Honoring Viacom’s Magnanimous ‘Viacommunity Award’ Winners and Finalists

by Daina Amorosano, Viacom
Viacommunity Award

Viacommunity Award Finalists, from left: Emmy-winning Mike Henneberger, Production Coordinator at Comedy Central; Gary Pagano, Sr. Director of Special Events; and Sarah Ray, Manager for Partner Marketing.

The Viacommunity Award honors two employees who’ve made an outstanding impact in their communities with a $10,000 donation to the organization of their choice. At our Town Hall yesterday, CEO Philippe Dauman presented the first award to Malika Quemerais, Manager of Music & Celebrity Talent at MTV, in honor of her inspiring work with M-LISADA and the children of the M-LISADA orphanage in Uganda — where she spent eight weeks this past summer volunteering on the ground. COO Tom Dooley presented the second award to Malik Simmonds, Director of Human Resources at Nickelodeon, for his incredible efforts on behalf of the Wall Street Alphas Charitable Foundation, a mentoring program that he started 10 years ago to guide African-American and Latino high school boys in their personal and professional development. He’s helped send over 50 young men to college through his mentorship – planning college tours and basketball tournaments, prepping for the SATs and picking out tuxes for the prom.

But it was truly tough to narrow down the more than 100 extraordinary submissions we received. We wanted to take a moment to recognize our finalists for the award, below, in no particular order – from Jeff King who takes his lunch break on Fridays to deliver food to the less fortunate to Sarah Ray who rallied people to raise nearly $200,000 in 10 weeks as part of a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In reading about their great work, we hope you’re as inspired as we were.

Mike Henneberger, Production Coordinator, Programming and Multiplatform Strategy, Comedy Central

Recognized for his work for Zero Platoon, a nonprofit that uses music to help members of the military cope with any psychological distress that may come with adapting to military life

Since leaving the U.S. Army in 2009, Mike has been doing all he can to help other veterans and active members of the military – from helping them find their way around college and disability benefits to making life a little easier for those still serving active duty. Currently an online destination, Zero Platoon is designed for members of the military to see some of their favorite music artists talk about troubles they’ve dealt with and how they’ve gotten through them. Any free minute that he’s not working at Comedy Central, you’ll find Mike shooting video of acoustic performances and interviews with touring bands, editing that video, emailing publicists, designing graphics and improving and increasing the organization’s digital and social presence, and trying to figure out how to take Zero Platoon to the next level – bringing these artists to the troops in the real world through concert tours to military bases.

“Anyone who hears Mike’s stories about what these kids are going through and sees the compassion that he has for them and determination to help them can’t help but want to know what they can do to support Zero Platoon.” – Jeff Stevens

Carson Smith, Manager, Human Resources, Nickelodeon

Recognized for his work for various nonprofits and schools in Burbank, Calif.

Carson has led the charge for the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in getting involved with the Burbank, Calif. community in a meaningful way, coming up with great ideas each year for how to give back as a studio.  Through his leadership, guidance and organization, Nickelodeon has worked and served several of the city’s most neglected nonprofits and schools, working on projects from renovating new gardens and play areas to forging partnerships with local schools to promote arts education.

“Carson saw a need that existed within our organization and took the burden onto himself. We have so many resources here at the studio. Thanks to Carson’s championship, we’re utilizing them to do the good that we do with the future generation, their families and potential talent that might be working for us one day.” – Narbeh Minasians

Jane Volpe, Director of Special Events & Gary Pagano, Sr. Director of Special Events

Recognized for their work for United Neighborhood Houses

Both Jane and Gary are involved in United Neighborhood Houses, which promotes and strengthens the neighborhood-based, multi-service approach to improving the lives of New Yorkers in need and the communities in which they live. Jane is always focused on how to make a difference in the lives of people in need – from calling a food collection agency to pick up leftovers from an event to take to soup kitchens or homeless shelter to working with UNH to establish a holiday gifting program for senior citizens for her floor at work. Gary, too, is a giver in all aspects of his life, and is on the board of UNH, one of the responsibilities of which is a Viacom scholarship that allows a select few New York high school students to receive funding to get into college.

Sarah Ray, Manager, Partner Marketing, Content Distribution & Marketing

Recognized for her work with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Sarah has been relentless to find a cure for blood cancers after losing her grandmother to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For the past 5 years, she has devoted her time and energies to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) whose mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. She has mentored and coached 10 seasons of LLS’ Team In Training (TNT) program which provides participants an opportunity to train for upcoming endurance events (marathons, triathlons & century rides) while raising critical funds for the society. When not trying to get everyone signed up for Team Viacom (Viacom employee TNT teams spanning 60 employees and raising nearly $200K for LLS), she serves as the Co-Chair on the Executive Leadership Committee of the LLS’ Man & Woman of the Year campaign, an opportunity she was granted after she was named the LLS’ NYC Woman of the Year (and National Runner-Up!), raising a record-breaking $186,358 in 10 weeks. Watch her RALLY campaign video here and get inspired.

“Sarah continues to inspire me and others to continue to give back to our communities. Because of her, I’m training to compete in my second half-marathon this spring, and I’ve been inspired by her example to examine the various volunteer and mentoring opportunities Viacom offers. She not only achieves results; she inspires others to do the same.” – Sarah Weber

Tamara Hood, Executive Assistant, Strategic Insights & Research, Viacom Media Networks

Recognized for her work for Lil Raggamuffin Summer Camp

Tamara enthusiastically volunteers her time for others and she’s passionate about giving back to benefit the arts, communities in need and young people. Whether she’s bringing food and flashlights to families in the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy or bringing arts programs to children in rural villages in Jamaica, her compassion knows no bounds. She’s spent years supporting Lil Raggamuffin Summer Camp, an arts program in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains that brings artists and professionals from around the world to teach and collaborate with the area’s children. Tamara recently joined the staff as Director of Fundraising in addition to her role at Viacom. In this position, she manages fundraising efforts, coordinates travel logistics and leads the operations strategy. Her creative leadership within the organization is critical to the to the summer camp’s sustainability and growth.

Jeff King, Sr. Manager, Internal Audit, Viacom

Recognized for his work for God’s Love We Deliver

Jeff started volunteering with God’s Love We Deliver, which delivers nutritious meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook, after he saw Joan Rivers playing for the charity on “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2009. Since then,  Jeff has continued to walk his deliveries to 3-5 clients with life-altering illness during his lunch hour every Friday. Jeff not only provides nutrition by delivering a tailored meal to his clients, he also provides nutrition for their souls knowing that they can count on Jeff every Friday to deliver a meal and a warm smile – and he has not wavered on his journey to deliver these meals. No matter the weather or his own needs, Jeff is tenacious in providing love and care to the urgent needs of his clients.

Jessie Farrell, Sr. Manager, Human Resources

Recognized for her work for the City of Long Beach

Jessie is a dedicated Long Beach, Long Island resident, known for her community involvement. After Hurricane Sandy, she suffered damage to her home, cars and lived in temporary housing while she rebuilt with her family. Despite her own difficult situation, Jessie remained concerned for those “worse off.”  Spearheading numerous volunteer activities and projects in her area, Jessie worked to rebuild a local playground and organized a candlelight vigil to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the storm. She worked to make Long Beach beautification projects an option for Viacom employees on Viacommunity Day and served as a Team Captain on the ground.  Jessie’s unwavering optimism and sense of humor throughout difficult times continues to those around her and is hallmark of her civic leadership style.

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