KU News Release

October 4, 2012
Contact: Melanie Coen, Dole Institute of Politics, 785-864-1156

Wounded Warrior Project to receive 2012 Dole Leadership Prize

More Information

LAWRENCE — The 2012 Dole Leadership Prize will be presented to Wounded Warrior Project at 4 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Dole Institute of Politics. A family-friendly community celebration will follow the program from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and will include free food and beverages, music and behind-the-scenes Dole Archive tours.

The Dole Leadership Prize is a $25,000 prize awarded annually to an individual or group whose public service inspires others.

“The sacrifices our servicemen and women make are immense and life-changing,” said Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute. “Wounded Warrior Project is there for these Wounded Warriors when they return home, and for that, our entire country is grateful. Given the fact that Senator Dole is both a wounded veteran and tireless advocate for veterans affairs, we are honored to award this organization the Dole Leadership Prize to thank them for their outstanding work.”

During the program, Lacy will interview a panel of guest speakers, including Steven Nardizzi, co-founder and executive director of Wounded Warrior Project; Cindy Parsons, caregiver; Shane Parsons, Cindy Parsons’ son and Wounded Warrior, and Brent Whitten, Wounded Warrior currently attending the University of Kansas.

The mission of Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. The organization’s vision is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in the nation's history. Wounded Warrior Project fulfills its mission by raising awareness and enlisting the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, by helping injured service members aid and assist each other and by providing unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

“It is a true honor to accept this award on behalf of the thousands of wounded service members and their families Wounded Warrior Project aims to assist,” Nardizzi said. “The Dole Leadership Prize is one with a rich tradition, and to be included in the same category as past winners who have served and changed the lives of so many is incredibly humbling.”

Nardizzi helped found Wounded Warrior Project in 2003 and currently serves as executive director and CEO, overseeing all aspects of the organization. For more than 10 years prior to joining Wounded Warrior Project, Nardizzi worked as an attorney representing disabled veterans for several veterans’ organizations and was the associate executive director of Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association.

Cindy Parsons lives in a small town in northwest Ohio. She is a licensed registered nurse who previously worked in a hospital emergency room. In 2006, Parsons’ son, Shane, was critically injured in Iraq. After he returned to the U.S. for treatment, Parsons became a strong advocate for wounded warriors. She participated in the Wounded Warrior Project Caregiver Summit in Washington, D.C., in 2009, where she lobbied Congress for the passage of the Caregiver and Veteran Omnibus Health Service Act of 2010. This bill will provide assistance and support for the people who give care to injured servicemen and women returning from war.

Shane Parsons was injured on duty in Iraq in 2006 when his vehicle was hit by an explosive device. He sustained catastrophic injuries that resulted in a diagnosis of a severe anoxic traumatic brain injury, above knee bilateral amputations and post traumatic stress disorder. Surviving these injuries meant years of rehabilitation, including relearning all active daily living skills, reading and writing, with cognitive deficits for life. Wounded Warrior Project stepped in to assist with rehabilitation and job coaching. Currently, Parsons works as an assistant junior high football coach for a local school.

Brent Whitten was a specialist with the U.S. Army 3-67 Armor Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, when deployed to Baghdad in December 2005. In an explosion caused by a suicide bomber, Whitten was burnt badly, had a broken pelvis and tissue damage to his leg. He was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, and treated by their dedicated burn unit for two months. He says throughout his time at BAMC, he wore the clothing he received in a backpack from Wounded Warrior Project. Today, Whitten is enrolled at the University of Kansas studying broadcasting.

Wounded Warrior Project is the first organization to receive the Dole Leadership Prize. Previous winners of the Dole Leadership Prize include the Women Air Service Pilots of WWII, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. Senators Howard Baker and George McGovern, former Polish President Lech Walesa, Congressman John Lewis and former President George H.W. Bush.

This program is free and open to the public. For more information on the Dole Institute of Politics or the Dole Leadership Prize, please visit the Dole Institute online.

In the event of rain, the community celebration will be held at the Lied Center Pavilion.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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