AARP Announces 2021 Purpose Prize Award Winners

Students at the PeaceTrees Friendship Village Kindergarten built in 2002. Dong Ha, Vietnam

Bainbridge Island resident among those aged 50+ honored for tackling major societal challenges

AARP has announced its 2021 AARP Purpose Prize award recipients and fellows, a national award that celebrates people age 50-plus who are using their knowledge and life experience to solve tough social problems. These extraordinary older people 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 to an organization that helps people with disabilities acquire assistive technologies to improve the quality of their lives.

Each AARP Purpose Prize winner received a $50,000 award for their organization. AARP also announced 10 AARP Purpose Prize fellows who were honored for the mission-focused work of the organizations they lead. Each received a $5,000 award to further the mission of their organization.

man planting Peace Trees

PeaceTrees works in the most heavily bombed areas of Vietnam to clear landmines and other deadly unexploded munitions.

Bainbridge Island resident Jerilyn Brusseau is among the 2021 Purpose Prize Fellows, honored for her work with PeaceTrees Vietnam. Brusseau co-founded PeaceTrees Vietnam in 1995 with her late husband, Danaan Parry, as the first international organization permitted to sponsor humanitarian demining efforts in Vietnam. Headquartered in Seattle and Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam, the organization creates a safe and successful future for children and families endangered by the legacy of the Vietnam War.

“PeaceTrees Vietnam is deeply honored by AARP’s recognition of our 25 years working alongside the people of Vietnam, to honor losses on all sides of war, to build strong bridges of trust and understanding, through sponsoring clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Vietnam’s most war torn province,” said Brusseau.

“Every day for 25 years, PeaceTrees has worked in the most heavily bombed areas of Vietnam to safely clear thousands of deadly unexploded munitions remaining from war, support accident survivors, restore communities, strengthen education and economic development, and build strong bonds of trust and frendship between American and Vietnamese veterans and families,” Brusseau said.

“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.”

“As a Gold Star sister of Lieutenant Daniel Cheney, a US Army Helicopter pilot who was shot down and killed while saving the life of his fellow pilot in the Vietnam War, it is my distinct honor to work with the Vietnamese people to turn sorrow into service, transforming once adversarial relationships into trusted partners and allies, and transforming the legacy of war into a future of safety, well-being, peace, and collaboration for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come,” said Brusseau.

Other 2021 Purpose Prize recipients included Sandy Hook PromiseBronx Children’s MuseumBrilliant Detroit, and actress Glenn Close for her charity, Bring Change to Mind, which works to reduce the stigma around mental illness. Visit for a full list of 2021 honorees.

Jason ErskineContributor Jason Erskine directs communications at AARP Washington.

This article originally appeared in the January issue of AgeWise King County.