Chryssi Mikus has a long and ongoing relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, working to secure donations and auction items for large fundraisers. In 2015, she traveled to the center’s flagship institution in Memphis, Tennessee. She sits on the Friends of St. Jude committee, a group that brainstorms new fundraising opportunities and identifies potential new community or corporate partners.
While such dedication to the St. Jude’s cause might suggest some sort of full-time commitment to the organization, Mikus is actually a senior manager in Viacom’s Marketing & Partner Insights group, working across all of the company’s networks. Her expansive contributions to St. Jude are entirely voluntary.
“I think it’s important to give back, especially to causes you’re passionate about, whether it’s children or animals or the elderly,” Mikus says.
While her work with St. Jude is fulfilling, it can at times seem distant as the core hospital is far away from Mikus’ Manhattan home. So when she had the opportunity to volunteer at the Manhattan Children’s Center, a facility on the Upper West Side that provides one-on-one assistance for children with autism and other disabilities, through Viacom’s Viacommunity initiative last year, she quickly did so.
“When I found children’s hospitals, which is something that always drew me in, and in my own neighborhood, I thought it was a great opportunity through Viacommunity,” says Mikus. “To work for something in Memphis is great, but I don’t get to see it as a part of my everyday life. I think it’s great that Viacom offers different opportunities to do things in your own community, whether you’re in the city or out in Long Island or up in Connecticut.”
Viacommunity has provided exactly the sort of hands-on opportunities that Mikus had craved. On a trip last year, she joined 50 other Viacom employees to help kids construct pamphlets and books. She joined one child on an hour-long walk to help him learn how to navigate the city independently by identifying crosswalk signals and other signs.
A benefit of Viacommunity is the vast number of volunteer opportunities available in different fields. It is this diversity that allowed Mikus to try something well outside of her usual child-focused realm when she walked over to Manhattan’s Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum for Viacommunity Day 2016, an annual worldwide day of service open to the entire company. The museum, set on a decommissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on the Hudson River, hosts an impressive stock of antique and modern planes. Mikus helped clean these vehicles and took guest surveys to improve the visitor experience.
Mikus’ dedication to giving back grew from her family’s long-standing commitment to community involvement. Starting as young as age 5, she joined her parents on outings to fundraise for the St. Louis Symphony. In high school, she spent an intensive three-week period volunteering at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, a project that galvanized her concern for sick children.
After moving south to attend Tulane for college, Mikus spent time volunteering at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, helping to distract the kids from their treatments by playing board games or hosting a makeup party for a little girl.
The opportunity to continue this lifelong passion at Viacom adds an important dimension to her job. “I think it’s great that Viacom does this,” she says. “The other companies I’ve worked for didn’t have programs like this. It’s really remarkable that the company encourages you to take your outside time volunteering.”
Mikus is looking to expand her volunteer activity. She recently joined Viacom’s UP Mentoring program, where she tutored local students and shared some of her skills and experiences with them as they prepare themselves for entry into the working world. She plans to continue this work through the 2016-17 school year.