after I heard about [LYM] my uncle who I was very close with passed away from cancer. It seemed at that point that it was a sign,” said Benford. “I was still at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh at that time and I knew I was transferring to Chatham. When I transferred here, I immediately was interested in trying to start this organization.”
After getting approved through LYM in Fall of 2016, Benford reached out to the Chatham community through the class Facebook pages and found a passionate team to make the Chatham LYM Crew possible.  
“The members that [first] responded to me, most of them are still on the crew today and are some of our most dedicated members. It’s pretty cool because I made a lot of great friends with them and we’re kind of like a big family now. It’s really awesome because they are really dedicated,” said Benford.
Since being founded, Benford says she’s only received positivity from faculty, staff, and students inside and outside of the organization.
“Students who aren’t involved who are still willing to come help and volunteer at events or help us spread the word,” said Benford.
The community support is exactly what Chatham’s LYM Crew needs to gain credits through LYM’s rewards system, which allows the chapter to have more opportunities to help kids. The Be The Match bone marrow drive they hosted on Tuesday November 14 in the Carriage House helped them reach their 500 credit goal, but Benford’s sights are set to at least double that.
“I want to eventually get to 1000 credits by the end of the year. If you get to 1000 credits, you’re actually able to go and visit some kids in hospitals. One of my biggest goals in crew is to go and visit a child battling cancer or to go to a hospital and hand out hats, and kind of to get to interact with them,” said Benford.
Chatham LYM Crew doesn’t just help people across the nation, the also help students right here in the Chatham community.
“[Senior student majoring in Nursing Katie Gesthier] mentioned in the [Class of 2018] Facebook page that her little cousin, [Paxton Renk], was diagnosed with cancer. I reached out to her and said ‘hey, you can request a hat for your cousin because if you know someone with cancer you can request a hat from Love Your Mellon for them.’ She was really happy about that,” said Benford.
The support didn’t stop there, however. Chatham’s LYM Crew has been promoting a spaghetti dinner event that Gestiehr’s family is hosting to fundraise for Paxton’s medical expenses, is donating resources like pasta and utensils, and is raising funds for the family.
Those interested in supporting Chatham LYM Crew’s efforts, Benford states you can reach out to her at [email protected] to join the organization. She also encourages everyone to purchase apparel from the LYM national site.
“The best way to get involved if you’re not able to volunteer or come to meetings or anything is to try and buy some of the products,” said Benford.
If you don’t have the funds, Benford asks that people follow the LYM social media accounts and to share their post so they can gain credits and spread the message of LYM. They are @LYM_Chatham on Instagram and Twitter, and Chatham University Love Your Melon Campus Crew on Facebook.
You can help support Paxton Renk by attending Paxtons’ Spaghetti Dinner on November 19, 2017. More information can be found on the Paxton’s Spaghetti Dinner Facebook event page.