B.J. Gallent, coordinator of the Avoyelles CASA program, and Col. Mike Borrel, director of the Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program, recently received the 2016 Children’s Hero of the Year award.
The award is presented by the Eckerd Cenla Wraparound-Eckerd Kids organization.
Gallent and Borrel were two of three individuals honored by the organization. The third was Willie Harp, publisher of Cenla Focus magazine and founder of Perfect Fit Foundation, which provides shoes free of charge to underprivileged children.
Gallent lives in Pineville but has worked in the CASA office in Marksville since it opened in 2015.
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with the courts to serve children going through custody cases and the foster system.
Gallent said the CASA advocates “are the voice of the children” in those cases.
Borrel, of Marksville, is a retired Army National Guard colonel and oversees the statewide Youth Challenge Program (YCP).
One of the significant programs he has enacted in his four years as director was to form partnerships with community colleges to allow youth in the Challenge program to obtain college credits that would make them eligible for military and advanced educational opportunities.
He has also implemented a program that allows youth to be certified in the field of construction and formed the “Job Challenge” program with technical community colleges that offers trades, free of charge, to youth who graduate YCP.
Donna Desoto of Marksville, an advocate coordinator in the Avoyelles CASA program, was one of six other nominees for the award.
Desoto recently retired as a state juvenile probation and parole officer and joined CASA earlier this year. She also serves as chairman of the Avoyelles Community & Youth Coalition organization.
The Eckerd award recognizes individuals who have had a profound and positive impact on the lives of children in Central Louisiana.