REACH Institute founder Peter Jensen, MD wins AARP 2024 Purpose Prize award


A prestigious award from AARP, given to the founder of the REACH Institute

Group of cheerful multiethnic teenagers: © Drobot Dean -

Group of cheerful multiethnic teenagers: © Drobot Dean -

AARP recently announced its 2024 AARP Purpose Prize Award recipients. The one-of-a-kind national award honors people age 50-plus who have proven that they are using their knowledge and life experience to make a difference. Five AARP Purpose Prize Winners who have founded a non-profit will receive $50,000 for their organization. In addition, 10 AARP Purpose Prize Fellows and their organizations will be recognized with an award of $10,000. All award recipients will also receive a year of technical support to help broaden the scope of their organization’s work.

“Our Purpose Prize winners and Fellows are shining examples of a simple, yet profound truth: When we find our sense of purpose—that certain something that gives us a reason to get up and get going every day—we not only give meaning to our own lives; we make the world a better place for everyone.” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins.

Alongside the Purpose Prize winners and fellows, AARP is presenting award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise with an honorary Purpose Prize Award for his founding and leadership of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Founded in 2011, the Gary Sinise Foundation honors military members, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. It creates and supports unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities. The Foundation’s initiatives include building mortgage free, specially adapted homes for severely wounded veterans and first responders, uplifting military members and families through entertainment, mental wellness programs, and financial support in times of urgent need.

“We are honored to be able to recognize all of these amazing individuals for their tenacity, innovation, and drive to shape their communities for the better,” said Barb Quaintance, Vice President of Enterprise Awards, AARP. “Our winners and fellows are exceptional leaders whose lived experiences have led them to find their purpose and bring to fruition a new portrait of aging that breaks the norm and inspires generations.”

The AARP Inspire Award will also return for its third year. Starting today, the general public will have the opportunity to vote at for the AARP Purpose Prize Winner that they would like to win the AARP Inspire Award, which grants the recipient an additional $10,000 for their organization. The AARP Inspire Award recipient will be announced during an in-person celebration honoring all recipients in Washington, D.C. on October 25, 2023.

The trailer is now available for AARP’s newest feature-length documentary film, The Hidden Power of Purpose narrated by Debbie Allen, which is making its way to streaming platforms in November. The film bridges inspiring stories of individuals who have found purpose in their lives with the insights of leading scientists whose work affirms that living with purpose improves health and longevity.

The 2023-2024 AARP Purpose Prize winners are:

Ken Falke – Bluemont, Virginia – Boulder Crest Foundation

  • After losing friends to suicide, Ken, a veteran, founded Boulder Crest Foundation, which focuses on the mental health and well-being of combat veterans and first responders, and their family members, providing education and training on Posttraumatic Growth to address PTSD.

Peter Jensen, MD – Little Rock, Arkansas – The REACH Institute

  • Inspired by a career in mental health research, Peter founded the REACH Institute, which works to ensure vulnerable children have access to best practices in mental health care services by empowering health care providers to implement the most effective available treatments and prioritizing the education of front-line providers in community settings.

Janice Malone – Mobile, Alabama – Vivian's Door

  • Building on her experience as a Black entrepreneur, Janice founded Vivian's Door, an economic justice non-profit that helps Black businesses grow, scale, and reinvest in their communities. It advances the interests and needs of underserved minority-owned businesses (MBEs) and farmers in South and Central Alabama through an incubator and accelerator model.

Don Schoendorfer – Irvine, California – Free Wheelchair Mission

  • Inspired during a trip to Morocco, where he saw a woman with disabilities crawling across a dirt road, Don used his engineering background to design a wheelchair that could be distributed easily in developing countries. Since then, Free Wheelchair Mission has shipped nearly 1.4 million wheelchairs to people in 94 countries who would not otherwise be able to afford one.

Laura Stachel, MD – Berkeley, California – We Care Solar

  • As an obstetrician that spent time working in Nigeria, Laura saw the tragic effects of the lack of reliable lighting and electricity on maternal and newborn care. She founded We Care Solar, which promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in frontline health facilities by equipping health workers with innovative Solar Suitcases that provide reliable lighting, mobile communication, and medical devices using solar electricity.

The 2023-2024 AARP Purpose Prize fellows are:

Julie Clugage – Menlo Park, California – Team4Tech Foundation

Shana Erenberg – Skokie, Illinois – Libenu

Lee Ann Kline – Huntington Beach, California – STEM Advantage

Scarlett Lewis – Newtown, Connecticut – Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

Pamela Lindsay – Saratoga, California – College of Adaptive Arts

Geeta Mehta – New York, New York – Asia Initiatives

Maura O’Malley – Pelham, New York – Lifetime Arts, Inc.

Rob Perez – Lexington, Kentucky – DV8 Kitchen Vocational Training Foundation

Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman – Seattle, Washington – Refugee Artisan Initiative

Renita White – Chicago, Illinois – Of Color Inc.

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