Christmas cookie challenge winner donates all her winnings

Marietta resident and winner of the “Christmas Cookie Challenge” Season 5, Episode 8
Reindeer Auditions on the Food Network, Sam Opdenbosch, owner of Sam’s Cookie Company, donated half of her winnings to a staff support fund at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.
(L-R): Kelly Loftin, Piedmont Healthcare Foundation executive director; Josh Roberts, chief operating officer of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital; Sam Opdenbosch; Patrick M. Battey, M.D., chief executive officer of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

Combined ShapeCaption
Marietta resident and winner of the “Christmas Cookie Challenge” Season 5, Episode 8 Reindeer Auditions on the Food Network, Sam Opdenbosch, owner of Sam’s Cookie Company, donated half of her winnings to a staff support fund at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. (L-R): Kelly Loftin, Piedmont Healthcare Foundation executive director; Josh Roberts, chief operating officer of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital; Sam Opdenbosch; Patrick M. Battey, M.D., chief executive officer of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

‘Doing Good’ profile of sweet success of Sam Opdenbosch

Christmas is a time for gathering and traditions. Cookies are among them.

“About 12 years ago we started baking cookies,” said Sam Opdenbosch. “They always looked terrible. My sister and I were like how does this happen? We have college degrees.”

They went to work on perfecting their cookies and every year they got better, she added.

“Because I’m a salesperson by day, I would take my experimentations to all of my clients. They would start asking me all the time ‘Did you bring cookies’?” Opdenbosch said.

The requested confection brought about the creation of Sam’s Cookie Company in 2018.

ExploreRECIPES: Sam Opdenbosch says get creative with holiday cookies (with photos)

Just before COVID hit, the nighttime baker was contacted by the Food Network’s production company through her Instagram inquiring about her interest in trying out for the show (”Reindeer Auditions”). Opdenbosch sent an audition tape that was followed by a phone interview. Then nothing happened, she said.

Fast forward to last year she was contacted again and the process started over.

“Two weeks prior to filming I got the call telling me that they were so sorry but ‘you are actually our very first alternate’,” the cookie entrepreneur stated. She said the odds were slim that she’d make it on the show and put it out of her head.

Opdenbosch went on with her life. On a morning trip to the car wash before a full day of sales appointments, emails, texts and missed calls came crashing into her phone.

“Messages from the Food Network said ‘call us as soon as possible.’ I called back and they said somebody got COVID can you drive to Tennessee and film right now?”

There were four other contestants. Each of them either owned a bakery or baked full time, she stated.

“Low and behold I won - $10,000. It still baffles me. I 100 percent have always believed in karma and so because I was not meant to be there from the get-go (as an alternate) something went right in the universe. I felt like this was not my money and I needed to do something good with it,” she said.

ExploreInspire Atlanta: Stories about people who make metro Atlanta a better place in which to live
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Winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge, Sam Opdenbosch is shown here with her 3-D snowman sugar cookie with chocolate espresso blackberry cookie arms.

Credit: contr

Winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge, Sam Opdenbosch is shown here with her 3-D snowman sugar cookie with chocolate espresso blackberry cookie arms.

Credit: contr

Combined ShapeCaption
Winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge, Sam Opdenbosch is shown here with her 3-D snowman sugar cookie with chocolate espresso blackberry cookie arms.

Credit: contr

Credit: contr

“We (my husband and I) started thinking about all the people who have kept us safe,” stated the cookie winner. Discussions with her husband about the health professionals and research led Opdenbosch to donate half of her winnings to the Piedmont Healthcare Staff Support Fund that assists people on the frontline.

“The other part of it was we heard at the beginning of the pandemic that people were adopting pets left and right. When we started to open back up again, a lot of those people were giving those animals back. We have two adopted cats. One is from Angels Among Us and the other from Furkids (Cumming).

“We have had such a great time with our animals and I cannot imagine going through this without our pets,” Opdenbosch noted. “So when we heard that they were also struggling during this time I just felt that I am so thankful for my animals I should give back to where we got them from.”

The remaining money was split equally between Angels Among Us and Furkids (Cumming).

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Sam Opdenbosch (R) is shown presenting a portion of her winning money to Anna Lilley (L), cat social media director and foster mom at Angels Among Us.

Credit: Nick Franko Productions

Sam Opdenbosch (R) is shown presenting a portion of her winning money to Anna Lilley (L), cat social media director and foster mom at Angels Among Us.

Credit: Nick Franko Productions

Combined ShapeCaption
Sam Opdenbosch (R) is shown presenting a portion of her winning money to Anna Lilley (L), cat social media director and foster mom at Angels Among Us.

Credit: Nick Franko Productions

Credit: Nick Franko Productions

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Sam Opdenbosch, owner of Sam’s Cookie Company and winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge donates a portion of her winnings to Furkids. (L-R: Christina Bray, director of development; Sam Opdenbosch; and Samantha Shelton, CEO and founder).

Credit: contributed

Sam Opdenbosch, owner of Sam’s Cookie Company and winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge donates a portion of her winnings to Furkids.  (L-R: Christina Bray, director of development; Sam Opdenbosch; and Samantha Shelton, CEO and founder).

Credit: contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Sam Opdenbosch, owner of Sam’s Cookie Company and winner of the Christmas Cookie Challenge donates a portion of her winnings to Furkids. (L-R: Christina Bray, director of development; Sam Opdenbosch; and Samantha Shelton, CEO and founder).

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

“I just feel like during this particular time period we are in right now is really difficult for everyone and you are adding to it if you’re not being kind because it can really change someone’s whole day, week or year,” she said.


Each Sunday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s print edition (a day earlier online), we write about a deserving person or charity events such as fun-runs, volunteer projects and other community gatherings that benefit a good cause. To submit a “Doing Good” story for us to cover, send to ajc.doinggood@gmail.com.