WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The first-ever ThanksUSA Irish-American Public Service Awards honoring Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Governors Martin O'Malley (MD) and Bob McDonnell (VA) were celebrated during Irish-American Heritage month with touches of green and lilting melodies at Washington's famed Irish landmark, the Phoenix Park Hotel. On March 8, 2012, the three lawmakers, all of Irish-American heritage, were recognized for their outstanding public service on the national stage and in their respective states and for their dedication to America's service men and women. The event was headlined by Irish Tenor Anthony Kearns.
"We are proud to honor Congressman Lewis, Governor McDonnell and Governor O'Malley for their strong and consistent support of our men and women in uniform and their families," remarked Bob Okun, president of ThanksUSA, a non-profit organization dedicated to thanking America's troops through scholarships for the children and spouses of active-duty military. "What a delight to celebrate the month with them and Ireland's gift to music, Tenor Anthony Kearns. "
"I'm deeply honored to receive this award from ThanksUSA. I appreciate the efforts made by ThanksUSA to award scholarships to Maryland's military families who have served and sacrificed for our country," said Governor O'Malley. The Governor was represented by Dominick Murray, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, who accepted the award on his behalf.
"I applaud the efforts of ThanksUSA to improve the lives of our armed forces and their families through the gift of education. It was an honor to accept this award from ThanksUSA on behalf of Virginia's military families," said Governor McDonnell. "The celebration was a delightful way to welcome the Irish season, and Tenor Anthony Kearns was the perfect performer for such an event. I thank him for sharing his amazing gift for this good cause."
In a letter to ThanksUSA in honor of the awards reception, Irish Ambassador Michael Collins said, "As we celebrate Irish-American Heritage month, it is indeed only fitting that we salute the exemplary leadership and outstanding achievements of the honorees this evening who can proudly trace back their heritage to Ireland." The letter was read during the event by ThanksUSA co-founder Rachel Okun.
The ThanksUSA Irish-American Public Service Awards were sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
"The Blavatnik Family Foundation is proud to support ThanksUSA and its ongoing mission to provide thousands of military families with scholarships to further their education," said Peter Thoren, executive vice president of Access Industries. Len Blavatnik, founder of Access Industries, heads the Blavatnik Family Foundation. "It is a privilege to honor our armed forces through the work of this wonderful organization."
World-renowned tenor Anthony Kearns performed selections from the best of Irish music in a special tribute to the award winners and ThanksUSA. An original founding member of popular singing group The Irish Tenors, Mr. Kearns sang at Gov. McDonnell's inauguration in 2010 and last week's event marked the second time the Governor and Mr. Kearns have partnered to raise awareness of ThanksUSA.
"I appreciate the opportunity to join ThanksUSA in honoring Governor McDonnell, Governor O'Malley and Congressman Lewis and their efforts to support the troops. It's important that we remember the sacrifices made by those who defend freedom around the world and to help them when we can," said Mr. Kearns. Kearns was accompanied during his performance by Patrick Healy.
Since its inception in 2006, ThanksUSA has provided nearly $7.5 million in need-based academic scholarship assistance to America's military families, with particular attention given to those whose loved one was killed or wounded in action. Scholarship recipients represent all military branches – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves – and come from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.