November 11, 2021

Congratulations 2021 Changemaker Challenge winners!

Total of $60,000 awarded to big ideas for social change during social impact competition

The Horizon Foundation, United Way of Central Maryland, the Community Foundation of Howard County and the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County awarded a total of $60,000 at the 2021 Changemaker Challenge, an event focused on sparking innovation and fresh thinking to address some of Howard County’s most pressing issues. Ten finalists presented their ideas for social change to a live virtual audience of over 700 community members and a panel of judges.

The winners of this year’s competition are:

  • Alston for Athletes, which won $25,000 to help provide Mental Health First Aid Training to coaches, athletic directors and trainers to support Howard County’s youth athletes.
  • The 3rd, which won $15,000 to help create a community co-working space in downtown Columbia that is run by, supplied by and incubates women of color entrepreneurs.
  • Kits to Heart, which won the $10,000 award focusing on supporting women and girls in Howard County. Founded by cancer survivor Sonia Su, Kits to Heart works to improve the mental and emotional well-being of those affected by cancer through an innovative art therapy program.
  • The Community Ecology Institute, which won the $10,000 audience choice award to support its Nourishing Gardens initiative. This program aims to transform lawns in the community into ecologically beneficial food growing spaces and teach people how to grow their own healthy food.

“This event is always so inspiring and uplifting, and this year was no different,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “Given the immense challenges we have faced as a community over the past year and a half, our goal for the Changemaker Challenge this year was to launch sustainable actions to help our residents recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequities it exposed. We are so proud of all of our Changemakers for their creativity and commitment to help make our community a better place for everyone. We can’t wait to see these innovative ideas in action.”

Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, said, “Together with the Horizon Foundation and other partners in Howard County, the Changemaker Challenge began in 2017 to spark new ideas for social change. This initiative finds and supports grassroots, boots-on-the-ground leaders, who are among the best equipped to drive real change within their communities. The Changemaker Challenge give more people a seat at the table and provides a compelling way to share their big ideas: ideas that will help close service and resource gaps, so that together, we can help even more people.”

We would like to thank all who joined us for this inspiring event, and to our opening guest speakers County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball, United Way of Central Maryland President and CEO Franklyn Baker and Nikki Highsmith Vernick. We would also like to thank our panel of judges: Cathy Hamel, Board Chair of the Horizon Foundation; Lisa Pearson, Vice Chair for the Horizon Foundation Board of Trustees; Barb Van Winkle, Chair on the Advisory Board for the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County; Teshia Davis, Chair of the Howard County RUN Board for United Way of Central Maryland, and; Ryan Brown, Board Member on the Howard County RUN Board for United Way of Central Maryland.

“We are honored to partner with United Way of Central Maryland, the Horizon Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Howard County to elevate and celebrate big ideas for social change in Howard County through the Changemaker Challenge – congratulations to all!” said Barb Van Winkle, WGC Chair.

We also thank all of our additional finalists for being part of the Changemaker Challenge and look forward to seeing their continued innovation and leadership in the future: 4Girls2STEM; Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation, Inc.; HoCo Pirate Adventures, Inc.; Oakland Mills Online; Upcycled, Inc.; and Howard County Autism Society.

“The Changemaker Challenge is an incredible platform to recognize and showcase the tremendous grassroots efforts by so many to improve lives in Howard County,” stated Beverly White-Seals, president & CEO of the Community Foundation of Howard County. “The finalists were all so inspiring, and they represent Howard County so well. We salute all of the participants and wish them continued success as they grow their innovative ideas to lift up the community.”

The recording of the event is available at

Learn more about the Changemaker Challenge, including past winners and their big ideas, at