ATLANTA, Ga. (April 20, 2011) - The Jefferson Awards announced today that it has selected former NFL running back and limited partner of the Atlanta Falcons, Warrick Dunn, as its Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy for the 2011 Jefferson Awards for Public Service. Co-founded in 1973 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard, The Jefferson Awards annually celebrates America's commitment to public service. Recognizing the famous and the unknown, individuals and organizations, the young and old, the awards reflect one of the founding ideals of our nation, that of contributing toward the larger good. The award will be formally presented to Dunn at The Jefferson Awards Black Tie Gala Dinner/National Ceremony on June 21, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
The Jefferson Awards and All Stars Helping Kids have created a new partnership to honor and recognize outstanding athletes for excellence in service and philanthropy. Dunn started the Homes for the Holidays program in 1997 during his rookie season in the NFL to honor his late mother's dream of homeownership. In 2002, he established the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation as a way to grow programs and services for single-parent families. Through his charitable efforts, Dunn has rewarded over 100 single-parent families in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee and Tampa for achieving the American Dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. The Homes for the Holidays program has contributed over 2 million dollars in home furnishings with furniture provided by Aaron's, Inc. and $505,000 in down payment assistance, since 1997.
"While many people know of Warrick Dunn's achievements on the field, we are honored to be recognizing him as Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy for his considerable efforts off the field," said Sam Beard, founder president of the Jefferson Awards. "Through the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation he has helped many single-parent families achieve their own American Dream and serves as an inspiration to us all."
Dunn, the oldest of six children, experienced the struggles of life in a single-parent family. His mother, Betty Smothers, was a City of Baton Rouge police officer who often worked security shifts to provide for her family. It was always her goal to experience the American Dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. Before she could realize her dream, she was gunned down in an armed robbery during an off-duty shift, leaving 18-year-old Dunn to care for his five siblings. Dunn's dedication to charity was born as a result of the outpouring of support his family received from the Baton Rouge community during this tragic time.
"I am honored to receive this award from All Starts Helping Kinds and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service selection committee and I believe it is a testament to the values instilled in me by my mother. Without her strength and determination as an example growing up, I would not have been able to achieve my goals in life and on the football field," said Dunn. "I hope that other athletes in my position will see value of being positive role models to inspire others."