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AARP Announces 2021 Purpose Prize Award Winners, Mark Barden Of Sandy Hook Promise A Recipient



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WASHINGTON, DC — AARP has announced its 2021 AARP Purpose Prize award recipients and fellows, the only national award that celebrates people age 50-plus who are using their knowledge and life experience to solve tough social problems. These extraordinary Americans tap into the power of life experience to build a better future for us all, founding and leading initiatives from school safety and violence prevention efforts to an organization that helps people with disabilities acquire assistive technologies to improve the quality of their lives.

Alongside the Purpose Prize winners and fellows, AARP is presenting Golden Globe award-winning actor and activist Glenn Close with an honorary Purpose Prize award for her work with Bring Change to Mind, a charity dedicated to confronting, head-on, the stigma associated with mental illness. The organization works to normalize mental health conversations and build the awareness, understanding, and empathy necessary to inspire action, structural change, and the creation of new norms which will end stigma and discrimination. The idea for the organization came about following Close’s first-hand observation of battles with mental illness within her family.

Each AARP Purpose Prize winner will receive a $50,000 award for their organization. AARP also announced ten AARP Purpose Prize fellows, who will be honored for the mission-focused work of the organizations they lead and will receive a $5,000 award to further the mission of their organization.

“I commend this year’s AARP Purpose Prize winners and fellows for their dedication and commitment to serving people of all ages during these challenging times,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “These older adults inspire and show us how our own life experiences can be used to find creative and innovative solutions to help others and make a difference in communities across the country.”

The honorees will be recognized at a virtual awards celebration on Thursday, December 3.

Mark Barden, managing director and co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise in Newtown, is one of the five recipients of the 2021 AARP Purpose Prize.

After his son, Daniel, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Barden co-founded Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that aims to prevent shootings, violence, and other harmful acts to help keep schools and communities safe.

“The power of Mark’s story and the impact of Sandy Hook Promise’s work is undeniable,” said Barbara Quaintance, AARP’s vice president of enterprise awards strategy. “Mark took an unspeakable personal tragedy and turned his grief outward. He founded Sandy Hook Promise and has dedicated himself to preventing school violence. By working with students, families, and school administration, Mark has taken a unique approach to the problem. By awarding Mark an AARP Purpose Prize, we hope to elevate the profile of Sandy Hook Promise and help them reach more people. It is AARP’s honor to celebrate Mark and Sandy Hook Promise.”

Barden commented for The Newtown Bee about the award, saying, “I am both honored and humbled to have been chosen for the AARP Purpose Prize. My life took on new meaning eight years ago when my sweet little Daniel was murdered. Sandy Hook Promise saves lives and protects children from gun violence, and in that way, I am able to honor Daniel’s short life and help create a better, safer future for all. Our programs show that no matter what your age, if you are passionate about something, you can make a difference.”

Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise is an award recipient of the 2021 AARP Purpose Prize, which honors America’s movers and shakers age 50-plus who give back and tackle major societal challenges. —Heather Sten photo
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