HBO Max Launches ‘Superintelligence’ Charity Campaign

HBO Max has kicked off a “20 Days of Kindness” campaign on behalf of its new film Superintelligence, launching Nov. 26 on the service from New Line Cinema.

Star Melissa McCarthy and director Ben Falcone announced the campaign Nov. 10 during their appearance on “The Today Show” while launching the first trailer for the movie. With a “20 for 20 in 20” initiative, HBO Max will highlight and donate $20,000 to a different good cause daily for 20 days while encouraging others to lend their support. In addition, AT&T helped kick off the campaign with a $1 million contribution to Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

On Nov. 13, World Kindness Day, the campaign will celebrate acts of kindness shared across social media. Content can include a post, tagging someone with a kind word, or showing a short video of a random act of kindness.  Talent and influencers will help launch the program, encouraging others to participate using the hashtag #20DaysOfKindness.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Consumers can go to https://20daysofkindness.com for more information and to follow the different charities daily. As part of the #20DaysofKindness campaign, McCarthy, Falcone and HBO Max are also launching a Prizeo charity sweepstakes, giving away a Tesla, a hangout with McCarthy and Falcone, and chances to attend the premiere with all funds raised benefitting Conservation International, World Central Kitchen, and Make-A-Wish. For more information visit prizeo.com/superintelligence.

In the film, when an all-powerful Superintelligence (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), the fate of the world hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving.

Stars of Sony’s ‘Center Stage’ to Gather for Virtual Fundraiser for Ballet

Stars of the film Center Stage, including Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Sascha Radetsky and Ethan Stiefel, will gather Sept. 1 for a virtual fundraiser in support of American Ballet Theatre’s Crisis Relief Fund, which provides aid for dancers, production crew, musicians, ballet staff and faculty impacted by canceled tour engagements due to COVID-19.

During the pre-recorded reunion, moderated by “CNN Newsroom” anchor Poppy Harlow, the actors will look back at the making of the film that spawned two sequels and helped bring the ballet world into the pop culture spotlight.

The reunion will premiere simultaneously on the American Ballet Theatre and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment YouTube channels at 7:30 p.m. ET. Viewers on both channels will be able to use YouTube’s integrated fundraising capabilities to donate to the ABT Crisis Relief Fund.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Center Stage, which celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, follows a group of ballet students in the competitive world of professional dance where they must devote themselves to their art with the rigor of Olympic athletes. While experiencing the joys, sorrows and conflicts of youth, they vie for a place in a prestigious ballet company and strive to take center stage. The film has inspired two sequels, Center Stage: Turn It Up and Center Stage: On Pointe, as well as an upcoming series in development with Sony Pictures Television. Center Stage is available now on disc and digital.
American Ballet Theatre will also be hosting a ticketed pre-event reception via Zoom, beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET. Moderated by ABT dancer Erica Lall and ABT Accelerator co-chair and Gagosian Gallery director Sarah Hoover, the reception will feature an exclusive conversation with Sascha Radetsky, former ABT soloist and artistic director of ABT Studio Company, and Ethan Stiefel, former ABT principal dancer and current faculty member. Tickets, benefitting the ABT Crisis Relief Fund, will start at $150; for more information please email specialevents@abt.org.

Follow us on Instagram

OTT.X to Honor Industry Heroes

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) is looking to honor industry “heroes.”

The group is looking for a team member who has gone out of his or her way to help neighbors, to help the community, to support health care workers, or to just do something good during the pandemic — or for a team member who has gone out of his or her way to help the company continue to serve its customers during the crisis.

“Just as the hard work of grocery and pharmacy teams are keeping our pantries and medicine cabinets full, all of the teams in our industry, at digital platforms, channels and retailers; at content companies; and at all of the service and technology companies that facilitate the flow of content ultimately to the consumer are playing an important role in providing the needed entertainment to keep everyone sane during these stay-at-home days,” according to OTT.X. “We need to recognize our own heroes.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Entries should include a brief paragraph nominating a hero or heroes and a photo if possible. In mid-June, OTT.X will hold an online live ceremony recognizing all the heroes and presenting a few special awards. Nominations must be sent no later than May 30 to mfisher@ottx.org and include “our ottx hero” in the subject line.

In addition, OTT.X is soliciting pictures of home offices and awarding prizes. Photos should be sent to mfisher@ottx.org and include “my new home office” in the subject line.

Netflix Offers Free Documentary Streaming to Teachers on Its YouTube Channel

Netflix has expanded it free documentary screening program for teachers, offing a selection of titles on the Netflix U.S. YouTube channel.

“For many years, Netflix has allowed teachers to screen documentaries in their classrooms. However, this isn’t possible with schools closed,” read the Netflix blog post. “So at their request, we have made a selection of our documentary features and series available on the Netflix U.S. YouTube Channel.

“Each title also has educational resources available, which can be used by both students and teachers — and we’ll be doing Q&As with some of the creators behind these projects so that students can hear from them firsthand.

“We hope this will, in a small way, help teachers around the world.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The documentaries are currently available in English, but subtitles in more than a dozen languages will be available later this week, according to the post. “Please check the ratings so that you can make informed choices for your students and children,” the post requested.

Offered on the channel is the film 13th, Ava DuVernay’s documentary with a title that refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay, featuring a mixture of archival footage and testimony from a activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men. Educational resources are here.

Also available is season one of the series “Abstract.” “Abstract: The Art of Design” takes you beyond blueprints into the art, science, and philosophy of design. The series goes inside the minds of the world’s greatest designers, showcasing the most inspiring visionaries from a variety of disciplines whose work shapes our culture and future. Educational resources are here

Select episodes of the series “Babies” are available. Filmed over the course of three years, “Babies” explores the miracle of the first full year of life through the pioneering work of leading scientists from across the globe. The series examines the epic journey every person embarks on, from helpless newborn to independent toddler. The series follows the life-changing adventures of 15 international families and featuring the latest research from eminent scientists who share their personal journeys of discovery into the infant mind. Educational resources are here.

The film Chasing Coral  taps into the collective will and wisdom of an ad man, a self-proclaimed coral nerd, top-notch camera designers, and renowned marine biologists as they invent the first time-lapse camera to record bleaching events as they happen. Educational materials are here.

Follow us on Instagram

Available are select episodes of the series “Explained.” In partnership with Vox Media Studios and Vox, this explainer series takes viewers deep inside a wide range of culturally relevant topics, questions and ideas. Each episode explores current events and social trends pulled from the zeitgeist, touching topics across politics, science, history and pop culture — featuring interviews with some of the most authoritative experts in their respective fields. Educational resources are coming soon.

The film Knock Down the House follows four women who mount grassroots campaigns against powerful incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections that tipped the balance of power. When tragedy struck her family in the middle of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts as a bartender to save her home from foreclosure. After losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, Amy Vilela didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush, a registered nurse and pastor, was drawn to the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. A coal miner’s daughter, Paula Jean Swearengin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer from the environmental effects of the coal industry. Educational resources are here.

The series “Our Planet”  is available. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the eight-part series explores the wonders of our natural world from the creators of the award-winning series “Planet Earth.” Educational materials are here.

The short Period. End of Sentence. is available. The documentary short directed by Rayka Zehtabchi tells the story of women in a rural village outside Delhi, India, who fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation. For generations, these women didn’t have access to pads, which lead to health problems and girls missing school or dropping out entirely. But when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the village, the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads, empowering the women of their community. Educational resources are here.

The short The White Helmets is available. The Netflix original short documentary, set in Aleppo, Syria and Turkey in early 2016 follows three volunteer rescue workers as they put everything on the line to save civilians affected by the war, all the while wracked with worry about the safety of their own loved ones. Educational materials are here

The short Zion is available. It’s the portrait of Zion Clark, a young wrestler born without legs who grew up in foster care. Educational materials are here.

 

Lionsgate Teams With Fandango and YouTube on Free Streamed Movies Benefit

Lionsgate is presenting “Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies,” a program of four Fridays of free movies streaming live on YouTube hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis, to help benefit theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The studio is mounting the campaign to “honor the communal experience of watching movies in movie theaters and support the people who make those places great with a special program that reminds everyone how much we love going to the cinema,” according to a Lionsgate press release.

Beginning Friday, April 17, and continuing every Friday spanning four consecutive weeks, the studio will team with Fandango and YouTube to livestream four of Lionsgate’s most popular library titles — The Hunger Games, Dirty Dancing, La La Land and John Wick — on Lionsgate’s YouTube page and Fandango’s Movieclips YouTube page.

Host Curtis will share her own movie memories as she is joined by special guest celebrities and YouTube personalities, according to the release. Each week’s night at the movies will feature programming and interactive opportunities for fans, such as real-time fan chats via YouTube Live, live tweeting @Lionsgate and partners, and shared fan engagement opportunities in-show, including movie trivia and movie-themed challenges.

Lionsgate’s initial donation as well as audience and partner donations throughout the event will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping workers throughout the motion picture industry. The event will link to the Foundation’s charitable page so that viewers can donate. The Will Rogers Foundation is currently providing financial assistance to theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The schedule of free movies that will livestream Fridays at 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST is as follows: The Hunger Games April 17, Dirty Dancing April 24, La La Land May 1 and John Wick (age registration required) May 8.

To present the live movie event, in addition to Fandango Lionsgate is joining with exhibition partners such as the National Association of Theatre Owners, AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres, among other regional circuits.

Popcornopolis, purveyors of gourmet popcorn, will support the event with a consumer movie night offer, with 10% of sales donated to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. SnackNation will curate a movie-themed snack box with a special price and free shipping.

Follow us on Instagram

“There’s nothing that will replace the magic of seeing a movie together with your fellow moviegoers in a theater on a big screen, but this is a chance for America to come together to recreate the experience,” said Joe Drake, chairman, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, in a statement. “This is a great chance to show the country’s theatrical employees how much we miss going to their theaters and how much we support them. Jamie Lee Curtis — a woman who literally grew up with the movies and movie theaters — is one of the world’s biggest movie fans, so it’s a real thrill that she’ll be our host for this event. Let’s have some fun watching some classic movies together at home while celebrating moviegoing!”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Throughout the 125-year history of the cinema, this is the first time that movie theaters have been shut down across the country,” said John Fithian, president and CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners, in a statement. “Whether it was the Depression, wars, disasters, or local calamities, movie theaters have always been a gathering place where audiences can come together to laugh and be moved, reacting as one, to put their troubles behind them or forget about their hard week at work, and just get lost in the amazing stories on the big screen. Until we can gather again in our nation’s theaters, we’re grateful to Lionsgate for honoring the theatrical moviegoing experience and we are thrilled to join together with them over these next four Fridays, not only to see four classic movies for free, but also to allow fans and celebrities to share their own moviegoing memories. We love that so many people will be talking about what makes going to the movies so unique and memorable.”

Heroes in Home Entertainment 2019

For the second year, Media Play News honors the home entertainment industry’s givers, a select number of those in the industry who are known for their charitable and activist work. From the executives who serve on boards or participate in direct charitable giving and activities, to those focusing their talents as foot soldiers in philanthropic endeavors, to the “actorvist” who helps women see beauty differently, this group is contributing how and where they can.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Chris Bess

Executive Director, Global Publicity, Disney

Publicists are known for their skill at putting others in the spotlight, and Chris Bess has put that talent to work with foster youth at Kids in the Spotlight.

For the past eight years (mostly under Fox and now as a part of the Disney team), Bess has been volunteering his time for the children’s charity, which serves underprivileged youth living in the Los Angeles area foster care system by introducing them to the art of filmmaking. The program features instruction in screenwriting, acting, casting and editing — all taught by noted industry professionals. It cultivates teamwork, creativity and discipline resulting in a greater self-image, confidence and sense of accomplishment. Kids in the Spotlight provides a positive platform for foster youth to tell their stories.

“It brings together people who are in the entertainment industry — actors and directors — and they come to the various foster homes where kids participate in the program, and these kids are given a chance to write their scripts, to cast their films,” Bess said. “They work with the directors who shoot their films and then they edit them, and through that whole process they learn to communicate, work with others, build self-esteem — which is probably the biggest thing — and then when their films are done, the films are all registered with the Writers Guild, so they all get Writers Guild of America credit, and it just really gives them a chance to share their story.”

Bess supports the charity’s communications as well as playing an integral part in their fundraising and partnership marketing effort, including support for the Kids in the Spotlight film festival and awards presentation each year. This year’s annual awards took place Nov. 2 at Paramount Studios and was hosted by “Modern Family” star Ty Burrell.

“My wife and I foster parented,” Bess said. “We’ve foster parented two kids, and I started even in college just volunteering to help underprivileged youth. It’s something that is kind of near and dear to my heart, and what I love about this program is it kind of marries two things that I’m passionate about, entertainment — movies — and helping foster kids.”

 

David Bishop

Industry Veteran and Leadership Development Expert

Amy Jo Smith

President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group

Fighting hunger has long been a mission in the video industry, and home entertainment veteran David Bishop and the DEG’s Amy Jo Smith are continuing to carry that banner.

Bishop began working on the problem in the 1990s, in concert with star Jeff Bridges’ End Hunger Network. Out of that came the video industry initiative Fast Forward to End Hunger.

“We organized all the video stores around the country to raise money,” Bishop recalls. The program raised $20 million in three years, he said.

Later on, Bishop met a board member for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank who had learned of his work on hunger. He asked Bishop to join the board for the organization, which serves 300,000 people a month.

“One in seven people in Los Angeles County are what is described as food insecure,” Bishop said. “They have food, but it’s not sufficient. A lot of times people hear the name Food Bank and think it’s for homeless people or it’s a soup kitchen. This is actually a massive distribution center with trucks loaded with food from grocery stores in the area, from Walmart, from Starbucks.”

“It’s an enormous organization,” added Amy Jo Smith, who joined the board at Bishop’s request.

“I became chair of the board about three years ago, and we were looking for more passionate people to add to the board, and Amy Jo was at the top of my list,” Bishop said.

“It’s an enormous umbrella organization that feeds to food pantries, churches, temples and schools throughout L.A. County for people who are not necessarily, and most likely not, living on the streets — but food insecure,” she said. “As you have a good economy like we have right now you have higher rents. People have jobs, but they have higher rents. Toward the end of the month, there isn’t enough money left for food.”

The organization distributes food to different agencies around the county.

“It could be a small church; it can be massive food pantry,” Smith said.

Smith has volunteered in food distribution for the L.A. Regional Food Bank.

“It is done with such dignity,” she said.

In addition to volunteering, offering monetary aid is welcomed as well, noted Bishop.

“Donating money is really efficient in this organization; every dollar that is donated distributes enough food to feed four meals,” he said.

 

Sharon Blynn

Proofreader, Lionsgate

Sharon Blynn is an “actorvist,” writer and founder of Bald Is Beautiful, a women’s wholeness organization dedicated to ovarian cancer awareness and empowering women to define their beauty and femininity on their own terms — in sickness and in health. She has shared her Bald Is Beautiful message via her website baldisbeautiful.org, as an actor and all over the world as a public speaker, garnering honors such as the BraveHeart Courage Award, Revlon Role Model, Lifetime TV “Remarkable Woman” and Lilly Tartikoff/EIF Hope Award.

Blynn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer nearly two decades ago at 28. The disease made her question “what makes me a woman,” she said, especially when she lost her hair during treatments.

“My hair was my trademark,” Blynn recalled. “It was really like a big part of who I was. I was annoyed as a feminist. I was annoyed with myself for being so concerned about my hair.”

She started to question the way we define beauty.

“If you are going through a health thing that is going to alter your body, temporarily or permanently, we don’t have to, on top of that, deal with feeling ugly, frankly,” she said.

In 2002, she started the website to share her story and increase awareness of the disease — and she kept her bald look. She has never let her hair grow.

“I wanted to do something to change the paradigm, create a shift in how we perceive ourselves and how society defines what is a whole woman, what is beauty, what is femininity,” she said. She wanted to counteract the notion that “you’re not a whole woman if you don’t have this long, flowing hair,” she said.

Since then, she and her website have appeared in Glamour, Marie Claire and In Style, among other magazines. She’s also appeared on such TV shows as “Body of Proof,” “Shameless” and “Lie to Me,” and in the film Captain Marvel.

“I’m putting images out there that support women who don’t want to cover up their cancer journey to protect other people from their discomfort,” Blynn said.

Awareness of ovarian cancer and supporting research, via such organizations as the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, also are key goals.

“We don’t have a screening test even,” she said. “Other cancers have the advantage of early detection. Ovarian cancer, if it’s detected earlier, it’s a 90% survival rate. Only 22,000 women a year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, so that’s not a huge number compared to breast cancer or lung cancer, but out of those 22,000 women a year, 15,000 die because they don’t have early detection.”

 

Allison Ceppi

Director, Format Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Allison Ceppi has found a recipe for helping others.

“I have a culinary background,” she said. “I went to culinary school way back in my 20s and had worked in restaurants, and then ultimately decided that I didn’t really enjoy it.”

Fast forward several years and driving to work, she saw a Project Angel Food van and found the charity provides meals to critically ill patients who might not otherwise be able to have access to healthy food. The organization, first started to service those suffering from HIV/AIDS, now cooks and delivers more than 600,000 nutritious meals each year, free of charge, to the homes of those affected by all life-threatening illnesses. Every week, the organization serves 12,000 meals to 1,400 people in need from Metro, South and East L.A., as well as areas as far as Pomona, La Mirada, Long Beach and the Antelope Valley.

She decided to volunteer.

“I thought, ‘Well, this is perfect for me because I have this restaurant background,’” she recalls. “I went in and I found that everyone was super friendly and grateful, and it was just kind of a good time, versus working in an actual restaurant, which is really difficult and there’s a lot of pressure.”

Ceppi has done everything from cooking vats of rice and beans to cooking tofu stir fry for 30 people — all medically tailored to strict

guidelines in terms of fat and salt. She’s also organized a group from Universal to spend a day at Project Angel Food.

“They might just have you chopping onions for a couple of hours. Last time I was there, my job was to wipe the edges of the plastic tray before it goes into the sealer,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not that glamorous, but it doesn’t matter because it’s contributing to a larger mission.”

While she finds working on some of the fancier meals fun, she is happy “to put her pride aside” and use her experience to help others learn to navigate a kitchen.

“I feel a little bit like an elder,” she said.

But that’s not what drives her taste for volunteering.

“I like the idea of volunteering for volunteering’s sake or giving back to the community in a way that’s meaningful, but it doesn’t have to be running the show,” she said.

 

Nicole McLeod Coleman

SVP, Trade Marketing, Retail Planning and Theatrical Catalog, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Coleman is connected to the charity Autism Speaks via her vice chairmanship of the Southern California chapter, and also through her son, Jack, who was diagnosed with autism shortly before his 2nd birthday. She and her partner, Geri Bluerock, SVP at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (a Hero in Home Entertainment last year), have been working with the organization ever since.

“Rather than believing in a limitless future for our child, we prayed that he would be able to grow up to live independently,” Coleman wrote in a

recent letter to potential donors. “We felt helpless, sad and scared, but of course we didn’t sit idle. We began researching and networking, and as a result came across the Autism Speaks website, which provides a wealth of resources for those impacted by autism throughout the lifespan.”

In addition to the annual walk in Southern California, Coleman via the local chapter supports the national organization raising funds and giving grants to local agencies.

“The earlier days of the organization were focused on the diagnosis piece, the diagnosis at an early age because the outcomes are much better for kids the earlier they are diagnosed, and now that that seems to be much improved, it’s focusing on those that are reaching adulthood and developing resources and support in that area,” she said.

Warner recently co-hosted an event with KPMG where they brought in a number of companies that are employing people on the spectrum, and brought in those on the spectrum who are employed to help those like them looking for work.

Coleman in her donation letter wrote about Jack’s play with his twin sister, Alex, and how he is developing his skills in baseball.

“Jack is an avid Dodgers fan and plays baseball for Sherman Oaks Little League,” she wrote. “He is working with a private coach once a week and is developing into a pretty big hitter. He likes to pitch, dreams of playing in the major leagues, and plans to be an umpire when he retires. And while Jack still has a long road ahead of him, we remain very optimistic for his future.”

 

Garson Foos

Founder and CEO, Shout! Factory

Garson Foos has been working in the nonprofit world for much of his life, often mentoring and supporting kids in need. For the past seven years he has been volunteering his time and expertise to C5LA, an organization that works with under-resourced, inner-city L.A. youth to help them graduate from high school and go to college. The organization, with the motto “college in five years,” was founded by John Alm, former president and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises. Foos has served on the board, as board chairman and on the leadership committee.

Starting in the summer after middle school, 72 kids, chosen from about 800 applicants, go through their journey to college with C5LA.

“The summer after eighth grade they go to this camp in Wyoming for a month and have this incredible experience in the middle of nowhere,” Foos said. “It’s the first time most of them have gotten out of the city and have been in remote nature like that.”

In the following years, the kids do a 12-day wilderness backpacking trip after ninth grade, go on a college tour after 10th grade, go to live on a college campus after 11th grade, and live on a college campus again after 12th grade. During the process C5LA helps the kids with college applications and essays and instructs them on the basics of living in college.

“Most of them have to get jobs to support themselves while they’re in school, so they do mock job interviews,” Foos said. “This year I participated in that.”

Foos has also been to the Wyoming camp.

But C5LA is also more than a college-prep organization, he said.

“They become community for the kids who are often in troubled situations,” Foos said. “They can help them find resources. Some of them have been homeless. Most members of the staff are bilingual so that they can help the parents find resources that they need if they’re having issues with basic needs. It’s a point of expertise and community and stability in these people’s lives.”

The changes spearheaded by C5LA, which welcomes both individual and company involvement, are inspiring, Foos said. At events, the kids are encouraged to tell their stories.

“One girl in particular was from a family with a sibling who was a gang member and was from a really difficult home situation and talked about how this program really kind of saved her life,” Foos said. “She felt like if she wasn’t in the program, she’d probably be in a gang. There are just so many amazing stories. You hear these kids talk, and you’re in tears thinking about what they had to deal with and how they’re overcoming this adversity.”

 

Kristen Hermanson

Manager, Sales Administration, Paramount Home Entertainment

Kristen Hermanson supports a variety of causes by donating her time and energy. She has raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research at Children’s Hospital L.A. through her participation in the Malibu triathlon for more than four years.

Hermanson also volunteered for a week to support the AIDS/LifeCycle event, which raises money for HIV services. She served a critical role by camping alongside the riders and rising at 4 a.m. each day to prepare breakfast for all staff and participants, then resetting to feed everyone again come dinner time from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Finally, Hermanson has served faithfully during Viacommunity Day, Viacom’s companywide effort to serve the communities in which it operates. This past year, she was a task captain at the Paramount Ranch where she supervised a team of 10 to brighten up the Ranger Station. Always willing to roll up her sleeves, she and her team cleaned, painted and decorated to make the space more pleasant for the rangers.

“For me, to be able to give of my time and effort volunteering allows me to connect to a greater purpose, meet some amazing people and share in the success of knowing that I have helped to make life for someone else better,” she said.

 

Alan Meier

Publicist, Paramount Home Entertainment

Meier combines his love of outdoor activities with fundraising for causes he cares deeply about. In 2016 he began training for the AIDS/LifeCycle event, which raises funds for HIV services for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation. In 2017 he completed the 545-mile, week-long bike ride and followed it up that same summer with a fundraising hike in Buckskin Gulch, Utah, to raise funds for The Trevor Project.

In 2018, Meier raised funds for Bike Zambia, which donates money to Zambian charities that support HIV treatment and prevention, as well as economic and social support for women and girls. He rode 325 miles through the heart of Zambia, meeting with representatives from the charities along the way, as well as local citizens.

In 2019, Meier once again took on the AIDS/LifeCycle event and plans to continue his efforts in the years ahead as well as the Best Buddies Hearst Castle Challenge this year with a 62-mile bike ride to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I feel lucky to have been involved with fundraisers that foster a strong sense of community among the volunteers while the funds raised make such a demonstrable difference in people’s lives,” Meier said. “It’s made for some great experiences.”

 

Seda Melkoni

Production Planner, NBC Universal

It was an experience on a shoot in Armenia that would lead Seda Melkoni years later to raise donations for kids.

“One of the locations we were filming at was a very ancient temple, and in the morning after we finished our actual shooting day, it opened up to the public and a bunch of school field trips were pulling up,” she recalled. “I noticed one or two groups of schoolchildren came up to the entrance with their teachers and it looked like they were pretty much going to leave, and I asked what was going on. I guess it was new information to these schools that these tourist sites were now charging an entrance fee. These teachers couldn’t afford to pay for their entire class, and even these individual students, their families can’t afford to pay for field trips.”

Knowing they were from rural areas several hours drive away, and that they would go back disappointed, Melkoni asked and was allowed to pay for their tickets.

“It really wasn’t much at all in U.S. dollars,” she said. “It sorta got me thinking.”

Years later, at Universal she met a co-worker

who, like Melkoni was of Armenian descent and would send school supplies to a school she used to attend in the country where a friend was a teacher.

Melkoni looked at pictures of the school of about 500 students.

“There were leaky roofs, broken windows, and this is an area where it snows, so kids usually will make a circle around the heating unit in the classroom so they can stay warm in class during the winter,” she said.

She did some research and found help in the Paros Foundation, a nonprofit founded to help people in Armenia. She is now raising funds through Paros to help fix that school. All of the donations go to the projects, as the founder pays administrative expenses for the charity.

“It’s something we take for granted here,” she said. “We send our kids to school and don’t worry about them ever being cold or not having windows that shut.”

As co-chair for the studio’s Women’s Network SuperMoms group, Melkoni also helps kids at home, creating donation bins for the Baby2Baby organization at the group’s events.

“Being a parent myself and having kids in schools, I think we’re fortunate here,” she said. “Just by dedicating a little bit of time and resources, we could kind of spread those resources to places that need it most.”

 

Rema Morgan-Aluko

Director, Software Engineering, Fandango

With more than 15 years of experience in technology, engineering leadership and software development, Rema Morgan-Aluko heads up the technology group for Fandango’s transactional VOD service, FandangoNow.

In pursuit of her goal to improve diversity and inclusion across the technology industry, she co-founded Fandango’s TECHWomen chapter, which aims to advance opportunities for female technologists within the company and beyond. In her spare time, Morgan-Aluko mentors in the community and hosts additional workshops to inspire young women to pursue technical career paths. Morgan-Aluko hosted two all-day tech workshops with the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA), an all-girls, STEM-focused school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Girls Build, an initiative of L.A. Promise Fund, for young women in public middle and high schools. At Girls Build, girls learn the principles of the software development lifecycle, receive one-on-one mentoring with employees from all technical disciplines and engage in hands-on activities to put in practice what they have learned.

She also participated in the City of STEM event, helping create a simple programming logic game for more than 100 kids ages 5-12 and providing hands-on coaching to help the girls during the course of the game.

Morgan-Aluko partnered with the Los Angeles chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s Delta Academy group, facilitating and teaching a six-month intro to STEM careers course to girls ages 8-14 on Saturdays.

“When I was starting out, I was struggling to find a mentor, someone who I could not only lean on for guidance, but someone with a story and a background I could personally resonate with,” she recalled. “Now that I’m further along in my career, I have responsibility to be an example and mentor for those who come after me. I believe that sentiment is shared by other leaders I work with. That’s why we started Fandango’s TECHWomen chapter, to help women navigate barriers and build a community where they can thrive. It’s gratifying to see many talented women, entry level and senior execs, working together for the same goal, the same vibe. It’s also rewarding to pay it forward, beyond the company, and help foster a passion in STEM for young girls.”

 

Lori Nakama

Director, Creative Services, Paramount Home Entertainment

Nakama’s volunteer work includes a wide range of organizations and programs benefiting children, animals and people of color. Within Paramount, she has devoted hundreds of hours of her time to the studio’s Kindergarten to Cap & Gown mentoring program, offering encouragement to students over the past four years, one of whom will graduate from Woodbury University this spring with a degree in graphic design.

She has also been highly active in Viacommunity Day as a site leader, taking special needs students to the California Science Center, hosting third graders for a screening and afternoon of arts and crafts, and taking high school students on tours of UCLA and USC.

Nakama additionally co-chairs the Asian Media Professionals employee resource group, which organizes events at Viacom Hollywood, Nickelodeon and Paramount.

Outside of Paramount, she has volunteered and raised funds for the APEX Wolf Sanctuary, the Stray Cat Alliance and the Westside German Shepard Rescue. She also volunteered at the Asian American Pacific Islander Film Festival and the East West Players, a theater company for people of color.

Finally, Nakama has participated in the AIDS Walk for four years, as well as the 2016 Triathlon, which raised money for Children’s Hospital L.A.

“My grandmother used to say you show your happiness by smiling — so if doing something can make someone else smile, I’m in and hope to spread some happiness,” Nakama said. “Lucky to work for a company that supports it and have family and friends who feel the same way.”

 

Glenn Ross

EVP and GM, Universal 1440 Entertainment

Home entertainment veteran Glenn Ross has found a way to pay forward some of the knowledge he’s garnered over his many decades in the industry — and draw on his artistic talents.

A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (now called the University of the Arts) before embarking on his career, Ross has found an artistic connection with those he helps both young and old.

Through NBC Universal initiatives “Young Story Tellers” and “Story to Stage” he mentors elementary kids on how to bring their ideas to life.

“Young Story Tellers” is a one-day session with fifth or sixth graders in which he helps them create a poster and logline for a story of their own and present it. “Story to Stage” is an eight-week program to help the mentee write a five-page script.

“We are basically taking down their ideas,” he said. “They’re writing it. We’re not writing it. We talk to them about the structure of a script.”

The process culminates in a performance for fellow schoolmates and parents.

“After the script is written, we bring in actors and the kids cast,” he said. “The actors immediately after that will perform the script with the scripts in their hands.”

Ross relishes bringing out the creative spark in these kids.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s very gratifying to them to see their ideas come to life,” he said. “I’ve had kids that don’t want to talk, but after a week or two the stuff that comes out of them is phenomenal.”

Meanwhile, at Temple Israel of Hollywood, he’s found a way to connect with the older generation through the Sages program.

“They will match us up with somebody who is older, maybe they’re not as mobile, maybe they don’t have as big a social network,” he said. “And once a month, I meet this woman, and I’m not sure who gets more out of it, me or her, but we go to lunch together, and we talk about all kinds of things. It turns out, she used to run an art gallery. I still paint and I brought her some of my artwork to look at, and she’s commenting on it and it’s something that I enjoy a lot.”

Ross is also involved in another mentorship program, “Minds Matter,” for those just starting their careers.

“I’ve been really lucky in my life and in my career and a few years ago, I just decided I need to do more to say thank you to the world for this,” Ross said. “You get so caught up in achieving that sometimes you forget there’s a whole world out there that you have the skill set to help, and I think that’s what it’s really all about.”

 

Kurt Schroeder

SVP, Distributive Retail and Rental for Home Entertainment Packaged Goods, Lionsgate

Anyone who has ever talked to Kurt Schroeder knows he’s a jovial, kind guy, but it was an unintentional unkindness that pushed him to take a plunge.

“This is not something I’m very proud of. I used the ‘R’ word in front of a friend of mine, and it offended her,” he recalls. “She has a special needs child.

“In a conversation to someone else who said they were challenged about getting something done, I said, ‘What are you, retarded?’ And she looked at me and she was offended, and I could see that she was, and it hurt me because I try to think of myself as being better than that. And I apologized, but I really didn’t think that covered it, and I wanted to do something to suggest that I understood.”

Thus, began Schroeder’s plunge into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan in support of the Chicago chapter of the Special Olympics, which puts on a sports competition for those with intellectual disabilities. Over five years, wearing various costumes, including a polar bear head, he’s raised about $25,000.

“My friends were very generous toward my fundraising efforts,” he said. “The colder it was going to be the morning of the plunge, the larger the donation. Friends enjoy watching friends suffer — if just for a moment.”

Even with single-digit temps with wind chill, Schroeder took it in stride.

“I was not really challenged by the cold water as much as other people,” he said. “I have a face for radio and a body for cold water.”

Dipping into the freezing water, he wore the names of two kids who participate in the Special Olympics, Maddy and Lila, children of his friends.

“They’re part of the support,” he said. “I’m carrying them into the water.”

It’s a cause that means more to the kids than just a sports competition.

“Special Olympics to me gives children the opportunity to participate in sports in a setting that they can develop confidence and learn about sportsmanship and physical health, and it improves their quality of life and it helps them believe in themselves,” he said.

Schroeder has also previously volunteered for the Starlight Foundation, which grants wishes to ill kids — of course, dressing up again, as Santa Claus.

“I don’t [have kids], but a challenged child to me … I’ve been unbelievably lucky in every aspect of life and when I see a challenged kid, it makes me thankful for what I have, and it creates a desire to share it, to do something for somebody else,” he said.

Follow us on Instagram!

Netflix Employees Volunteer for Children’s Hospital Group

In a time of giving, Netflix employees in November raised money for Extra Life, a nonprofit that empowers video game enthusiasts to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

The group raises funds and awareness for 170 member hospitals that provide 32 million treatments each year to kids across the U.S. and Canada. Donations stay local to fund critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care.

Brian Moyles, who has worked for eight years as a software engineer at Netflix in Los Gatos, Calif., organized the first Netflix Extra Life event in 2016. Moyles was inspired by his family’s own health scare in 2015 when his then 7-month-old daughter was unexpectedly diagnosed with a heart rhythm disorder and had to be sedated and placed on a heart bypass machine.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The girl remained hospitalized in the ICU at Stanford Children’s Hospital for the next two months, during which time her vocal chords were inadvertently paralyzed and she had to be fed via a gastric feeding tube. It took several months for her to recover fully.

“We’re now four years down the road and everything has been clear since,” Moyles said in a company blog post.

Moyles said the ordeal changed him and his family’s outlook on the impact medical emergencies can have on children and their families.

Follow us on Instagram

“Netflix, more so than any organization I’ve worked for, provides an incredible amount of freedom and autonomy in exchange for trust and responsibility,” he said.

Extra Life has become an annual event at Netflix. Last year, it raised more than $25,000. It reached $32,000 in 2019, involving about 100 employees, friends and family members across multiple office locations.

“This is real important work that’s going on here — the kind that changes people’s lives forever,” research analyst Austin Smith said. “It’s our hope that in some way, our event and our contribution will be used to ease someone’s pain on the most difficult day of their life.”

Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City reportedly used its Extra Life donations to purchase an Xbox One X for every patient room.

“Having a company like Netflix contribute to CMN Hospitals is absolutely invaluable to our mission’s success,” said Julia Saxton, Children’s Miracle Network Program Director at Primary Children’s Hospital.

Saxton said that in addition to funding, Netflix sent a message of support to the children and families.

Moyles says the Extra Life has helped him connect with employees in other departments and offices.

“It’s a lot of work but it ends up being a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve gotten to meet and work with amazing people throughout the company I likely would not have otherwise, and it feels good to be able to help those in need and affect change.”

This report is based on a post from Kate Stanhope with the Netflix communications team.

Heroes in Home Entertainment 2018

With this special section Media Play News is honoring the home entertainment industry’s givers, a select number of home entertainment industry members who are known for their charitable work. From an assistant who gathers the team to help families during the holidays, to executives who have transformed their personal struggles into charity involvement, these heroes are making a difference.

 

Geri Bluerock

SVP, U.S. Sales, Planning and Reporting, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

(L-R): Geri Bluerock and son Jack with friends at the Autism Speaks Walk.

In 2011, Geri Bluerock’s son, Jack, was diagnosed with autism, shortly before his second birthday. “So much has happened over the past seven years, but it still feels like yesterday,” says Bluerock. “I recall feeling numb, then sad and scared, but I also remember immediately researching online and coming across the Autism Speaks website and accessing the 100 Day Kit. Having a guidebook as we embarked on this journey gave us direction and hope during a very difficult period in our lives. The journey has been filled with trials and tribulations, hard work and dedication, but most of all joy, pride and wonder.”

To help others with their journeys, Bluerock and her family are actively involved with Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization that sponsors autism research and conducts awareness and outreach activities aimed at families, governments and the public. “Autism Speaks helped us navigate a critical part of this experience,” Bluerock says. “And, as such, we’ve been committed to doing our part to raise funds and awareness by supporting their annual walk and fundraisers — with an ongoing commitment to supporting the families and improving the lives of those on the spectrum.

“Jack is an example of what amazing progress can be made with early intervention and consistent therapy from school to home. Many lack the resources and wherewithal to advocate for and support their child.  Autism Speaks strives to provide tools and resources to enable everyone impacted by Autism to reach their maximum potential.

“I want every child and parent to feel as blessed as we do as we look back at Jack’s progress and the optimism we feel for his future.”

 

Evan Fitzgerald

Finance Team, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Back home in Indiana, Evan Fitzgerald — for the past three years a member of the finance team at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment — was a cheerful volunteer at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. It started when he was an undergraduate at Indiana University, and through a student philanthropic group was invited to participate in a 36-hour dance marathon fundraiser. “What really made it special was the families and children coming to the event and telling everyone their stories,” he says. Many of the children were coming in for surgery, or suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments, he says, “and what they strive for most is a sense of normalcy, a sense of just being a child.”

Evan Fitzgerald (left) with a fellow volunteer.

After moving to Los Angeles in 2015, Fitzgerald says, he was looking for similar volunteer opportunities and soon joined a program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, a nonprofit, pediatric academic medical center in East Hollywood. There, he routinely pops in to visit the hospital’s young patients, just to bring them a stack of coloring books and crayons — “or maybe some pizza and music for a makeshift dance party, or face-painting; anything to take them away from the idea of being in a hospital,” he says.

Fitzgerald remembers one young girl, about 5, “the same age as my niece,” who was about to undergo surgery for a tumor. She was shy and withdrawn — “you could tell being in the hospital was really weighing on her mind,” he says — but gradually she began to open up. “I still remember sitting with her while she was drawing in her coloring book, just holding my hand,” he says. “It was just a super-special moment. It’s important to remember that despite what they may be going through, at the end of the day these are children, and all they want to do is play and laugh and be silly and explore and do all the things every child wants to do. And to walk out of there and know you’ve provided them with a bright spot, it’s just an incredibly rewarding experience.”

 

Tyler Halstead

Senior Manager of Global Business Development, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Tyler Halstead with his grandmother, who was one of the people who inspired him to launch the Melanoma Angel Network.

Tyler Halstead launched a global nonprofit called “The Melanoma Angel Network,” a group focused on supporting the friends, families, caregivers and loved ones of cancer patients.

Halstead’s inspiration for the nonprofit stems from the loss of his mother as well as the desire to create a community of support for the next generation of teenagers going through the loss of a loved one or parent with cancer.

“I spent most of my childhood and teenage life trying to live normally, all while knowing my mom was dying of cancer,” Halstead says. “Rather than deny the inevitable, my family chose to rally together to battle her cancer collectively.”

In creating his foundation, Halstead quickly learned that cancer is more than just a “patient” struggle, with family members, friends, caregivers and loved ones drawn together to help and seek comfort in simply being together.

While his mother was dying of cancer, Halstead says he didn’t want to be viewed as a victim or different. Instead, his close-knit community of well-wishers intervened in daily life with a warm plate, a hug, and most importantly, an understanding ear.

“We understood each other, we trusted one another, and collectively we were strong in the face of cancer,” Halstead says. “For me, this group would come to be known as the ‘Angel network,’ and the goal of my charity is to reimagine and recreate this sense of community — on a global scale, so that everyone can feel as blessed and supported as I was.”

 

Mark Horak

Founder, Los Angeles Entertainment Summit

In 2011, while an executive at Warner Home Video, Mark Horak had an idea to develop an event that would have a meaningful business purpose while raising funds for charity. He took that idea to the Entertainment Merchants Association, and the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit was born in July 2011, with business meetings, a golf tournament and a Warner lot party. That annual event continues, benefiting the Southern California Chapter, Los Angeles, of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, for which Horak serves as chairman of the advisory board. In addition to providing the leading forum for the industry, under Horak’s leadership the LAES has raised, directly and indirectly, almost $2 million for the Southern California chapter of the CFF (cff.org/LosAngeles). The proceeds fund drug development and treatments, as well as other assistance to those with the disease.

“It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart,” says Horak.

(L-R): Melissa, Michelle and Mark Horak speak at the 2017 Los Angeles Entertainment Summit.

Two of his three daughters have CF, and, in part thanks to new advances expanding life expectancy, Melissa, 31, and Michelle, 29, are thriving. But they, like many others, face new challenges. In the late 1980s those with CF were only expected to live into their teen years. With new drugs that reduce the severity of colds, which can turn into pneumonia, and that improve lung and digestive functions, life expectancy has expanded into the mid-40s, opening up a new set of problems for those with CF.

“Our emphasis has shifted somewhat from raising money for drug development to providing advocacy for people with the disease who are living longer,” Horak says. “Now they face new challenges, like jobs, health care expenses and family counseling.”

Horak is working on encouraging more in the industry to join the cause — and join events such as a golf tournament.

“We’re trying to attract a new group of young professionals in the entertainment business who can bring their talents in helping us with these issues of advocacy and fundraising,” he says.

The benefits go not only to the charity, but to those who give as well, he notes.

“Everyone has someone that they know who has a cause or needs help, and to contribute your time and talent can be very rewarding emotionally, spiritually and intellectually,” Horak says.

 

Omaira Jesus

Coordinator, Sales Development, Sony Pictures Entertainment

With the evolution of life-saving drugs and greater public awareness, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have disappeared from the headlines.

At the 2016 AIDS Walk in Los Angeles, (L-R) friend Milly Bigay, Omaira Jesus, sister Candy Jesus and nephew Marley Jesus.

But to Omaira Jesus, the disease is personal. Her cousin Elvira “Bibi” Cuevas lost her battle with AIDS 15 years ago — at the age of 19. Cuevas was infected through a blood transfusion when she was just an infant in the early ’80s.

“One of my most important accomplishments is being co-captain of AIDS Walk team ‘Bibi Juice,’” Jesus says. “Our team, made up of family and friends, was founded back in 2003 and continues to be about promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and education.”

In 2013, the 10th anniversary of Cuevas’ passing, Jesus and extended family participated in all three AIDS walks that year — New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, raising about $5,200.

“I had promised my Godparents (Bibi’s parents) that her journey would never be forgotten, and on Dec. 1, 2013, (World AIDS Day) that promise came true when Bibi’s name was added to The Wall La Memorias AIDS Monument in Lincoln Heights,” Jesus says. “This journey has taught me the true meaning of being a team player, making great allies, giving back and giving a voice to those who need it the most.”

Indeed, speaking for the voiceless has become an ongoing passion for Jesus. As current president of VOZ, an employment business resource group at Sony Pictures, Jesus has represented the under-served Latino community in Hollywood.

“As the VOZ president, I’ve had the pleasure to speak to students from local schools, participate in toy drives for local organizations and DVD drives for our troops. I have truly enjoyed helping and giving back,” she says.

 

Jason Kassin

CEO, FilmTrack

Several years ago, Jason Kassin’s 8-year-old son Conrad seemed to be wasting away, but finally he and his wife, Sasha, had an answer: Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder associated with inflammation of the digestive tract.

“We knew so little about it,” he says. “We were lost, really lost, so we got involved.”

(L-R): Conrad, Sasha, Thea and Jason Kassin.

Kassin and his wife, whose son is now going on 17, hooked up with the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation in 2011. Since then, Kassin and his family have been active volunteers for the foundation, raising more than $150,000. Kassin joined the foundation’s Los Angeles Board in 2016.

In addition to offering education and funding for research, the foundation supports Camp Oasis, a summer camp that helps kids deal with their medical issues — which may involve colostomy bags and other difficulties — while enjoying the usual camp experience.

“It’s a disease that a lot of people don’t want to talk about,” Kassin says. His son has had to have part of his colon removed. Sufferers “know what it feels like to be in real pain,” he says.

Funding provides full-time medical staff to assist the campers should they have an issue. In addition to considerations such as colostomy bags, many have special dietary needs.

“It’s a space that understands the particulars of what they’re dealing with,” he says.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation underwrites more than 60% of expenses to send each child to camp. Families who are able to do so pay a fee of either $400 to $200 to defray the cost of the camp experience.

For those who cannot afford the camp, the foundation offers a scholarship program. It is the policy of the foundation that no child ever be turned away because they cannot afford the fee.

Kassin, whose family ran a camp in the Catskills in New York when he was growing up, is happy his son has been able to enjoy that camp experience.

“He’s made lifelong friends there,” Kassin says.

Kassin recently was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease himself, cardiac sarcoidosis. His experience with his son has helped him be more “emotionally mature” about his own problems, he says.

“They always say the best way to be helped is to help others,” he says. “I’m actually magically helping myself.”

 

Joy Moh

Director of Worldwide Publicity, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Joy Moh gives something more valuable than money to charity: her time.

Moh (left) and a fellow volunteer at the annual Make-a-Wish Walk for Wishes at the L.A. Coliseum.

Moh has extensive volunteer experience with local community outreach, including leading the Los Angeles Chapter of Philanthro Productions, a national organization focusing on young professional giving. She was on the board of the former Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce before starting business school at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Moh has been a wish granter and Mandarin translator with Make-a-Wish Foundation Los Angeles for the past eight years. She also volunteers with CAPE, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, to help champion Asian-Americans in entertainment.

“As a Gold Award Girl Scout, volunteer leadership has always been in my blood,” Moh says. “When I graduated from college, I was just starting in the entertainment industry and didn’t have many funds to donate, but I did have a lot of time.”

Moh quickly noticed a lack of general awareness about which nonprofits are efficient, transparent, sustainable and worthy of the donation of time and effort.

“Philanthro was my first endeavor in volunteer leadership, as the organization focused on throwing events partnering incredible nonprofits, such as 826LA, Fisher House and Chrysalis L.A., with young professionals,” she says.

Regardless, talk is cheap to Moh, who considers the impact a charity has on its mission goal a priority to her giving — which is why Make-a-Wish makes the grade.

“The immediate and tangible results are you can see a child’s life change with every wish granted,” she says. “At Make-a-Wish, I have been able to witness the life-changing work the organization does for each family. I have been told many times that a child has gone through treatment knowing they would see their wish granters later that day. Although it may not seem like a big deal, each wish has the ability to impact a family forever.”

 

Socorro Oseguera

Senior Analyst, Sales, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Socorro Oseguera has worked with nonprofit organizations in a variety of capacities for nearly three decades.

She has spent the past 17 years working with the Burbank Coordinating Council on their annual Holiday Basket Project, the latest incarnation of an all-volunteer program that has served the Burbank community for more than 80 years.

Since 1996, the Holiday Basket Project has provided food and gifts to low-income, at-risk and homeless families. More than 2,500 volunteers provide assistance to more than 2,400 recipients, making it the largest service project in the city of Burbank.

Oseguera has served on the project’s steering committee and is in charge of storing, sorting and bagging food collected from three citywide food drives each year. She helped implement a computer program to match donors with recipients throughout the city.

She also works year-round to sort and label all clothing and toy donations. On delivery day in December she coordinates with drivers to deliver the food and gifts directly to their intended families.

In addition to her efforts with the Holiday Basket Project, Oseguera handles logistics and coordination for the annual luncheon fundraiser that raises money for the Burbank Coordinating Council and their “Coins for Camp” program that allows underprivileged children to attend summer camp every year.

Previously, Oseguera spent 12 years volunteering for charitable endeavors while also serving in the Navy. As a Navy veteran, she works with Fundraising for Veterans to organize their silent auction.

She also works with Family Promise, organizing community relations with daycare centers, churches and the YMCA for families in need.

In her spare time, Oseguera volunteers as a consultant for her son’s Boy Scout troop, advising on fundraising strategies.

 

Sue Procko

President, The Procko Group Inc.

Veteran publicist Sue Procko has been involved with industry charities for more than two decades. From 1992 through 2017, Procko worked in various capacities with the Video Industry AIDS Action Committee (later called the Entertainment AIDS Alliance and this year renamed the Entertainment Aid Alliance), serving on the board and as president. She was inspired to join the AIDS charity when a friend passed away, she says.

“We had to take up a collection to bury him because his parents wouldn’t have anything to do with him,” she recalls.

The charity has helped countless people with hospice, living expenses and other assistance. Procko’s brother contracted the disease in 1995 and is alive today thanks to new drugs.

Sue Procko (left) with Tina Grimmie, mother of Christina Grimmie.

Her latest mission is as secretary and board member of the Christina Grimmie Foundation, named after “The Voice” star tragically shot and killed at age 22 while signing autographs in 2016. Procko got to know “and fell in love with” the Grimmie family, who founded the charity, having worked on Stadium Media’s romantic comedy The Matchmaker, starring the singer.

The organization has a dual mission, to provide aid to families of gun violence victims and to support breast cancer patients and their families. Grimmie’s mother died of the disease this past September.

In addition to helping victims of the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting in 2017, the foundation assisted six of the 12 victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last month, offering help with travel and funeral expenses within the first 10 days. Government and other grants to shooting victims are often restricted and slow in coming, but the foundation’s funds are unrestricted, allowing for a quick response all the more remarkable as a massive wildfire plagued the area shortly afterward.

“We literally can cut a check in 48 hours,” Procko says.

The foundation (christinagrimmiefoundation.org) raises funds in part through two annual events: an annual gala in Hollywood in September and an East Coast event, taking place next year on March 9 in New Jersey.

Procko encourages others to give of their time and money.

“It doesn’t have to be with a large organization,” she says. “Everybody needs a little help now and again, to know that somebody else is there.”

 

Galen Smith

CEO, Redbox

When top executives get involved in charities, their involvement generally consists of sitting on the board of one or two nonprofits. They attend fundraising dinners, shake a lot of hands and pose for pictures.

That description most certainly does not fit Galen Smith, the CEO of Redbox, the No. 1 disc-rental company and one of the Big Eight digital retailers. Based in Seattle, Smith — and his family — are actively involved in more than half a dozen charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Alaska and Washington, which grants wishes to children with critical illnesses; Operation Nightwatch, which fights poverty and homelessness; WACAP, one of the largest international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies; and The Exodus Road, a nonprofit that specializes in staging rescues from alleged human trafficking.

“For Make-a-Wish and WACAP we purchase tables to their gala auctions and we invite our friends to expose them to the great work that these organizations are doing and hopefully help them catch a vision for how they might have an impact through being involved themselves,” Smith says. “We set up a number of endowed scholarships at several of the schools we went to. And each year we volunteer at Northwest Harvest to package food that will be given away during the holidays.” (Northwest Harvest distributes food to a network of more than 370 food banks, meal programs, and high-need schools throughout Washington state.)

For the CEO of one of the home entertainment industry’s top companies, that’s a lot on the proverbial plate. But Smith, a native of Olympia, Wash., insists it’s just what he does — and who he is.

“I spent the first nine years of my professional career working as a fundraiser for two organizations: the YMCA of Greater Seattle and Wheaton College,” Smith says. “It really helped shape my view of the world and the opportunity to give back and help those in need.”

Giving back is a responsibility his family takes very seriously “in light of all we have been given,” he says. “We center our giving and support where we feel we can make the most impact — at our church and through nonprofits that support women, children, education and the homeless.”

 

Nantalie Song

Senior Director of Marketing, FandangoNow

(L-R): Nantalie, Emi, Young and Micah Song at the October 2018 Together is Better Walkathon.

Nantalie Song and her husband, Young, director of business development and digital distribution at NBCUniversal, were vacationing in Hawaii when they got the news that their 1-year-old daughter Emi — who had been genetically tested after experiencing some developmental delays — has Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition occurring once in every 691 babies born.

“We were in disbelief,” Nan Song says.

Emi, now 4, has the rare mosaic form, affecting only 2% of people with Down syndrome. While people with Down syndrome have an extra copy (three) of chromosome 21 in all their cells, people with mosaic Down syndrome have a mixture of cells, some with two copies of chromosome 21, and some with three.

“The news rocked our world,” she recalls. “We didn’t know what it meant, and only imagined the scary possibilities of what would be our new normal.”

Luckily, they found Club 21 (clubtwentyone.org) and were welcomed by the open arms of its “amazing” executive director Nancy Litteken, she says. Club 21 is a learning and resources center for individuals with Down syndrome and their families that coincidentally is located in Pasadena, Calif., where the Songs live, but draws families from all over Southern California. From first diagnosis onward, Club 21 empowers families to identify the needs of their child with Down syndrome and teaches them how to navigate the terrain of the medical, educational, and Regional Center systems to maximize their child’s potential. Through its educational pathway, Club 21 is changing the narrative of Down syndrome and opening doors so that individuals with Down syndrome can be fully included and live healthy, self-determined and fulfilling lives.

“It’s not a death sentence nor a disease,” Song says. “It doesn’t mean a poor quality of life. Emi will achieve typical milestones at her own pace, and in her unique way. She’s 4, and she still needs some assistance walking, but the point is, she’ll get there.”

In fact, this year in October Emi showed off her walking skills at Club 21’s biggest fundraiser: the annual Together is Better Walkathon. She was able to the walk the circuit herself, with the force of “Team Emi” fans around her, walking in solidarity to raise awareness of Down syndrome. Team Emi has helped raise more than $35,000 to keep Club 21 programs running for families in need.

“The desire to give back and to be inclusive is the essence of our community,” Song says. “I feel grateful to Club 21 because a lot of people go through it feeling alone.”

Of their daughter Emi, the Songs say, “She teaches us patience; she’s a game changer. We live our life more appreciative of the little everyday things.”

 

Brittany Williams

Senior Manager, Trade Marketing, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Brittany Williams (right) volunteering at a recent community outreach event.

Brittany Williams has spent seven years working with Treasures, an organization that seeks to reach, restore and equip women and girls in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking to live healthy, flourishing lives, and to train others across the globe to do the same in their communities.

She became invested in fighting human trafficking after discovering 70% of female sex workers have been trafficked into the commercial sex industry. According to statistics posted on the Treasures website, 89% of women in the sex industry want out but see no other means of survival. Treasures offers a way out, plus aftercare in the Los Angeles area.

Williams serves on Treasures’ leadership team, and offers her skills and resources to provide oversight on marketing, branding, communications and event planning. She leads the annual fundraising gala and charity auction, obtaining corporate and celebrity endorsements, while managing a team of more than 50 volunteers.

 

Teresa Woodberry

Administrative Assistant, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Teresa Woodberry has been an administrative assistant at what is now called Universal Pictures Home Entertainment for 33 years. She joined when the division was run by Louis Feola and Andrew Kairey, remained on board during the Craig Kornblau years and now assists three executives in the team headed by Eddie Cunningham.

Teresa Woodberry organizes charitable activities at Universal.

But as committed as she is to her daily responsibilities at UPHE, Woodberry has also long been committed to the notion of “giving back.” For more than 15 years, she’s inspired and motivated her teammates to adopt needy families through A Place Called Home, which on its website describes itself as “a safe haven in South Central Los Angeles where under-served youth are empowered to take ownership of the quality and direction of their lives through programs in education, arts, and well-being.” Woodberry and crew make sure the family is well taken-care of; one year, she recalls, they even provided a family of seven with bunk beds, “because while they had a home, they had no place to sleep.”

This year, A Place Called Home had no family for Woodberry and her team to adopt, so “Momma Tess” — that’s what her colleagues call her — reached out to Children’s Hospital and is mounting a toy drive. Woodberry also volunteers her time each week as an usher at the Harmony Mission Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles, despite the long drive from her home in Santa Clarita.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping the less fortunate,” says Woodberry, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles after moving out west from Michigan when she was 6. “I’m just drawn to helping people, I think because I was raised in a single-parent home. I lost my dad when I was 8, so it was just my mom, who had to raise three kids herself — so I know how tough life can be sometimes and want to do what I can to help.”

 

Yolanda Wu

Executive Assistant, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Yolanda Wu helps fundraising activities at St. Robert Church, where her son serves as an altar boy. She also helps out in fundraising at her son’s school, where she’s a booster member.

Outside of church, she works with Family Promise to spearhead efforts to plan, coordinate and distribute meals to homeless families.

Wu galvanized the support of Warner Bros. Consumer Products during the holidays, using donations to assemble gift packages for needy families.

She is also involved in the Burbank recycling community, where she finds ways to recycle, reduce and cut costs. Wu has become a “master recycler,” earning the right to select specific community projects.

This year, she is responsible for implementing a food share program that allows children to “recycle” any food that they have not consumed during their lunch or breakfast hour. The idea is to gather the clean, unopened food and reduce food waste in schools. The program launched at various Burbank-area elementary schools and will expand to middle schools next year.

Dish to Give $1 per Dish Anywhere App Download in December to Toys for Tots

Dish has launched a holiday-giving initiative called “Dollars for Downloads” to benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Program. For every Dish Anywhere app that customers download to compatible devices this December, DISH will donate $1 to Toys for Tots, helping the organization in its mission of delivering toys and books to underserved children, according to the company.

“We’re excited to partner with Toys for Tots and give back to the communities Dish customers know and love,” said Jay Roth, Dish chief marketing officer, in a statement. “By simply downloading the free Dish Anywhere app, our customers can join us in supporting the holiday dreams of thousands of children this season.”

Dish Anywhere is a free app that gives customers the ability to watch their live and recorded content, as well as thousands of on-demand titles, from any location on internet-connected mobile devices, including smart phones, tablets and computers, and televisions via Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, according to Dish.

“Some folks may not realize that when you sign up for Dish, it’s like you’re getting two different subscriptions — the most reliable TV experience from the comfort of your living room, as well as the ability to watch your live and recorded programs and stream on-demand content via our DISH Anywhere app,” said Roth in a statement. “Downloading our free app this holiday season helps to spread joy to thousands of Toys for Tots kids, with the added benefit of access to TV while on-the-go at places like malls and airports.”

Toys for Tots has been delivering toys, books and other gifts to disadvantaged children since 1947. The program distributes an average of 18 million gifts annually and has given to more than 251 million children across 800 communities nationwide in its 71-year history.

“Dollars for Downloads” is a DISH Cares initiative, supporting the program’s focus on military support and youth empowerment, according to Dish. Dish employees participate in holiday toy drives at its Denver headquarters and nationwide satellite offices through Dish Cares, donating thousands of gifts to children and seniors each year, according to the company.

Sony Teams With Firefighter Charity on ‘Only the Brave’

To help support firefighters like those depicted in the film Only the Brave, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is teaming with the social change platform Pixhug to raise up to $100,000 for the Granite Mountain Fund, an organization that drives donations to support firefighters.

Pixhug and its sponsor, TheBayFestival.org, kicked off the nationwide initiative with a $50,000 donation. In an effort to double the donation, fans are invited to turn their “likes” into money to support firefighters. The Pixhug app turns “likes” into donations, giving everyone the power to make a difference simply by sharing and liking photos and videos. With every photo posted to the Pixhug social platform users can then choose a charitable campaign to donate all their likes to, such as the Granite Mountain Fund. Every like is worth 10 cents, and the money is donated by TheBayFestival.org.

“With the inspiring and heroic effort to battle recent horrific wildfires and mudslides in California, we are thankful for organizations such as the Granite Mountain Fund that offer support for firefighters, first responders, and their families,” said Hans Koch, executive producer of TheBayFestival.org, in a statement. “Only the Brave is an emotionally captivating film that speaks to the dangers of the brave firefighters the Granite Mountain Fund hopes to support with this important social campaign.”

“We have reached an exciting point in time where a powerful story, like the one told in Only the Brave, not only depicts a real-life event but, through Pixhug, allows its audience to engage with and support the cause alongside the stars of the movie,”  said Mido DeSanti, founder and CEO of PixHug staid in a statement.

To use the Pixhug app to support the Granite Mountain Fund:
1. Download the Pixhug app from the iTunes store or Google Play
2. Select the “Only the Brave” campaign
3. Tap “Support this cause”
4. Take a photo and post it on Pixhug and Facebook and the sponsor will donate 10 cents for every like

Granite Mountain Fund, the philanthropic initiative of the film Only the Brave, drives donations to support firefighting as well as the towns and families connected to and impacted by their work. Donations for The Granite Mountain Fund will benefit the following organizations: Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Eric Marsh Foundation, Kevin Woyjeck Explorers Foundation, Prescott Firefighter’s Charities, California Fire Foundation and Carry the Load.

Only the Brave, available now on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and Digital, is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that gave their lives to protect their community.