You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CBS Exec Scott Koondel Uses Personal Story to Help Lives of Foster Kids and Charity One Simple Wish

Many industry executives have hosted fundraising events for favorite charities at their homes. But few have packed the emotional punch that CBS Corp.’s Scott Koondel delivered in the backyard of his Brentwood home in May when he made the pitch for One Simple Wish, a Trenton, N.J.-based nonprofit organization that aids kids in foster care.

Koondel, 53, spoke publicly for the first time about the trials he faced as a youth shuttling through foster homes until he struck out on his own as a young teenager. Today, Koondel, who is CBS Corp. exec VP and chief licensing officer, is determined to use his eye-popping story of survival to help raise money and awareness about the needs of kids in foster care, particularly as they enter adulthood.

“I feel like I’ve cleansed myself of a childhood that I was ashamed of,” Koondel told Variety. “I’m now in a position to really do some good and make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to other kids.”

The association with One Simple Wish began a few years ago as his daughter Stella sought a public service project in connection with her bat mitzvah. It struck a chord with Koondel, who hadn’t revealed much about his past even to his four children. His wife, Staci, has since joined the One Simple Wish board, and the pair are planning to host another fundraiser for the org in New York in the fall.

“I feel like I’ve cleansed myself of a childhood that I was ashamed of. I’m now in a position to really do some good and make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to other kids.”
Scott Koondel

Koondel’s activity in the foster care advocacy community put him in touch with director Nacho Arenas, who produced a powerful short film, “Momma,” about a boy’s fear of going into foster care. Koondel has arranged for the short to air on Showtime after it makes the festival circuit rounds later this year.

“We need people like Scott to show kids that they can make it,” said Danielle Gletow, who founded One Simple Wish in 2008 after she and her husband took in an 18-month-old boy. “He knows what it’s like to go to school with clothes that don’t fit and to live in a house where the food was locked up. It’s pretty amazing that he’s decided to open up about it.”

Industry friends and colleagues who have known Koondel for years were shocked as he spoke candidly of the jarring shift from living in the affluence of New York’s Upper East Side to being in an overcrowded foster home at age 10. His father’s death sent his mother into a debilitating spiral of alcoholism and depression.

Koondel came to realize that his foster guardians had volunteered for the program only for the state and local aid payments that came with taking in homeless kids. As a teenager, he turned to unconventional means to support himself, skirting the edges of the underground economy. By sheer force of will, he made it through high school and wound up at Syracuse University, where he studied communications. His future role as a top TV dealmaker was evident when he launched a successful commercial production company while still an undergrad.

Jason Blumenthal, producer of such films as “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds,” was among those who were impressed by the riches-to-rags-to-riches story he heard in his friend’s backyard. The two are pursuing the prospect of adapting it as a narrative project that could also serve as a vehicle for raising money and awareness about the challenges of foster care.

“As a producer, I look all day for these types of stories,” said Blumenthal. “The bigger the platform you have, the more people you can help and the more you can effect change. There are a lot of people who can be helped by his story. ”

More Biz

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Gersh Agency Stirs Ire After Canceling Network Meeting for Former Client

    In a sign of hostility in the war between the WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, Gersh Agency has come under fire from TV and film writers for canceling a network meeting that it had arranged for a now-former client. Writer Jorge Reyes disclosed the incident in a series of tweets on Monday. Reyes asserted [...]

  • Streaming Placeholder

    TikTok Owner Preparing Streaming Service to Rival Spotify (Report)

    ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of the TikTok video app, is developing a paid streaming music service aimed at the same emerging markets that Spotify and Apple are seeking to explore, according to a report in Bloomberg. The app could be introduced as early as autumn, according to the report, which adds that the company has [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Nickelodeon Alum Keith Dawkins Sets Kidvid Partnership With Believe Entertainment Group

    Former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins has partnered with Believe Entertainment Group to develop children’s programming. Dawkins will partner with Believe under his newly formed Rock Hill Media Ventures, which aims to advise companies in media, entertainment and sports on working with diverse and emerging talent. Dawkins previously spent 17 years at Viacom, most of which [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Pleads Guilty to $40 Million Fraud

    The manager of a credit union for CBS employees pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court on Monday to a $40 million embezzlement scheme. Edward Rostohar, 62, was arrested in March after the scheme began to unravel. According to prosecutors, he admitted to stealing money from the bank for the last 20 years. Rostohar is [...]

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The

    CAA's Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in 'Walking Dead' Litigation

    UPDATED with new statement and response filing The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.” Attorneys for Darabont and CAA called AMC’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content