UVA and UGA: Touching the Lives of Those Enduring Pediatric Cancer

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Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

By Courtney Bartholomew, SwimmingWorld College Intern

Collegiate swimmers and divers spend valuable time putting effort into the classroom, the pool, and having a semblance of a social life. With time being so wrapped up in these aspects, it is difficult for a college athlete to see beyond his or her own hectic schedules. However, I think it is important to begin recognizing the student-athletes who spend their time and go beyond their own college life to make a positive impact on their communities for causes they believe in.

One of my teammates at the University of Virginia, Shannon Rauth, is passionate about Cure4Cam, an organization dedicated to her cousin Cameron, who passed away from pediatric leukemia in 2012. Her passion about sharing his enthusiasm for life and the sport of swimming, helped me to realize that there are people in the swimming community constantly working to make positive impacts on their communities.

In the United States, cancer remains the number one cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15, and before the age of 20. According to the Center of Disease Control, one out of every 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer. The American Childhood Cancer Organization provides another shocking statistic regarding pediatric cancer: Every three minutes, somewhere in the world a family hears the devastating words that their child has been diagnosed with cancer.

Most of us know someone who is affected by cancer or have loved ones in their life who have been diagnosed with cancer, but I had no idea how many children are diagnosed and undergo treatment for this devastating disease.

While pediatric cancer is a difficult subject to talk about, it’s important to highlight a couple varsity swimming collegiate teams who are attempting to make a positive impact in the area of pediatric cancer.

Love Your Melon (at the University of Georgia)

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Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

I had seen a few of my friends at different schools around the country posting on social media about Love Your Melon and its mission. I was really interested to see what Love Your Melon does and is doing, so I contacted Emily Cameron, a junior at the University of Georgia.

Love Your Melon is an apparel brand run started by two University of Minnesota students, whose mission to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America. This organization was originally modeled to allow customers to purchase hats through its original buy one, give one program.

They recently have partnered with the Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch to expand impact and reach. For every hat purchased, Love Your Melon donates 50  percent of net proceeds from purchases, to the Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch, along with its original promise of donating hats to children battling pediatric cancer. The hats are donated in person at hospitals nationally by Love Your Melon college ambassadors dressed as superheroes.

Cameron stated that she “really loved the background of LYM and their overall mission to place a hat on every child’s head who has been affected by cancer and I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to bring it to UGA.” The campus crew at UGA consists of 20 athletes from five different sports, who work to spread the word about this organization through wearing their apparel, putting flyers up, and gaining credits through their website loveyourmelon.com. By gaining credits, Cameron and her campus crew are able to personally deliver hats to children with cancer in local hospitals.

This past week was Love Your Melon’s Third Year Anniversary and the UGA Campus crew was able to do a home visit with a family who has a child affected by cancer in their area. Cameron said that the campus crew was excited to give “free Love Your Melon hats, and basically just loving on the child as much as possible, while also demonstrating what this awesome organization is all about.”

cure4CAM at the University of Virginia 

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Photo Courtesy: Shannon Rauth

When Shannon Rauth joined the UVA Swimming and Diving family her first year, she immediately introduced us to the Cure4Cam foundation and all that it stood for. Rauth explained that her cousin, Cameron, was a breaststroker from Downingtown, Pennsylvania and swam for the club team of Upper Main Line YMCA. Although Cameron could no longer physically participate in swimming after his diagnosis, he “created an inspiring blog that allowed him to stay enthusiastic and engaged with the sport and people he loved.”

Since Cameron’s passing, his family, and especially cousin Shannon, have taken an initiative to fulfill Cameron’s specific request for “more blankets” as a special project. Rauth, notes that “throughout his treatment Cameron would always mention how cold chemo would make him. He would sit there with this giant smile on his face, but he would be shivering under a pile of blankets.”

Starting with Cameron’s direct community, his friends and family members came together to make tie-fleece blankets, which were then donated to local pediatric oncology centers. Since the projects inception, the initiative has spread nation-wide and has had a positive impact in local pediatric oncology centers. Not only has Shannon made a positive impact in Cameron’s memory, she has also made a positive impact on the UVA Swimming and Diving team by displaying that giving back to the community is important and really does make a difference. Last winter, the UVA Women’s Swimming and Diving team made 20 tie-fleece blankets to donate to local pediatric oncology centers.

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Photo Courtesy: Shannon Rauth

Both Cameron and Rauth’s enthusiasm and dedication to these causes display that there are swimmers and divers working to make positive impacts in their communities. While I only was able to highlight two incredible student-athletes who are passionate about impacting the community, it is also important to note that there are many collegiate swimmers and divers who are passionate about other causes and striving to make positive impacts in their communities. Recognition and support for the time these student-athletes make for giving back is important because it is inspiring to see the impact swimmers and divers can make in their communities.

If you want to learn more about these wonderful organizations and their inspiring missions please visit loveyourmelon.com and cure4CAM.