The Philadelphia roommates could only be certain of a couple of things when they started their first official day of coronavirus self-isolation last week:
Despite photos of their YOLO peers living it up cheek-to-cheek at bars and restaurants, Hannah Fabiszewski, 24, and Fiona Farrell, 23, wouldn’t be joining them.
And while they hunkered down to work and study from home — Farrell works for the Kimmel Center, Fabiszewski is a Penn grad student — they needed some distractions from the bleakness outside.
They brainstormed. Top priority was their sanity, so they agreed to look at news only at certain times of the day. They considered daily jam sessions. Farrell sings, Fabiszewski’s keyboard skills are solid, especially by apocalyptic standards. They could always participate in the new national pastime, and deep clean their Center City apartment. Or maybe, they could give each other haircuts. “I watched a YouTube tutorial,” Farrell said.
Lucky for their locks, they concluded they wanted to do something creative and charitable. So, they started the @CashforCovid Instagram account where in exchange for donations, they gamely take on a challenge of your choosing. All proceeds go to Meals On Wheels and Feeding America.
There are guidelines: Every request has to be rated PG, legal, and safe. Also, no food challenges when so many people are still scrambling for supplies. Farrell also draws the line at weird condiment-eating requests — her gag reflex is strong — though Fabiszewski did accept a challenge to do a shot of Smirnoff with a spicy brown mustard chaser.
I just have to say it: That was worth more than a $5 donation. If you go on their page, you’ll see a menu of challenges and recommended donations: $5 for truth or dare, $20 for a prank call, $10 to reenact a scene from your favorite movie or TV show. Prices for custom requests are negotiable. Slide into their DMs to see the full list and send them a message.
In just a few days, the friends who met and roomed together at Dickinson College have gamely taken on all kinds of challenges: dance-offs a la Jimmy Fallon, hard seltzer shotguns before they realized they were low on the adult beverage and should probably ration them. And blind makeup challenges. Very brave, considering the national order to stop touching our faces!
So far, they’ve raised about $700. Some anonymous kind souls have also donated, no-strings-or challenges-attached.
When we talked this week, the city was still about a half hour away from deciding — finally — to shut down all nonessential businesses, so our conversation naturally veered toward their less cautious counterparts. They’d seen the same photos a lot of us saw of unbothered young people raging against social distancing, and while the friends didn’t plan to be a public service announcement for their peers, they hoped their Instagram posts show that it’s still possible to have fun while keeping everyone safe.
Their Instagram page is proof. Somebody give Farrell a Tony for her Les Misérables “I Dreamed a Dream” reenactment. I have no idea where they dug up those outfits for their burpee challenge, but I definitely got some Jane Fonda vibes with a hint of Richard Simmons.
“I don’t think I necessarily thought about this at first,” Farrell said, “but we are reaching people our age who are maybe not taking this seriously. I’m hoping that our videos can bring some levity to this very dark time, but also increase awareness that there are vulnerable people in our community.”
The friends are soon headed home to their families, who have also self-isolated, after the recommended incubation period. Farrell is off to Jersey and Fabiszewski to Maryland. But they plan to continue the challenges at least until they reach their first goal of $2,000. With family members to recruit and houses full of potential props, they envision their challenge responses will only get more elaborate. So, stay tuned.
Is anyone else out there getting creative in coronavirus isolation to raise money for those in need? Let me know.