SAN ANTONIO — When Community First Health Plans launched its 'Design a Mask Challenge,' organizers were unsure of the response. The health coverage assisting non-profit received more than 100 submissions from students in Bexar, Bandera, Comal, Kendall, Medina, Atascosa, Guadalupe and Wilson Counties.
"I think it was fun, inspiring and heartwarming to see that kids do understand what's happening in our community," Cynthia De Le Pena said.
De La Pena is the senior manager of outreach and development for Community First. She said more than 22,000 people voted on the submissions in five categories. Four of the award areas were for children 6-19 years old.
"Maybe this is something that will create another initiative for them to continue to be creative and give them that entrepreneurial spirit," she said.
The participants got challenged to create fun face coverings to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The young designers displayed their creativity and resiliency through a painful pandemic.
"Resiliency is just a great word to capture their spirit and their effort," De La Pena said.
Nicholas Ortiz loves to color and draw. His mother, Dianne, said her 6-year-old son was excited about the contest.
"I'm obsessed with dinosaurs," Ortiz said.
The pizza-loving Northside ISD kindergartener said his collection needs a spinosaurus. He uses a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the face mask challenge. Ortiz made sure the T Rex gobbled up the coronavirus.
"COVID is dangerous – and he's eating it," he said.
His 'Predators are dangerous, and so is COVID' won the Budding Artists category.
Santiago Pinate loves sports and drawing. The 5th grader's entry in the 'Little Artists' category caught the attention of voters.
"It took me a little time to figure it out, but then I started sketching," he said.
The result is an award-winning cartoon with the COVID-19 virus suffering from the power of face masks.
"Masks are important and may protect you from COVID-19," Pinate said.
Santiago Ruiz Gonzalez created a world with a face covering that clobbers the coronavirus.
"I want to inspire everybody to stand strong and fight together against COVID," he said.
The 17-year-old said he got votes from as far away as South America. He loves legos, any food, and producing the winning submission in the Teen artist category.
"I'm so famous already," he joked.
Isabella Montemayor took the design challenge to a colorful and paramount with her circular-based creation.
"I put like many designs in circles representing how many people – how a lot of people are struggling to survive with COVID," she said.
The 4th grader loves hot dogs, French fries and playing the piano. None of that distracts her from what's happened since March 2020.
"I think that more people should be wearing masks," she said.
She and the others will get to make that a reality. De La Pena said 1,000 of the winning creations go to their schools or a local community center at no cost.
The winner of the adult category receives the same award.