Meet the Winners of 2021’s Annual CoverMyQuest Mini Grant Contest
2021’s CoverMyQuest was another successful event at CoverMyMeds. The annual contest has been happening since 2013, but this year was especially notable with 25 winners — including two People’s Choice Award recipients — compared to the typical 10. From holiday light shows to beekeeping aspirations, this year’s winners set out to impress.
Over the past nine years, CoverMyMeds has awarded $150,000 in mini grants to 45 employees through our annual CoverMyQuest event. In 2021, we scaled our class of winners from the typical 10 to 23 — plus added an additional two People’s Choice Award recipients selected by our employees.
As always, it was challenging for our panel of judges (comprised of last year’s Quest recipients) to wade through the inspiring applications — it’s practically impossible to pick finalists when so many are deserving of a mini grant. However, we’re excited to announce our list of lucky winners and share more about their upcoming Quests in their own words.
Jake Barry: Pizza-making equipment to support cancer research
As a partner to a brain cancer survivor, Pelotonia’s mission to raise money for cancer research is dear to my heart. In 2021, I raised money for Pelotonia by making stone-fired Neapolitan pizzas, but my current equipment limited me to 12-15 pies per night. My CoverMyQuest funds will go toward upgraded equipment to make pizzas for larger events like weddings and concerts — with 100 percent of donations going to cancer research.
Ben Blotsky: Purchase new holiday lights to spread seasonal cheer
I put on an annual holiday display, and recently upgraded from regular LED lights to lights that change according to music — it’s my way of spreading joy during a sometimes-difficult time of the year. Along with my neighbors, we also raise money for a family or individual in need — we raised $15,000 in 2020 alone! My holiday displays allow me to express my creativity and satisfy my curiosity of new technology, as well.
Brigette Bartlett: Jumpstart photography career with new camera to pay for IVF
In 2020, I turned my passion for photography into a side job to save money for IVF. A couple months after starting my LLC and booking sessions, my camera broke and we had to put our plans on hold. I’m so grateful to get back into my passion and build a business that will support me and my husband’s dream of becoming parents. You can follow my photography journey on Instagram @brigettebartlettphotography!
Melinda Chau: Donate to Vietnam foster care organization for deaf children
Children deserve to be children — they should play, go to school and feel a sense of security. It has always been my dream to help orphans in need and show them they’re loved and not alone in this world. With my CoverMyQuest funds, I plan to provide support to a Vietnam foster care organization for deaf children, so they can experience the joys of childhood and hopefully reach their full potential as adults.
Alan Cooper: Travel across the U.S. with family, no electronics allowed
My goal is to develop a sense of awe and wonder for nature with my family — my wife, daughter and son — while spending quality time together. We’re finalizing the details, but our plan is to explore the U.S. and ditch the smart phones, tablets and computers for two weeks! We’ll have basic technology — burner phones for emergencies, an iPod classic for tunes, a GPS for navigation and a Nikon camera for photos.
Barbara Dweiri: Take husband back home to Doha, Qatar to visit mother
My husband has the best family, and my Quest is to take him back home to Doha, Qatar to visit his mother before she passes. She won’t know who we are due to her illness, but it’s a dream for me to give my husband this gift. Our trip will allow me to meet all his other family members whom I haven’t yet met in our 38 years together. I never win anything, so it was a happy surprise to be awarded a CoverMyQuest mini grant.
Tara Fambrough: Take nephew to Legoland to experience his first theme park
My nephew Lando has cerebral palsy and other health issues and has unfortunately spent most of his life in doctors' offices and hospitals. Lando loves rides and cartoon characters, yet theme parks don’t fully consider the nature of his medical needs. With my funds, I’ll be able to make sure Lando can experience the world with uninhibited joy, specifically at his first theme park, without burdening my family with financial stress.
Fernando Gonzalez-Garcia: Surprise parents with a vacation to Spain
My Quest is to take my parents on their first “real” vacation. They sacrificed so much for me and my brothers, so I want to give them something in return. Although a vacation pales in comparison, I want them to know a day doesn’t go by when I'm not grateful for what they’ve done for our family. With that said, I chose Spain because my parents are originally from Mexico, so they’ll be able to speak the language.
Chelsea Howe: Chase the Loch Ness Monster with grandma in Scottish Highlands
I’ll be taking my grandma to Scotland to track down the Loch Ness Monster — an experience on both of our bucket lists. My grandma was diagnosed with COPD and black lung a few years ago, and she almost died from a blood infection that spread to her heart. Now, she’s recovered, healthy and surviving a pandemic against all odds. CoverMyQuest will give us the gift of time together and take us both on a priceless adventure.
Dave Humeston: Road trip with nurse partner for a reprieve from COVID-19
My partner Amy is a nurse, and her colleagues will confirm that she’s incredible at her job — consistently exhibiting “do the right thing” behavior. The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for healthcare workers, especially for Amy, who always strives to exceed expectations. With the Quest funds, we’ll rent a van and drive to a few national parks to take a mental, emotional and spiritual break from 2020 and 2021’s events.
My partner Amy is a nurse, and her colleagues will confirm that she’s incredible at her job … With the Quest funds, we’ll rent a van and drive to a few national parks to take a mental, emotional and spiritual break from 2020 and 2021’s events.
Faith McLean: Compose music in Italy as part of the Alba Music Festival
In 2020, I auditioned for the Alba Composition Festival, a highly competitive music educational program held in Italy in the year 2021. I auditioned with the mindset of not being “musically talented enough” to even be accepted, but I was! Unfortunately, I quickly realized I couldn’t afford the program. My Quest money will allow me to attend the program in 2022 and learn more about composing music to advance my skillset.
Kayla Krekeler: Travel to Australia to spend time with long-distance partner
After years of friendship and subtle hints, my now-partner sent me a beautifully written explanation of why we should be together, and we’ve been together (long-distance) ever since! Unfortunately, living in different countries during a global pandemic hasn’t been ideal. My Quest is to visit him in Australia so we can see each other. He made his grand gesture, and I’m so thankful CoverMyQuest is helping me make mine.
Bethany Osborne: Take husband/family on a culinary expedition of New England
I went to culinary school in Rhode Island, a life-affirming experience that changed how I view my self-worth. My husband Sam lost his mother as a pre-teen, and then his father in college — he had to step away from school and enter the workforce full-time. My hope is to “whisk” Sam away for a culinary expedition of New England to show him the places that inspired me and proved what’s possible. My grant will also help fund Sam’s continued education.
Danielle Shaffer: Help sister with medical costs due to a rare brain disease
My Quest is for my sister — she has a very rare brain disease that our mother passed away from in 2004. She’s also a single mother of five beautiful girls, my nieces. Her brain disease isn't curable and requires regular treatments to prevent it from getting worse, which is very costly. My CoverMyQuest funds will go toward helping her financially, so she has one less thing to worry about.
My Quest is for my sister — she has a very rare brain disease that our mother passed away from in 2004 … Her brain disease is not curable and requires regular treatments to prevent it from getting worse, which is very costly.
Abigail Weah: Purchase and build water pump system for village in West Africa
Some years back, my cousin contacted me regarding a waterborne illness outbreak in the Rock Hill Community of Monrovia, Liberia that affected more than 500 people. The residents need a new well, since their current one is uncovered and outdated. With the CoverMyQuest mini grant, we’ll be able to remodel the community’s well and install a filter and hand pump so they can have clean, safe drinking water and be healthy.
Scott Bowers: Compete in the Ironman Triathlon to inspire friends and family
There’s a difference between what we think we’re capable of and what we’re truly capable of — and the only way to find out where to draw that line is to push yourself, find your limits and reach beyond them. My Quest to compete in Ironman is important because I want to be an inspiration to my friends and family and show them that they’re capable of much more than they could ever imagine.
Nella Villalobos: Plan a future in the United States and support father’s health
I moved to the U.S. from Venezuela in 2017 and applied for political asylum due to my country’s current situation. In 2018, I met my now-husband who brought my parents to the U.S. as a surprise for my birthday, but they never returned to Venezuela due to a series of unfortunate health challenges. Now, I want to buy my father a wheelchair so he can get around independently without having to rely on anybody else.
Shannon O’Brien: Give the gift of sight to 350 children in the Chicago area
When I was in elementary school, my parents couldn’t afford to buy me glasses and I fell behind. A year later, my second grade teacher bought me glasses, and I’ll never forget it — I started to believe in myself again and quickly excelled in school. As fate would have it, I married an eye doctor and Gift of Sight is now my personal mission. My Quest funds will help 350 children get free glasses this year.
Beth Collen: Supporting foster kids in Cleveland through Parrot Head Run event
My Quest is to support the Parrot Head Run, an annual event that benefits Fostering Hope and mental wellness programs for kids in foster care and residential treatment in Cleveland, Ohio. Parrot Head Run has raised over $70,000 for Fostering Hope since it began in 2017, and the proceeds from CoverMyQuest will cover one of our largest operating costs — our 2022 medals — and give us a leg up on fundraising this year.
Crystal Browning: Fund IVF treatment to get pregnant and have a baby
Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s easy to get pregnant. I was naïve and believed my doctors when they said I wouldn’t have issues getting pregnant, but after three years with a reproductive endocrinologist, still no baby — not even a positive pregnancy test. My Quest funds will go toward IVF and additional testing, if need be. No matter what, we’ll try everything we possibly can to grow our family.
Diana Vuick: Start high school band scholarship in honor of daughter, Brandi
My daughter passed away on Feb. 24, 2019, at the age of 19, after a 10-month battle with ovarian cancer. She was a fighter and showed tremendous strength and bravery during her darkest times. The funds from my Quest will go toward a memorial scholarship in Brandi’s name — the Brandi Leigh Barker Memorial Band Scholarship — that will be awarded annually at her hometown high school.
My daughter passed away at the age of 19, after a 10-month battle with ovarian cancer. The funds from my Quest will go toward a memorial scholarship in Brandi’s name that will be awarded annually at her hometown high school.
Chelsea Snyder: Plant pollinator gardens and establish an apiary for bees*
My Quest is to deepen my relationship and fascination with bees by planting pollinator gardens and establishing my own apiary. The bees produce much more than honey — wax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, etc. — all of which hold medicinal properties. The bees are not only practitioners in my apothecary but also tiny alchemists with spiritual lessons about letting go and remaining in tune with nature.
*People’s Choice Award Winner
Giancarlo Salerno: Funds for a nonprofit ensemble, 4th Wall Performing Arts*
I work with a nonprofit percussion ensemble called 4th Wall Performing Arts that competes internationally against some of the world’s top performers. This is our founding year as an organization, and we’re thrilled to finally perform after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. I’ve been an educator for a decade now, and it means the world to me to establish an organization with values I wholeheartedly believe in.
*People’s Choice Award Winner
Of note, Kalannya Lehmer and Morgan Reimer were also awarded mini grants — Kaylannya’s Quest is to travel with her mom to spread her stepfather’s ashes, and Morgan’s Quest is to make a down payment on a new home to uplift her family and five kids. They were unavailable for comment prior to publication.
An Event with Annual Anticipation
2020 and 2021 have been challenging in many ways, so it’s especially gratifying to award mini grants to 25 deserving employees — our largest class of recipients to date. Many CoverMyMeds employees say that CoverMyQuest is the best event we host as a company, and I’m already looking forward to reading next year’s pool of applications.
Interested in working at CoverMyMeds? Explore our open positions on our careers page.