During Voluntern 2015 we debuted a new interactive, people’s choice award for Voluntern: New England Aquarium’s Unsung Hero Award.

According to Wikipedia, an unsung hero is, “One who does great deeds but receives little or no recognition for them.” Through the NEAq Unsung Hero Award, we hope to acknowledge a few tried and true volunteers who generally fly under our radar and may not otherwise receive specialized recognition during Voluntern 2016.

Launched in memory of John Masterson, a volunteer who served more than a decade before receiving his first formal accolade, the award is presented to individuals whom best embody the following traits:

• Unsung: The individual has not been formally recognized (outside of the hours based service pins & years recognition) by NEAq within the last 5 years.
• Consistent: Someone that staff members feel can always be counted on. They are reliable in attendance and deliver high quality results without fault
• Team player: Someone that is always ready to lend a hand to benefit departmental goals and is pleasurable to work with
• Passionate: Someone who is excited about and engaged in the mission and work of NEAq.
• Humble: Someone who just gets it done and seeks little extra recognition
• Has completed a minimum of 250 hours on behalf of NEAq

How the winner is selected:
• Supervisors submit nominations for team members that fit the afore mentioned attributes
• The VP&I Team will compile nominations and narrow the semi-finalist pool down to 5-6 contenders.
  • At team of Association of Zoos & Aquariums Volunteer Managers from across the United States narrow the pool to 3 semi-finalists.​
  • The winner is selected by popular vote during Voluntern Appreciation Night.
The Winner of the 2017 Unsung Hero Award was Laura Sheehan, Marine Mammals Volunteer

Laura has been a volunteer with New England Aquarium since February 2015. Here is what her supervisor wrote for her nomination:

I am writing to enthusiastically nominate Laura Sheehan for the 2017 Unsung Hero Award.  Laura started as a volunteer in February 2016.  Since then she completed an internship semester with us and then returned as a volunteer.  Laura is one of the most dedicated and hardest working people on the Mammals Team.  In all her time here she has only missed two days of work out of countless hours.
Laura is quiet and focused.  She completes every task she is assigned and also helps others with their tasks.  In addition she goes above and beyond to complete additional tasks, making sure the day runs smoothly.  One of the ways Laura provides unmeasurable support is through her visitor education talks.  In addition to learning harbor seal natural history and enrichment talks, Laura learned a northern fur seal and California sea lion talk.  She is the only volunteer on staff who has learned this talk and performs it regularly on Tuesdays.  Talking in front of the NB Marine Mammal Center is a lot more intimidating due to the large crowds and size of the area.  Laura remains calm and professional at all times engaging guests and educating them on the species and conservation issues.
Please consider Laura for this award.  All the staff agrees that her unwavering worth ethic and excellent attendance are just a few reason why she is worthy.  We are so lucky to have such a kind and respectful teammate.


The Nominees for the 2017 Unsung Hero Award were:

Julia Jackson, Marine Mammal Education and Research Internship
Jess O'Toole, Quincy Animal Care Volunteer
Laura Lewis, Visitor Education
Kathy Cartier, Visitor Education