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Every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month Covelli Enterprises launches its Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign, selling special ribbon shaped cherry vanilla bagels to benefit local breast cancer organizations. Since 2010, Covelli Enterprises has raised more than $6 million to support breast cancer organizations and programs in the areas its serves.

Through this special once-a-year campaign, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of all Pink Ribbon Bagels is donated to support various breast cancer causes including Cleveland Clinic, Linked by Pink, Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, Pink Ribbon Girls, The James Cancer Hospital, Miami Valley Hospital,, Palmetto Health Foundation, Roper St. Francis Foundation, St. Joseph’s/Candler Foundation and Mary Telfair Women’s Hospital and Augusta University Georgia Cancer Center.

Funds donated to these organizations, among others throughout the years, have been used to open new comprehensive breast cancer facilities, purchase mobile mammography units, support education and outreach programs, and provide transportation and assistance for those undergoing treatment. In other words, these funds have been used to support organizations and programs that are having positive affects on breast cancer outcomes in the communities where Covelli owns restaurants and beyond.

“There’s no better feeling than knowing our restaurants, our people, and our products are making a difference in the lives of others,” said Sam Covelli, Owner/Operator of Covelli Enterprises. “The Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign is one way we are continuing the promise to give back to those who need it most within the communities we serve, and over the years we’ve been able to make real, life-saving impacts with the dollars raised from these bagels. We are very proud of that.”

The Pink Ribbon Bagel, shaped in the form of the iconic pink ribbon, features cherry chips, dried cherries and cranberries, vanilla, honey, and brown sugar, and is baked fresh each morning by Panera’s bakers at each bakery-cafe. One of Panera Bread’s first franchisees, a breast cancer survivor, developed the Pink Ribbon Bagel in 2001 as a way to help support breast cancer research.

Panera Bread is encouraging customers to take a photo with their Pink Ribbon Bagels to share their support for the cause on social media using #morethandough. The cafes are accepting pre-orders for bagels at

Funds will also be collected for breast cancer partner organizations at the Covelli Cares Community Breadbox canisters located at registers during the month of October.

Firefighters in Pink – The Unique Way Some are Finding to Participate in Our Annual Panerathon

With a high temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 93%, this year’s Panerathon was a hot and muggy one to say the least. Runners, walkers, and spectators dressed in their shorts and dri fit short-sleeved shirts to keep themselves cool while out in the sun for the 9th annual 10k/2 mile walk/run. A small group, however, could be seen donning full head-to-toe firefighting gear including jackets, pants, air packs and helmets. These items not only add extra insulation for these participants but also an additional 50-70 lbs. of weight to carry.

But extreme heat and weight are things you learn to deal with when you are a firefighter, and that’s exactly who these people are. The group called “Firefighters in Pink” includes a small number of firefighters and their family members who participate in Panerathon each year wearing their firefighting gear. The tradition was begun 6 years ago by Captain William Claypoole, affectionately called “Willie”, by the other group members.

“It started as something fun for us to do. It was a challenge for us, and it blossomed from there,” said Stephanie Deitch, formerly a volunteer firefighter from Wellsville, Ohio. Stephanie and Willie, long-time friends, are the ones who organize the team each year.

It started as just something fun to do, but has grown to mean so much more to this group.

“We’re a family within the firefighting community. When we are out there together, we’re not just representing our individual selves, but representing one another as a whole,” Stephanie said.

The group of firefighters hail from different fire departments in various communities all around the Valley. Some of them had never even met before showing up to participate in Panerathon together. Stephanie and Willie use word of mouth and Facebook to recruit firefighters and their family members to join them. It started the first year with just 2 or 3 firefighters and has slowly grown to about 8 people, adding a few more each year.

“Anybody is welcome to join our team, and we’re always looking to expand our group,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie’s mother-in-law participated this year for the first time. Her mother-in-law is not only a fire-mother-in-law, but she’s also a fire-wife and fire-mother. She participated wearing the heavy fire pants to show her support for her entire family of firefighters.

Stephanie said they even had a curious runner named Eric ask to participate wearing the full gear this year, so you don’t even need to be a firefighter or connected to a firefighting family to be able to join in.

In 2014, the Panerathon event staff got wind of this team and their mission and presented Willie with a pink fire helmet that has been worn by him every year at Panerathon since. Stephanie, building upon this tradition, had a retired helmet revamped in pink for this year’s event. She explained that firefighting gear has a lifespan and then it expires, so as more gear expires, she plans to turn them into pink displays of pride for the Firefighters in Pink to wear.

The Firefighters in Pink can be seen along the 2 mile course shaking hands, stopping to talk to people, high-fiving kids, allowing other participants to try on their packs and helmets, and encouraging other participants on the course to continue on. Stephanie said it’s a great way to give the community a small sense of what firefighters go through every day. In some ways, the struggles a firefighter experiences mirrors the fight of someone battling cancer.

“Pretty much all of us know someone who has had cancer, and as firefighters we are very aware of how cancer affects people,” she said.

It’s no wonder these firefighters, all of whom are volunteers with the exception of Willie, who is the only full-time firefighter, choose to participate each year in the sweltering heat to show their support for the cause. They are used to making these types of sacrifices. In their line of work, they are out there giving their time and risking their lives to save the lives of others.

“I think [saving lives] is what Panerathon is all about, so in a way, Panerathon helps us achieve that same goal.”

Willie’s firefighting recently relocated him to Georgia, but he returned to the Valley for Panerathon and plans to continue doing so every year. The event has come to mean a lot to him in particular. His father, called “Red”, was present at every Panerathon since the Firefighters in Pink first began participating. He referred to himself as the “equipment manager” for the group, and he served as a morale booster out there in his chair cheering on the participants each year. Red passed away July 10 of this year, just a month and a half before Panerathon, after becoming sick in late 2017. Stephanie said Red’s passing made this both a more difficult and a more special Panerathon for the few participants who knew him well.

“Willie would give anyone the shirt off his back if they needed it, so we were out there supporting Willie this year,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie went on to explain how Willie’s commitment to helping others goes beyond his daily duties as a firefighter. He currently performs lectures on suicide prevention among firefighters in his new home in Georgia and hopes to one day take his lectures on the road across the country.

Stephanie said she, Willie, and the rest of the Firefighters in Pink look forward to next year’s Panerathon and hopefully adding even more people to their crew.

She equated their participation in event to their passion for their jobs saying, “We want to be there. We do it because we enjoy it and to be out there with the community.”

Essentially they do it because they care.

We are grateful to Stephanie, Willie and all firefighters, EMTs, and police officers who are out there saving lives every day, and we thank the Firefighters in Pink for their part in making Panerathon the special community event it is.

To learn more about Firefighters in Pink and how you can join them, find Steph Deitch on Facebook or email her at

For more information on Panerathon, visit

Cousins for a Cause – An inspiring story about what Panerathon means to one special family

Every year on a Sunday in late August, hundreds of teams and individuals gather together in downtown Youngstown, Ohio to walk, jog, or run for one common cause: to raise funds for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center (JACBCC) at St. Elizabeth Hospital Youngstown. This facility, which opened its doors in 2011, has served nearly 70,000 women in the region, and is responsible for improved outcomes for so many dealing with the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer.

There are countless stories to tell among the women helped by the JACBCC and about those who participate as part of a team in Panerathon. One particular story, the story of Marianne Burman and her cousin Mary Argiro, is one we were lucky enough to hear and fortunate enough to get to share now as our annual Panerathon approaches in a few short weeks.

In 2014, Marianne was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found her own lump during a self-breast exam, even after it went undetected through traditional mammography. Her cousin Mary watched Marianne ‘fight the battle’, going through grueling rounds of radiation and chemo until she was finally through it. Mary created a Panerathon team in Marianne’s honor the following year, called ‘Marching with Marianne’ and encouraged their big, close-knit Italian family to join the team and show their support by walking alongside Marianne, who had just been through the struggle of a lifetime.

“The hardest part was the treatment. It’s the worst thing in the world someone can go through, and I was even lucky. I never got sick with the chemo,” Marianne recalled.

She also noted the incredible feeling of isolation she felt. Marianne and Mary are part of the Ginnetti clan, a large family originally from Struthers, Ohio. The Ginnettis pride themselves on their camaraderie, making it a priority to stay close to cousins through their monthly Ginnetti Girls’ Night Out, annual Christmas parties, and frequent family reunions. Marianne, however, had to avoid large groups of people during her treatment due to her compromised immune system. A grandmother of three, she was also unable to see her grandkids throughout the extent of her treatment. This, to her, was the most heartbreaking part of it all. During that time, any phone call or card she received from a family member or friend meant so much. It helped ease the feeling of separation.

For Marianne, that feeling completely disappeared on Sunday, August 30 when she was joined by nearly 40 members of her extended family at the 2015 Panerathon, all there to show their love for her.

“The support meant so much to me. That’s why it’s so important to me now to show my support for others,” she said.

That’s the reason Marianne, Mary and the rest of their cousins continue to put together a team every year, even though Marianne has been cancer-free since that first year. Their team, now called ‘Cousins for a Cause’, has grown to more than 60 participants over the last 4 years, mostly consisting of cousins and extended family members all from all around the Mahoning Valley area.

“There’s strength in numbers,” said Mary. “At first, I started participating in Panerathon to support Marianne, but once you’re there, it’s a whole new world. The feeling comes over you that you aren’t just supporting the person you came there to walk for, but you’re supporting everyone else, too. THAT’S strength in numbers.”
Marianne agreed, “There’s nothing like seeing the mass of people all wearing the same shirt all lined up on race day. It takes your breath away.”

Unfortunately, cancer touches the lives of nearly everyone somehow, and several other family members were also diagnosed over the years. Marianne’s sister Susan McCallister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and in 2018 Mary was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Mary was just released this past June from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital recovering both a partial kidney removal and an adrenal gland removal.

The good news: at this year’s Panerathon, Marianne, Susan and Mary will all three be officially cancer-free.

“You definitely feel like you have a guardian angel looking out for you. We all feel like we’ve been blessed,” Mary said.

So blessed, that the Ginnetti cousins, 13 of them in total, all crossed a huge item off their collective bucket list together. They took a trip to Italy for 10 days to see the incredible sights of their country of origin and even enter the house where Mary’s mother, also a breast cancer survivor, was born. Both women found themselves getting emotional as they recounted their travels.

“It was incredible to see the place where my mother was born. We were back where it all started,” Mary said.

(Fun fact: Mary’s mother was treated by Dr. Nancy Gantt, who is still a practicing surgeon at St. Elizabeth today and is highly involved at the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center. It was Dr. Gantt who operated on Mary’s mom to remove and cure her cancer.)

The Ginnetti cousins will never forget their amazing trip to Italy, but the best part was getting to spend time with more than 30 new family members they had never met before.

“None of them spoke any English, and none of us spoke Italian. We had only a 15-year-old girl translating for us,” Marianne recalled.

They may not have shared the same language, but they all shared the very same sense of family and closeness that defines the Ginnetti cousins.

Mary and Marianne hope to continue to grow their Panerathon team. Their last family reunion had more than 75 people in attendance, all of whom they hope to eventually encourage to participate. Perhaps, they’ll even get a few of their new family members from Italy to join, too!

In any event, they both agreed that they are looking forward to seeing the faces of those they love all gathered together, old and young, to show support for one another and for everyone else there that day who may need it.

You can find Mary, Marianne and their ‘Cousins for a Cause’ team Sunday, August 26 at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown lined up along with nearly 11,000 other participants and spectators. A mass of people, all likely to have equally inspiring stories to share about how cancer has touched their lives and what the event means to them.

Panerathon in the City of YOU
Thanks to the City of Youngstown and Birds Eye View Films for putting together this awesome video that captures what Panerathon is all about!

For more on Panerathon or to register, visit The event has raised more than $2 million since 2010 for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, and 100% of proceeds benefits the cause.

Coach Fickell and The 2nd & 7 Foundation team up with Panera Bread to Tackle Illiteracy

When you’re a small child in the 2nd grade, there is nothing more impressive to you than a high school or college athlete. Nothing more impressive nor influential.

In 1999, three former Ohio State University football players Luke Fickell, Ryan Miller and Mike Vrabel realized this potential due to their own outreach and volunteer experiences and decided to use it to help make a lasting difference on the Central Ohio community. They began the 2nd & 7 Foundation, named for the original seven 2nd grade classrooms they read to (and also an obvious homage to their football roots).

The Foundation’s mission has remained the same since the beginning: to promote reading by providing free books and positive role models to kids in need while encouraging young athletes of the community to pay it forward.

This mission was hard to contain to just Central Ohio, and over the last 19 years, the 2nd & 7 Foundation has provided books to children in 24 states and in 170 schools. The organization, which writes and publishes its own books featuring the adventures of the Hog Mollies, has recently placed its largest order for books in its history.

While the 2nd & 7 Foundation has always had a presence in the Cincinnati area, their program blossomed when Luke Fickell, who spent most of his career serving as assistant football coach at The Ohio State University, was hired at the University of Cincinnati as their new head coach in 2016. When he arrived in Cincinnati, he immediately began reading in schools with student-athletes and helped open doors for the growth of the organization in the Cincinnati market. More than 10,000 books have already been distributed in the area.

Our Cincinnati Panera Bread cafes are proudly partnered with the 2nd and 7 Foundation during the months of July and August. We will be collecting funds at the Covelli Cares collection canisters at the registers of all Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area Panera Bread cafes. All funds raised will support the growth of the reading program in the Cincinnati community.

The partnership also strives to get books into the hands of as many kids as possible, so for the entire month of August, a free Hog Mollie book from the 2nd & 7 Foundation will be provided with every Panera Bread kids meal purchased at participating Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky locations.

“We are grateful for the support from the team at Covelli and Panera Bread. The support of our corporate partners and our friends in the community means we are able to get more free books in the hands of kids who need them the most,” said Coach Fickell. “We also value every opportunity we have to plant the seeds of paying it forward with our student-athletes.”

While the organization tends to focus on lower-income areas and schools where the biggest impact can be made, Executive Director Amy Hoying said, “There is a need to reinforce the importance of reading in all second graders.”

Next year the Foundation will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Hoying said they hope to continue to improve the lives in the communities they serve by staying true to their mission.

Hoying looks forward to more growth in the next 20 years and credits the support of the community for the success of the program thus far. “Thank you to Panera Bread for this partnership because we wouldn’t be where we are today without our partners and the awareness within the community.”

Panera’s kids menu includes more than 40 entrees choices made with all-clean ingredients combined with healthy items like apples or organic yogurt…and in Cincinnati this month, a book also comes on the side.

Panera Summer of Wishes Helps Make Dreams Come True

Almost everyone has heard of Make-A-Wish, the organization that grants life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses. Known for creating unforgettable wish experiences for children and families, the world of wishes changes with vision of every child. Where most children wish for a trip to Disney World or a chance to meet their favorite celebrity, things changed when Make-A-Wish Georgia first met seven-year-old, Zayden.

With an imagination as wide as outer space, Zayden wished to blast off to Saturn in a red rocket ship. After facing four open-heart surgeries and nearly forty other procedures to keep him alive, he wanted nothing more than to see the stars, and the moon, and a friendly alien named BeeBo. Although this wish seemed virtually impossible, Make-A-Wish Georgia set out to make Zayden’s Mission a reality.

With the help of TRICK 3D, a virtually reality design studio located in Atlanta, Zayden’s vision was brought to life. On May 11, Commander Zayden blasted off to his Saturn experience out of Dobbins Air Reserve Base and as he envisioned, he saw the stars, and the moon, and his friend, the alien BeeBo. Over 100 community supporters joined to the celebration in welcoming him back from his voyage.

To see more about Zayden’s story and his amazing VR trip to Saturn, click here.

We met Zayden at our Summer of Wishes Rally Day at our Augusta, GA Panera Bread location in early July. Zayden was more than happy to help us promote our Summer of Wishes partnership with Make-A-Wish, and we were so happy to have him there to share his story.

Beginning on July 1, we began selling our specialty flip flop cookies at 25 locations across South Carolina and Georgia with proceeds benefitting Make-A-Wish to grant wishes to local kids like Zayden.

The Summer of Wishes partnership continues through July 31 and for each flip flop cookie sold during this time, Panera will donate $1. Our cafes are also accepting donations at the register, and donators will receive a blue paper star to write their name on and display in the café.

Wishes are an essential part of the healing process that provide children hope for the future, strength to fight health battles, and joy to celebrate physical and emotional victories. It certainly helped Zayden and his family move beyond their struggles. Make-A-Wish is entirely funded by donations from special events and campaigns, like our Summer of Wishes campaign, individual donors and corporate sponsors.

The goal of the Summer of Wishes campaign is to raise around $15,000, which is enough to grant wishes for two local kids. After watching Zayden’s wish come true, we know for sure, there is no wish too big or too far away to reach.

Our Day-End Dough-Nation Program – Supporting Those Who Support Others

We had a hard time tracking down Peter Freimark. He’s a very busy man. We caught up with him as he was on his drive back to Cleveland from the coal fields of Kentucky where he had been volunteering. His Trip to Appalachia was organized through the Good People Fund, and while there, Peter spent time building wheelchair ramps, painting and cleaning homes, and bringing food to those in need. This is what Peter does in his spare time when he isn’t picking up leftovers from our Panera Bread locations as a representative of his congregation at Temple Israel Ner Tamid.

Peter’s congregation has been a recipient of our Day-End Dough-Nation program for more than a decade. In that time, Peter and a team of dedicated volunteers have been feeding the hungry in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the Cleveland area. His group picks up unsold bakery and bread products from our Highland Heights, Mayfield Heights, and Harvard Park cafe locations five days a week and distributes it to those who need it most – women and children in shelters, people in recovery, and those living on the streets.

A typical pick-up happens in the early morning hours before our cafe opens. Peter says the Panera employees are always helpful to him and his volunteers, even helping to load their cars for them when there is an abundance of leftover baked goods from the day before. Then Peter and his team set out either to shelters and recovery centers or back to the church where even more volunteers are waiting to take food out to the homeless on the streets. Every Friday, his congregation makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless, and he said Panera pastries along with those is always a special delight for those receiving the food.

“Imagine sleeping under a bridge or living in a car in a Northeast Ohio winter. Imagine what a welcome gift this food is to these people,” he said.

His group expects nothing in return for the food. They have no ulterior motives nor do they bring with them any intentions of preaching or conversion. They simply bring the hope that their neighbors in need will perhaps suffer a bit less.

PeterFreimark-453x579When we asked Peter why he does what he does, he humbly replied, “It’s the right thing to do. I can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich anytime I want to. What I want for myself, I want for others, too.”

Peter and the volunteers who work with him are all unpaid and use their own cars and gasoline to drive around bringing food to those in need. These are the people we are so proud to support through this program. The people like Peter who are relentlessly working in their communities to make a difference in people’s lives. The goal of our Day-End Dough-Nation program is to support those who are out there supporting others who need it most.

Through the Day-End Dough-Nation program, thousands of pounds of unsold bread and bakery products are donated each day from our Panera cafes to benefit hunger relief agencies, local food pantries, shelters, churches, and volunteer organizations. In 2017 alone, Covelli Enterprises donated more than $30 million in the form of food for the hungry.

Peter said of the program, “It’s such an efficient way for needy people to get delicious food at no cost to them. Plus, it keeps food out of the landfill. Everything gets used and in the best way possible.”

Peter also said, “I would like to thank [Covelli Enterprises] on behalf of the people who receive the food, who are unable to thank you. They are so grateful. What your company does really helps.”

Peter’s philosophy is that any tiny effort you can put forth to turn someone’s day around could mean a world difference to that person.

In his own words, “a tasty treat from Panera Bread is enough to put a smile on their faces, and you never know what a difference even a small act of kindness can make in someone’s life. Truly, there is no such thing as a small act of kindness.”

We thank Peter, his team of volunteers, and all our hundreds of other Day-End Dough-Nation partners who are supporting their communities in this special way. It is our honor and privilege to support you.

Father’s Day Reflections

It’s been a little while since I last shared some of my personal thoughts with you all. We have had many exciting things happen within our company over the course of this year! We began a wave of new store openings in our home state of Ohio, and we acquired several new cafes in Tennessee! We just keep growing! These are the things that make me really excited for the future of our company.

Speaking of future… I have even more to look forward to this year with the expected birth of my very first grandchild. My wife Caryn and I cannot contain our excitement nor can we wait to shower our future grandson with so much love and attention!

fathers-day-2-500This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and I couldn’t help but think of my own father and all the wisdom, energy, and passion he put forth in all aspects of his life. He was such an incredible businessman that I was fortunate enough to learn from. He was even more incredible a father, husband, and grandfather to our entire family. With his dedication and commitment to others, he was not only the foundation of Covelli Enterprises while he was alive, he was the foundation of our family.

That’s the kind of man I strive to be day-in and day-out to make him proud and honor his legacy. That’s the kind of people my wife and I have raised our children to be. I am eager to watch my son holding his very own son in his arms in just a few short months. What a special moment that will be.

So, while I use Father’s Day as an excuse to look back, reminisce, and even long for the past – just another moment to spend with my dad – I also use it as a reminder of all the exciting things to come. Our family, both on the business side of things and on the personal side, continues to grow in ways I think my dad could have only dreamed of.

God bless all the dedicated fathers and grandfathers out there. Happy Father’s Day to all!


Rachel’s Challenge at Panera Bread – What we can all learn from a group of kids

Imagine you’re walking into Panera Bread to enjoy a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee on a Saturday morning in late May. As you enter, though, you are halted by a group of middle school girls all dressed in the same organization’s t-shirt. Your first thoughts may likely be… what are these kids going to ask me for? How much are they are going to request I donate to their cause?

What would you do if these kids then offered to purchase your entire breakfast for you? Would you skeptically ask them what the catch is?  Would your mouth hang open in amazement? Would you believe that this group of kids has no other purpose than to spread a message of kindness?

Believe it.

Every day we are bombarded with stories in the media of bullying, teen suicide, and school violence. There’s an organization out there that’s working to change that narrative. It’s a group consisting of very special middle schoolers, like the ones who showed up at one of our West Akron Panera Bread cafes on the last Saturday in May to surprise unsuspecting guests with free meals, gift cards and other gestures of benevolence.

These students are part of Rachel’s Challenge, an organization with chapters across the country that works to prevent violence and promote the importance of kindness in schools. The movement is inspired by a story of tragedy that we are all familiar with. Rachel Scott was the first student lost in the 1999 Columbine school shooting. She was killed while eating lunch outside on the school lawn with one of her friends. After she died, many students reached out to her parents with stories of how Rachel touched their lives with her small acts of kindness, even helping to prevent a fellow student from taking his own life. Rachel’s story is now the foundation for the organization’s mission to make schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with compassion and respect.

For 40 students at Fairlawn’s Revere Middle School, Rachel’s Challenge is an important part of their school lives. The group meets monthly and discusses topics like anti-bullying, violence, and how to respect others who are different. The student members gather toys and gifts for foster kids in the area during the holidays and work all year to fundraise for their annual Pay It Forward event through which they perform random acts of generosity for strangers. On this one day, the students spread out across the Akron area purchasing groceries for people, supplying gift cards to restaurants, paying for haircuts, and distributing cold bottles of water to people leaving the gym. They also buy breakfast for our fortunate Panera Bread guests.

This year the students at Revere raised a record-breaking $4,000 to make their Pay It Forward day possible.

A program proponent in a video featured on the Rachel’s Challenge website ( mentions how adults sometimes write off the young kids of today as lost and lacking respect. Adults often feel the need to tell kids what they can’t do instead of giving them a purpose and showing them what they can do.

Jeanette Geer is not one those adults. She is the Rachel’s Challenge advisor at Revere, and she is also mom to middle-schooler, Tate, who will be entering the 8th grade this fall and is an active member of the group. Jeanette believes the Rachel’s Challenge program filled a necessary gap for middle schoolers looking to understand the world around them and the stories they hear in the media.

rever-post-680x404Geer also noted the “domino effect” that is incited by the group saying, “At Panera, we had one lady give all our students hugs in return for their acts of kindness, and a group of old men asked the kids what they were doing, and when the kids replied that they were with Rachel’s Challenge and revealed what they had planned, the men decided to buy all the kids their breakfasts.”

The kindness was contagious. 

So what do you have to do to get 40 middle school students up early on a weekend to spend their personal time doing kind deeds for others? It turns out, not much. All they need it is the opportunity. Rachel’s Challenge is providing them that opportunity and is doing so for students across the country as it works to transform schools and communities into positive, collaborative, and uplifting environments. And if there’s any question of what we can all learn from a collection of young kids, the answer is…perhaps a lot.


Every April in honor of Autism Awareness month Covelli Enterprises launches its ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ cookie campaign. This year the campaign spanned 7 states, involved 215 Panera Bread locations and the hard labor of more than 450 bakers, and raised more than $250,000. Since 2010, Covelli Enterprises has raised more than $2 million to support local autism organizations in the areas its serves.

Through this special once-a-year campaign, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of all ‘Pieces of Hope’ cookies are donated to support various autism causes including The Rich Center for Autism at Youngstown State University, Potential Development, Autism Speaks of Central Ohio, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism Unbound, Dan Marino Foundation, Medical University of South Carolina’s Project Rex, and autism centers at Cleveland Clinic, Dayton Children’s and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals. Funds are used by these partners to provide services, scholarships, research, treatment, advocacy, and resources for families.

The puzzle piece cookie, specially designed to represent the symbol for autism, is sold only in Covelli-owned and operated Panera Bread cafés each year. The cookie consists of Panera Bread’s famous shortbread topped with sweet white icing and an edible sugar decal and is made completely free of any artificial colors, flavors, additives or preservatives.

“I love our ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ campaign because I know how much good it is doing in our communities,” said Sam Covelli, Owner/Operator of Covelli Enterprises. “This special cookie has allowed us to make such a positive difference for those with autism, and that’s something we are extremely proud of.”

Throughout the month of April, Covelli Panera cafés also collected Community Breadbox donations at the registers of all of its cafés to raise funds for the cause as part of its Covelli Cares community support.

The delicious ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ puzzle piece cookies for a cause will return April 2019! #everycookiecounts

COVELLI CARES – A program to formalize Covelli Enterprises’ long history of community giving


It’s always been the Covelli way to give back. Since Covelli Enterprises began in 1959, supporting the local community has always been a part of its culture. In 2017, the company decided to take that giving to a new level by giving it name, and Covelli Cares was born.

Through Covelli Cares, Covelli Enterprises is able to support local charities in the neighborhoods we serve. This program is nothing different for our organization, which gives $32 million annually to charitable causes. It’s simply putting a name to the giving that’s been going on since the company’s founding.

The Covelli Cares program encompasses all of Covelli Enterprises’ community giving including our annual campaigns to raise funds for causes like autism and breast cancer, our Community Breadbox collection canisters to raise funds for community partners, our Day-End Dough-Nation program through which we donate all leftover breads and bakery products to hunger relief agencies, in-kind donations, charitable event sponsorships, and even volunteerism.

Covelli Cares is Covelli Enterprises’ promise to strengthen and improve lives in the communities it serves, whether through community donations, corporate giving, fundraising promotions, partnerships with local non-profit organizations, or through local volunteer activities. 100% of all donations to Covelli Cares will benefit non-profit partners in the communities Covelli Enterprises serves.

Covelli Cares is nothing new. Our company’s culture has always been centered on giving back. This program will simply enhance our ability to encourage our employees and customers to get involved and celebrate the ways that we are continuing the mission in our communities,” said Sam Covelli, CEO of Covelli Enterprises.”


In 2018, the Covelli organization piloted raising general funds for Covelli Cares in various markets where we operate Panera Bread restaurants. These general funds allow Covelli Enterprises to react quickly in response to both national and local tragedies. For example, in late 2017, general funds from Covelli Cares were used to support victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, and in early 2018, funds were used to support the families of the Westerville, Ohio police officers who were killed in the line of duty. These are just a few examples of ways in which Covelli Cares is making an impact in our communities.

Covelli Enterprises has a long history of philanthropy. Throughout its existence, the company has donated millions of dollars to local charitable organizations including urban leagues, scholarship funds, hospitals, athletic organizations, animal rights groups, group fighting to end homelessness and hunger, among countless others. Since 2010, Covelli has donated more than $3 million to breast cancer causes, $1.4 million to autism charities, and $1.2 million to veterans and military organizations.

In 2017, Sam Covelli and his wife Caryn, donated $2 million to the Cleveland Clinic’s state-of-the-art Taussig Cancer Center. The same year, Covelli donated $1 million to Youngstown State University Athletics, a gift that will be used to maintain the athletic facilities that make up the soon-to-be-named Covelli Sports Complex including the soccer field, track and field facilities, and women’s softball field.

Covelli recently celebrated more than 30 years as the largest local contributor to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, with a $16,000 dollar annual donation. In 2017, however, Covelli involved all of his markets in raising funds for the cause, donating more than $60,000 nationally to provide toys for children in need. Every August the company hosts the Panerathon 10K/2 Mile walk/run in Youngstown, OH, which has hosted nearly 50,000 people and raised $2 million for the Joanie Abdu Breast Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth Health Center over the past eight years.

In 2012, Covelli made the largest donation in history to The Ohio State University Athletics to assist in funding the construction of a multi-sport arena, Covelli Arena. The $10 million dollar gift will provide critical amenities for student-athletes in men’s and women’s volleyball, gymnastics, fencing and wrestling, including new locker rooms, offices, training and treatment rooms, and construction began in mid-2017.


Covelli Enterprises supports many additional non-profits in the communities where it operates restaurants including Salvation Army, Disabled American Veterans, Animal Welfare League, American Heart Association, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The James Cancer Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dayton Children’s Hospital and more. For his commitment to the community, Covelli was recognized with the 2012 Salvation Army’s Distinguished Community Service Award as well as the American Red Cross Spirit of the Mahoning Valley Award, and he was named 2013 Corporate Philanthropist of the Year in the Mahoning Valley. In 2014, Cleveland Clinic nominated Covelli Enterprises for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Cleveland National Philanthropy Day Corporate Leadership Award. In 2015, the company received Business First’s Corporate Caring Award for its support of Central Ohio hunger relief agencies. In 2018, Sam Covelli was awarded the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100’s Community Star Award for his philanthropy throughout the Mahoning Valley where the company is headquartered.

“We give back because it’s the right thing to do,” said Sam Covelli. “It’s a privilege to be able to help others, so that’s what we are going to continue doing.”

Covelli Cares is the program that will allow Covelli Enterprises to do just that.