August 27, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story


Charles Merritt 

One of the co-founders of Buddy insurance for outdoor adventurers

click to enlarge feat35_buddy.jpg

Scott Elmquist

The a-ha moment came a few years ago, when co-founders Charles Merritt, Jay Paul and David Vogeleer began to notice GoFundMe campaigns popping up among their active friends and colleagues.

“We recognized that there are a lot of folks in the world, who we spend time with, who we think should not have to worry about financial risks and going into severe debt from doing things that are generally healthy recreational activities,” says Merritt, who spends much of his own free time cycling, running and climbing.

The concept of Buddy, which provides on-demand accident insurance, is simple. Buy coverage before an adventure, file a claim in the event of an injury, receive a check and then use that money to cover medical bills, travel costs or other financial burdens associated with the accident. One-day coverage is available for single adults, children, couples and families, along with weekly, monthly and annual plans, all available for purchase at

“You could be riding the ski lift, buy coverage while you’re going up the lift and be covered as you’re going down the mountain,” Merritt says.

Popular activities such as biking, hiking, skiing, white-water rafting, paddling and surfing are all covered, and Merritt says the company has made inroads in the world of kids’ sports, where broken wrists and sprained ankles are abundant.

“With the shift to high-deductible health insurance, some families out there have $7,000 to $8,000 deductibles, which can really put a hurt on a family’s budget,” he says.

The only activities Buddy doesn’t cover are what Merritt says are considered falling from high heights without attachment to the ground, like free climbing or jumping from structures or cliffs with parachutes or flying suits. Eventually, though, the team hopes to update coverage to have no exclusions.

Buddy is currently available to adventurers in seven states — Virginia isn’t on that list yet, but Merritt says it should be soon. The startup has filed with the Bureau of Insurance at the State Corporation Commission and is patiently awaiting approval.

“I look forward to the day when we can walk out to the Capital Trail or Belle Isle and go meet customers,” he says. “It all started with the idea of taking care of our community, so we’re looking forward to getting that notice and being off to the races.” — Laura Ingles

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