Wish granted: Co-workers win dream trip to Best Friends

Three woman apply for a dream grant from the company they work for, Merkle Inc., and win an all-expense-paid trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

If you won an all-expense-paid trip and you could choose any destination, where would you go? Elaine Benedetti, Vicki Tague and Kylie Otto chose Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Co-workers and friends, they had dreamed of traveling to southern Utah to volunteer at the Sanctuary, but they weren’t sure their dream would ever come true. Then, in April of this year, it did.

Dream grant gets trio to Best Friends

The women work for Merkle Incorporated, a Pennsylvania advertising agency that offers a unique reward to its employees — the opportunity to apply for a dream grant. Each quarter, Merkle reviews applications and selects a few deserving individuals or teams.

There’s a lot of competition for the dream grants. But in their application, Elaine (a senior copywriter), Vicki (a senior project manager) and Kylie (a print production manager) convinced the judges by describing exactly what draws them to Best Friends. “Combining fun and adventure with volunteerism is the perfect way to rejuvenate the soul and bond with like-minded co-workers,” they wrote. “Fantastic hikes, scenic vistas, gorgeous red rock … and an opportunity like no other to spend time with homeless animals at a sanctuary dedicated to stopping the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters.”

The trio was beyond thrilled when they learned their trip would become a reality. Elaine says, “I don’t know that I ever would have had the opportunity to visit and volunteer at Best Friends, if not for the dream grant.”

Two women volunteers bending down to pet a potbellied pig

Volunteering with dogs, pigs and horses

Elaine, Vicki and Kylie scheduled a Sanctuary tour and a full day of volunteering with the animals. They worked in Dogtown, Horse Haven and Marshall’s Piggy Paradise, and spent time walking dogs, brushing horses and loving on some potbellied pigs.

Vicki and Kylie were especially excited about meeting all the potbellied pigs at Marshall’s Piggy Paradise and learning about their various challenges. Elaine was in heaven with the horses. “I never thought I’d be in Angel canyon grooming a horse,” she says. “Spending time with these beautiful horses among the peace and solitude of their home in Angel’s Canyon was really amazing.”

The dogs also captured Elaine’s heart. “I have long held the theory that there is nothing better for your soul than to spend some time with a shelter dog. I’m in love with every dog I met at the Sanctuary, from sweet old Sherman to lovely Lotti, and especially a puppy named Triangle, who has since been adopted,” she says.

Woman volunteer crouching down next to a dog at Dogtown

Sanctuary visit raises awareness

Although they only had a couple of days to experience the Sanctuary, the visit left a lasting impression on the three women. “The experience was truly life-changing,” Vicki says. “Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has made an amazing home between homes for these fur babies. All the animals seem happy and very well taken care of by the loving staff. My experience at Best

Friends has also raised my awareness that there is a real need for caring people who are willing to take the extra time, energy and love to Save Them All by 2025.”

Help Save Them All by 2025

“It was truly a dream come true to see how the animals at Best Friends are treated with such care, compassion and individual attention,” Elaine says, “For almost 10 years, I have been a volunteer for Finding Shelter Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania. As someone who has seen the day-to-day challenges of rescue work, it’s truly remarkable to see so many animals thriving at Best Friends.”

Kylie agrees with her friends and adds, “I really enjoyed my time volunteering, and I am already trying to figure out when I can come back.”

Plan your dream trip to Best Friends

Woman volunteer feeding a horse out of a red bowl

Photos by Molly Wald and courtesy of Elaine Benedetti