UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA FOUNDATION

Award Winners

Imagine Award

Love Your Melon

Love Your Melon, a nonprofit apparel brand aimed at improving the lives of kids facing cancer, set a stretch goal in 2012. Founders Zach Quinn and Brian Keller were determined to provide a hat to every child living with cancer in the United States. By last December, the enterprising nonprofit had succeeded in giving away nearly 45,000 hats—that’s roughly equal to the number of U.S. children undergoing cancer treatments.

The idea for Love Your Melon started in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. There, Quinn and Keller produced 400 hats and kicked off their buy-one-give-one program. When the hats sold out the first weekend, the students knew they had a winning idea.

Shortly after that, Quinn and Keller contacted University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in hopes of giving away their hats to pediatric cancer patients in person. “Seeing the smiles we created by giving the kids Love Your Melon hats and spending time with them was an incredible experience,” says Quinn.

Inspired, the friends decided to go big, touring the nation twice and engaging more than 2,500 students as Love Your Melon ambassadors at more than 225 colleges, and teaming up with  CureSearch and Pinky Swear foundations. They’ve kept busy at U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital, too, holding numerous hat giveaways and sponsoring the hospital’s Superhero Day in March 2015.

Today WineFest is proud to honor Love Your Melon’s contributions with the Imagine Award. 
 

Corporate Citizen Award

Sport Ngin

Sport Ngin Sport Court

Positively affecting the lives of kids is the focus of Sport Ngin, a leading provider of web software and mobile applications for over half a million sports teams, clubs, and leagues. So when the leaders of this Minneapolis-based company sat down to determine how they might give back to the community, they knew they wanted to support kids.

“We really wanted to focus on one single partner—to put all of our weight and resources toward one organization to really make an impact on the lives of kids,” says cofounder Carson Kipfer. “University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is a great fit for us.”

Initially, employees of Sport Ngin (pronounced “engine”) began volunteering at the hospital’s events, including Superhero Day and holiday celebrations. But the Sport Ngin team wanted to do more. That’s when they asked, “What if we brought the court to the hospital?” The idea scored with the U of M, and construction of the Sport Ngin Sport Court was completed in fall 2014.

Today patients, siblings, and parents can all take part in basketball games (to accommodate various abilities and strengths, the basketball hoop can be raised and lowered). A four-square space hosts its namesake game, plus physical therapy and therapeutic recreation. And a nine-dot area fosters cooperative play.

“So many kids and their families don’t have the opportunity to enjoy sports together while they’re in the hospital,” says Kipfer. “We’re thrilled to have brought this flexible space to the athletes and heroes receiving care at the University of Minnesota.”

Sport Ngin employees, who now volunteer on the court, are proud to be receiving WineFest’s Corporate Citizen Award, Kipfer says. “WineFest is an awesome event, and to be recognized for doing something near and dear to our hearts is super, super humbling.”
 

 Ambassador Award

Marc and Mandy Seymour

The Quinn Seymour Chapel

Marc and Mandy Seymour served as both hosts and honored guests at the grand opening of The Quinn Seymour Chapel at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in late March. The nature-inspired, nondenominational space is the result of the Seymours’ determination to raise $500,000 to honor the memory of their daughter, Quinn, and to offer a place of quiet respite at the hospital.

“We are ecstatic that the chapel is open and that families, kids, and parents can use it,” says Marc, adding that he and Mandy can’t stop smiling about the reality of this beautiful new sanctuary.

Quinn, born in 2012, was a happy baby, say the Seymours, despite the pain she endured from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare and debilitating skin disease. After a speedy diagnosis following her birth, the Ohio family relocated to Minneapolis for a groundbreaking clinical trial at the University of Minnesota. Quinn became the 19th person—and the youngest—to receive a bone marrow transplant aimed at curing her condition. Throughout her 8-month life, one parent stayed with Quinn 24/7 at the hospital, while the other spent time with Quinn’s brother, Camden, now age 5.

The couple praises U of M physician and researcher Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and the entire medical team. “The staff really touched us,” says Marc. “They loved Quinn more than we ever imagined they could love a patient.”

After Quinn’s death, creating the chapel gave the family “something bigger to work on, something we really needed,” he says. In addition to encouraging friends and family to donate, selling chapel T-shirts, and holding small fundraising events, the couple contacted Josh Wilson, a well-known Christian performing artist. He not only agreed to hold a concert but waived the fee, helping the family to raise $25,000 in a single night. Making the event even more special, the date Wilson selected would have been Quinn’s second birthday. So many such serendipitous events occurred that Mandy started calling them Quinn-cidences.

Today, the Seymours, winners of the WineFest Ambassador Award, are thrilled that the chapel is open to anyone who needs a peaceful, spiritual space. Says Marc, “There’s a reason we wanted to create the chapel at the U of M hospital—because it is a great place.”