Panettiere was awarded the Gretchen Wyler Award, which is given annually at the Genesis Awards to a celebrity who brings attention to animal causes. Wyler, who founded the awards and was also an actress, died of breast cancer in May 2007, just two months after presenting the first award to Paul McCartney.
Hayden's parents and her boyfriend cum Heroes co-star, Milo Ventimiglia were in the audience and watched a video of the actress and others paddling out on surfboards and confronting fishermen, who trap and kill dolphins to protect their fish supply. When the video ended, they gave a standing ovation as a tearful Hayden took the stage.
"As an actress, you always dream of getting awards like the Golden Globe award, but I never expected to get an award that is this special and important to me as this," People quoted her, as saying. "There are people who dedicate their entire lives to preserving the environment and defending animals, they are so much more deserving of something like this," she added.
Beverly Kaskey, Senior Director of the Humane Society's Hollywood Office, said: "She's an inspiring example to her generation, using her compassion, courage and celebrity to help animals in a very effective way."