York College Nursing student wants to be patients’ ‘light at the end of the tunnel’
Chemotherapy had left its calling card on 9-year-old Mia.
Her hairless head marked her as clear as a neon sign that flashed “cancer patient.” Before she reached her 10th birthday, she’d seen more pain and hardship than many adults.
York College of Pennsylvania Nursing student Melissa Spear knew she couldn’t cure Mia’s disease, but she thought she could help her to forget it for one afternoon.
For one day, Melissa could help Mia to just be a regular kid.
Love Your Melon
When the weather is cool, you can spot Melissa by her beanie. It’s light blue with a fluffy brown pom on top that bounces when she walks. “Love Your Melon” is written on a brown leather patch sewn on the front.
Love Your Melon is an apparel company with a mission to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer and raise funds to fight it. Half the profit of every item they make, like Melissa’s hat, goes to one of their non-profit partners like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
Last year, Melissa helped form a Love Your Melon Campus Crew at York College. They ran a table at the Student Union, raised money, and hosted events to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. It was with the support of this campus crew at York College that Melissa and her classmates decided to find a child in their community they could help.
Volunteering for the joy of it
Mia wasn’t the first kid with cancer Melissa had met.
For the past three summers, Melissa has volunteered at Camp Sunshine, a camp for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses.
Melissa is outgoing and goofy — just the kind of person who can cheer up a sick kid.
“I like being that person who can make their day in the worst of times,” she says.
She didn’t volunteer there because it would look good on resumes or advance her career — she did it because she genuinely enjoyed being there.
“That literally is the best part of my summer, going to this camp,” Melissa says.
It was that camp that inspired her to pursue nursing at York College, with the hope to become an oncology nurse one day.
“I just want to be that light at the end of the tunnel for them,” she says.
A day to just be a kid
Melissa reached out to her York College community to find someone she could help.
One of her professors sent her to a church, where she was introduced to Mia’s mom. Together, they brainstormed ideas for a day that would help Mia forget about the cancer, and just let her be a kid and have fun.
Through donations and fundraising, Melissa and her campus crew were able to come through.
They brought Mia and about 25 of her friends to see “Paddington” at a movie theater near her home, then treated them to a pizza party and ice cream sundaes.
It was a small thing, but small things add up, Melissa says.
Raising money, bringing awareness to childhood cancer, writing cards for kids in the hospital, and giving Mia a day to just be a 9-year-old kid — those small things made a difference.
It’s a lesson Melissa says she’ll take with her after she graduates from York College in December and looks for a job as an oncology nurse.
At the end of the day, Mia gave Melissa a hand-made card thanking her for all that she’d done.
Melissa still has it tucked away in her house — a small thing that means so much her.