He has been called the “Original $3 million Man,” as well as voted the “Most Interesting Man from Lutcher” by Nutria Times Magazine – three times – and even called Duane “Hammer Time” Foret.
This was all outlined with good humor in the United Way of St. Charles’ unique plaque of appreciation recently presented to Foret. But it also sincerely acknowledges his assistance with United Way’s biggest special event – Battle for the Paddle.
“That’s John being John (Dias), but it truly gives me the opportunity to reflect and remember how special it was to work on side of Leanna Weaver, and McKinley and Nicole Day (Foret’s UW 2015 campaign co-leaders), as we met with stakeholders around our parish to tell our story on why and how United Way is so important to our community,” Foret said. “If raising that much awareness enabled us to raise $3 million, which in turn meant more funding to United Way’s partner agencies, program and the needy in the parish, then it’s a title that will always warm my heart.”
As the parish’s director of Parks and Recreation, Foret is one of the great supporters responsible for helping grow the event, according to UW Executive Director John Dias.
“While Battle for the Paddle is a fun event, at the core of the event is a community coming together to raise awareness for the United Way Campaign,” Foret said. “The campaign offers insight to the many great things the funds are allocated towards in our community. Both demonstrate the giving hearts of the people who work and live in St. Charles Parish, and to be a part of something like that is the true honor.”
Dias said Foret has gone above and beyond with the event and he wanted to give him an award, but he did it in style.
“We made up a funny, little silly award that fits Duane’s personality, but the message is sincere,” Dias said. “The event has grown and he’s always been there saying, ‘Whatever you need … it’s good for the community and we want to help.”
It’s why UW named Foret “United Way Supporter of the Century of the Year,” but Foret maintains the credit also goes to his department.
“While I am honored to receive this award, I believe the award is a true reflection of our department’s commitment to this wonderful event,” Foret said. “This recognition would not have been possible without our entire team working with the United Way of St. Charles to ensure we can help them provide such a unique and enjoyable event for our parish.”
Battle for the Paddle has also become a major event for the parish, and Dias said Foret has definitely contributed to its success and growth. The award idea came up at a UW board meeting where Tamara Plattsmier, UW volunteer and events manager, reported how much the event had grown over the years.
“I would say we could not have grown the way we’ve grown without his support” Dias said.
And it’s grown.
Battle For the Paddle is UW’s biggest special event in participation and attendance. Since starting with UW 10 years ago, Dias said it has grown from 40 teams to more than 150 teams.
Dias also told the board how much Foret had assisted them over many of those years and pitched the award idea – and the board agreed.
“It goes to that premise there is always people behind the scenes that make things happen and they don’t get credit, and I felt strongly that he did,” he said. “People don’t know that and we wanted to make sure people knew it. We wanted to make a formal ‘Thank you.’”
For Foret, the recognition was especially meaningful in moving the event from West Bank Bridge Park to the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center.
“We were a little apprehensive to move the event, but the decision to do so has made the event that much better,” Foret said. “The Community Center staff meets with the Battle for the Paddle committee throughout the year to plan the event. Our team also helps to set up for the event and clean up after.”
Ongoing, Foret and his staff also meet with United Way to find ways to improve the celebration each year.
So, the plaque, no matter how humorous, holds far deeper meaning about being United Way’s “Supporter of the Century.”
“It represents our department’s dedication to the United Way and the people of St. Charles Parish,” Foret said. “We are fortunate to play a small part in two excellent Community Enhancement events, the Bridge Run and The Battle for the Paddle, and I hope it inspires people to live by the words of the United Way of St. Charles. Give, Advocate and Volunteer.”