Spotlight on Former Athlete - Hank Perret - Men's Basketball 1973, 1974, 1975.
Ex-Cajun Perret turns tragedy into philanthropy
By Bruce Brown
Hank Perret has known sorrow.
Losing his son Miles to a brain tumor when the child was just 8 years old rocked Perret and his wife Debbie's world.
But it didn't shake their faith, and the results have guaranteed that Miles' name will live on through the Games of Acadiana and the Miles Perret Cancer Services.
Through fund-raising events like The Games, the Perret's non-profit organization offers cancer care for those in financial need, as well as counseling and education programs.
“My faith kept me going,” said Perret, a Lafayette native and local attorney who met Debbie in law school at LSU, “Look at the good that has come out of it.”
The 21st Games of Acadiana wrapped up in August, an event pre-empted by the Corona Virus pandemic last year but revived in 2021 thanks to some creative thinking that turned the games into virtual competition between pariticipants willing to sacrifice a little dignity for some light-hearted family fun.
“It was friendly, family competition that will make you smile,” Perret said.
“We have some talented people working with us. Debbie has had a very big role in our success, and we have some amazing people who are creative.
“We've been fortunate. The first year we held it, 9-11 happened just afterward. Then in 2005, we held them before Hurricane Katrina hit.”
The Games came first, then once the generosity of South Louisiana people was shown by money donated at the beginning, the task was to find a way to distribute the care and funds to those most in need. Enter the Miles Perret Cancer Services.
“We met here in this boardroom with businessmen and others to figure out how to use those funds for the greatest impact,” Perret said. “We really wanted to help others. People like Robert Trahan were there. We wanted to make sure it was done right.
“We serve an eight-parish area. Forty percent of those we help come from inside the parish, 60 percent outside. It's an opportunity to get out and help . All of our services are free.”
Together, the Perret push has left its mark.
“I've been flabbergasted by the generosity people have shown,” said Perret, who in 2015 was named winner of the prestigious Lafayette Civic Cup,
“That was humbling. I had no clue,” Perret said of the prestigious honor, preferring to share the spotlight with others in the program.
Family always important
Perret was the second-oldest of 10 children in his family.
Within a stone's throw was a house with 9 kids.
There always seemed to be children at play in the neighborhood. A notable number of 28 in the crowd – 25 of whom would atttend Fatima High School and remain close in the following years.
“It was a very idyllic life,” said Perret. “We were always playing, until all hours.”
When he wasn't at play, Perret served as a surrogate parent for younger siblings. Among his duties was cooking eight cups of rice a day.
His first sport was football, which hit an early snag.
“I enjoyed football,” he said. “But I broke my neck and had to give it up. Actually, the doctor said I had already played one game with the injury. There but for the grace of God go I.”
Track and field offered the chance to compete in the long jump, discus and high jump for Fatima.
Then came basketball, and to a memorable stint with UL's Ragin' Cajun program that flew high until hit with NCAA sanctions in 1973.
“I went to try out,” Perret said, “The NCAA made an announcement that you needed 1.6 GPA to play. The next day I went to practice, and guys were gone.”
There was still enough talent to light up the opposiion, though, and enough perks to making coach Beryl Shipley's squad.
“I had never flown before,” Perret said, “and we opened our season at UNLV. The people in Las Vegas didn't like us very much. We finished the season at Hawaii, so in my first year of college ball, I fly to Las Vegas and Hawaii.”
Shipley, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, left an impression on Perret.
“Coach Shipley was really hard on you,” he said, “but he was a good man.”
Perret was a role player on a powerhouse team that included Bo Lamar, Roy Ebron, Larry Fogle, Jerry Bisbano and others – quite possibly the finest squad the Cajuns ever put together.
But he was there for his education.
Then, once Perret finished at UL and law school, he benefitted from friendships with local leaders such as Paul Hilliard, B.I. Moody and Robert Trahan, largely successful businesmen who also had a way of putting community interests in each decision.
Philanthropy became a natural fit, especially once tragedy struck the Perret family.
Perret is a key member of the Community Foundation of Acadiana, Crossroads Catholic Book Store, is on the boards of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Louisiana Board of Ethics, the Fatima School Board, and is a trustee at Ascension Day School.
“Serving others is just a way of being grateful,” said Perret, whose four sons – Tucker, Hunter, Gordon and Camp – have been raised with the same deep values he found in a grounded childhood.
Miles will always be there with them, in spirit.
* * * * * * Click here for Hank's Athletic Network Profile.
Click here for the 1974-75 Men's Basketball photo gallery.
Hank and his 1974-75 Men's Basketball teammates.
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