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 2016 Unsung Hero Award was Victor Dellisola, Penguin Colony Volunteer.

Victor has been a penguin colony volunteer on Saturdays since September 19, 2009.  
Here is what Victor's superisor wrote for his nomination:

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Victor Dellisola for the 2016 Unsung Hero Award.  Seven years ago, Victor started in the penguin area like any other volunteer.  He learned how to thaw frozen fish, how to scrub islands and memorized almost 100 different penguin names.  Year after year went by with Victor as an ever present face on Saturdays.  He helped train new volunteers, cleaned whatever was asked of him and even took the extra initiative to learn how to give penguin presentations.  It wasn’t until one morning, while cleaning an island and half listening to what was probably the 6,000th penguin talk I’ve heard over the years that I realized what has been hiding right under our nose all this time.  Victor held his audience in thrall during his presentation.  His comfortable rapport combined with his trademark witty humor made his listeners feel like they had their own personal expert on all things penguin.  Victor even managed to work a few puns into his talk and still get across a strong conservation message.  If you happen to be in the building on Saturdays I highly recommend you stick around to hear one of Victor’s flawless penguin talks, they set the bar high!  When you look closely you notice that Victor is the heart and soul of our Saturday team.  He graciously welcomes newcomers under his “wing” and treats everyone like they’ve been friends for ages.  Even when faced with some of the dirtier tasks Victor has everyone laughing through “the poop” with his clever quips and one liners.   The staff can also breathe a sigh of relief on Saturdays knowing that with Victor around everything and then some will get accomplished.  It has been an honor to have Victor as part of our colony for all these years, and just like the spot pattern on an African penguin - Victor is truly one of a kind.
Victor has made a lasting impression on the penguin staff and is so deserving of the Unsung Hero Award.  Thank you for considering his nomination.

The Finalists for the 2016 Unsung Hero Award were:
Ken Furyama, Visitor Education Volunteer/Live Blue Service Leader
Jen Watters, Aquarium Medical Center Volunteer

The Nominees for the 2016 Unsung Hero Award were:
Hannah Jernstedt
Ted Wolfrum
Colleen Joyce
Mary Craig
Tammy Tauscher