Perrets receive Jefferson Award for public service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Hank and Debbie Perret of Lafayette, received the distinguished Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C. earlier this summer.

The award is the highest honor a Jefferson Award winner can receive.

In receiving the award, the Perrets join a select group of men and women who have contributed invaluable voluntary service to their community through the Miles Perret Foundation.

Among recipients this year was Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, honored for helping to create the Department of Homeland Security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as working for campaign finance reform.

The Jefferson Awards were founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft Jr. (grandson of President William Howard Taft) and presidential economic adviser Sam Beard.

Designed to be a Nobel Prize for public and community service, the awards spotlight national leaders and volunteers at the local level.

The Perrets were honored for their founding of Miles Perret Cancer Services, a resource center helping those in the Acadiana community fighting cancer, in 2002.

The couple turned from the personal tragedy of the loss of their son Miles at age eight to a brain tumor to establishing the center that has helped more than 4,000 families since its opening.

The Games of Acadiana, developed by friends of the Perrets, is a primary funding source for the center, and is held every August at the Cajundome.

Since its establishment by the Perrets, the Cancer Services Center has worked to meet the non-medical, unmet needs cancer brings - emotional, financial, and physical.

“Cancer brings unique challenges to each person and family - we work to ease these challenges and enhance quality of life for the newly-diagnosed, long-term survivors, and their families,” the center notes.

Its services are provided at no charge.

Perret, a lawyer, business executive and civic leader, and his wife also made the first gift, in December 2000, to the Legacy Foundation of Acadiana, now the Community Foundation of Acadiana.

Other 2008 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award recipients were:

Lia Rowley, who established Children’s Village, a nonprofit organization in Santa Rosa, Calif., to provide housing for children in foster care.

Jackie Betz, Erin Drischler and Megan Neuf of Pennsylvania, college freshmen when they decided to co-found M-Powerment to spread awareness about sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Harry Vogler of Colorado, instrumental in establishing the Emily Griffith Center to provide treatment and education services to severely abused, neglected and mentally ill children and their families.

Nancy Collins, who founded the Tupelo, Miss., Sanctuary Hospice House, a nonprofit Christian ministry to give physical, spiritual and emotional care to the terminally ill.

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