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CNN Heroes of The Year

Aired November 26, 2009 - 21:00   ET


KATE HUDSON, ACTRESS: In any given moment a hero is at work.

PIERCE BROSNAN: Everyday people looking beyond themselves.

GREG KINNEAR, ACTOR: Honoring their brothers in arms.

EVA MENDES, ACTRESS: Teaching a child.

GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN AND ACTOR: These heroes surround us.

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, ACTOR: Supporting the disabled.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: Empowering the victims of violence.

DWAYNE JOHNSON: And even through their own hardship, they bring us hope.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: They strive to keep a village healthy.

RANDY JACKSON, SINGER AND MUSICIAN: They inspire the youth of a broken city.

LEONA LEWIS, SINGER: They care for the sick.

MAXWELL: They feed the hungry.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD, ACTRESS AND SINGER: And they won't let anything stop them.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: They're everyday people changing the world.

They are "cnn Heroes."

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the host of "cnn Heroes", Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: How's it going? Good evening. Good evening from the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. Thank you. Welcome to "cnn Heroes."

Tonight we gather to honor the best that humanity has to offer. And of course, when you're holding a show devoted to caring, unselfish people totally devoid of ego, where else would you do it than right here in Hollywood. Tonight you're going to meet ten men and women from all over the planet who have taken extraordinary steps to heal the sick, to comfort the afflicted and bring an end to injustice. With the recognition that they receive on our stage tonight, they're going to be able to help thousands and thousands of people through their effort tonight lives will be changed and lives will be saved. Throughout the year we receive more than 9,000 nominations from cnn viewers in over 100 countries, in the final selection our blue-ribbon panel was asked to pick ten heroes whose impact and personal stories inspired them the most. These ten heroes will each be awarded $25,000 tonight to help them continue and expand their work. And one honoree --


Yes. One honoree tonight will be named the hero of the year and receive an additional $100,000.


Now, we've received 2.5 million online votes to determine who the hero of the year is. We've got an impressive group of celebrities to introduce our heroes to you, and some great musical performances. And if we're really lucky, we may see Carrie Prejean wondering on backstage want to hunt down Larry King.

Let's kick off with proof that heroes can be found in the least likely places, a man who serves drinks for a living, ends up serving thousands and saving lives. Here to tell his stories, a wonderful actress environmentalist who supports the heal the bay organization, the story of the new adventures of all pristine, here's Julia Louis- Dreyfus.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actress environmentalist: Thank you. I'm here tonight to deliver some good news. You now I have a reason to buy wine. A lot of it. You can order bottles, cases, a truckload and say, I'm doing this to bring clean water to the world. Doc Hendley started the organization and label wine to water. To help more than one billion people on the planet who go without clean drinking water. In the United States, we just can't imagine that a glass of water could kill us. But Doc couldn't stop thinking about it. And so this bartender from North Carolina decided to meet one of the world's greatest challenges. He's raised enough money to dig wells in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, India, Cambodia and an orphanage in Peru. How about that?


So when you order that wine, and I know you will, don't forget to toast Doc, a hero who had the courage to meet a challenge and believe that one person really can change this world.


DOC HENDLEY, WINE TO WATER.ORG, CNN HERO: When I first started this, I thought, 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean water. My efforts are going to be a drop in the bucket. But if I had never taken that step because it was too big of a problem, we wouldn't be anywhere right now.

I never had any experience as a humanitarian worker. My only experience in life was as a bartender. I decided to hold these events called wine to water events. I wanted to try and do what I could to raise some money, and also really important to me is to try to tell other people about this water crisis. I definitely had no idea where that road was going to take me.

The orphanage that we're digging the well for right now, I don't think any of these children have ever known what it's like to have clean water. Children are most affected by this water crisis. Their systems are too weak, they cannot take it. Every 15 seconds a child dies because of the water crisis. Water kills more children than hiv/aids, Malaria, and Tuberculosis combined.

We take the water from the street and we put it in here. The water that's in the bottom is not going to be making you feel sick to your stomach anymore. In the west, we have no idea what it's like to give your child water that is making them sick, but have no choice but to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Estas contaminado, esta sucio el agua. "It's contaminated. The water is dirty."

HENDLEY: It can be as simple as installing a $25 water filter. And that would completely revolutionize their entire life. I've seen water used as a weapon. I've seen water used as a commodity, bought and sold to make governments rich. I've seen water as the foundation for any type of humanitarian award. Anything will be done in vain if there's not access to clean water. I do believe that we can fix this problem. If you find something you're passionate about, I don't care who you are, what you do, you will make a difference.


Louis-Dreyfus: Please join me in honoring cnn hero Doc Hendley.


HENDLEY: I was once asked, don't you feel like sometimes your efforts are only a drop in the bucket? And I thought for a second and said, well, yes, my efforts are only a drop in the bucket. And it's a big bucket. But without a start of one drop, and many other drops to follow, we're never going to achieve our goal of providing clean water to people in need around this world. Though, I am honored and humbled to be here before you today, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my great friend, Tasha Sullivan. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Annie Clawson who works for me in wine to water. And I would be nowhere in my life, I would be lost without my wife Amber.


In my opinion, this water crisis is the worst crisis facing humanity. We can no longer ignore the number one killer of children in our world. We can no longer think that our humanitarian efforts are going to be successful if we don't first address this issue of clean water. I'm asking you to please join us in this fight. Thank you all so much for having us here today. It is a blessing. Thank you.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Eva Mendes, Neil Patrick Harris and Nicole Kidman.


COOPER: Welcome back to cnn heroes. So many brave and honorable men and women are serving in our armed forces around the world right now, risking their lives to protect our freedoms. For some, however, returning home means a new kind of battle, about depression, financial woes, addiction. This is a story of veteran who climbed out of his own personal hell and found a whole new way to serve his country by serving his fell low heroes.

To introduce him. Please welcome a man who works with the giving spirit organization to aid the homeless, Greg Kinnear.


Greg Kinnear, giving spirit organization: Thank you. It's an honor to be here. The first time I saw this gentleman, he was on television standing in a parking lot in Florida. And he was talking to a fellow veteran trying to just get him some help. And he said how can I turn my back on you and walk away and leave you right here. I can't do that. I can't, because I know you wouldn't turn your back and leave me. It was very emotional. And what our hero here, Roy Foster, does is this.

He travels to those hidden places off the highway, back alleys, parking lots where too many of our own homeless veterans live. And he seeks out the tents and the tarps and offers them a safe place to eat and sleep. Drug and alcohol counseling if they need it. Since 2000, Roy has helped over 900 veterans at his stand down house. Any veteran, Vietnam, Gulf war, Afghanistan and Iraq, he's offered the respect and compassion of the Roy's code which is "No man left behind." And the reason that this code is so important to Roy is because he was once homeless, too. There are 131,000 homeless veterans in America today. They're struggling, and that's why we need people like Roy Foster. This is an extraordinary man who's picked himself up, turned his own life around and built a house for heroes.


ROY FOSTER, CNN HERO: Camouflage. To see camouflage used as a covering for a place to dwell, veterans should never, ever end up in a position such as this. It shouldn't happen. All right, this is the beginning. It's a good day. Another veteran coming off the streets. From what branch?


FOSTER: What was your m.o.s.? UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I was an e -- I can't remember.

FOSTER: No? How long you been out on the streets?


FOSTER: I, myself, was a homeless veteran. Substance abuse issues. And after completing my treatment, I decided there need to be a safe place for the veteran. What we're looking at has really given this veteran back his life.

Welcome aboard.

Good, hot meals. Housing. But most important, camaraderie. Do we watch each other's backs? Absolutely. That's one of the things that is taught from day one from basic training. We're not one any longer. We are a unit.

The United States army. Service Company 10th Special Forces group.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I was with the United States Marine Corps.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I served in Vietnam for a year and a half.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: Iraqi freedom, enduring freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I was doing everything I could do to kill myself. Drinking and drugs and anything I could do.

FOSTER: It's easier for a veteran to confide in another veteran, his deepest secrets. And that camaraderie is a vital part of being here at stand down.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I've been here about a month now.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I've been here five months.


UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN: I've been here about four hours.

FOSTER: There are so money cracks in the system where a veteran can be easily left behind. Here at stand down, no. No man left behind.


KINNEAR: Please stand up and honor cnn Hero, Roy Foster.


FOSTER: You know, this is my position with this. And that is, veterans. The greatest warriors in this world. Men that are going to live out the last shot, the last bullet that's fired on the battleground for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now. And they're living in woods and tents and despair, abandoned. How could this be in America? The thing that we practice and the things that we believe in relation to our veterans is there should be no man left behind. There will be no man left behind as long as we are this nation.


I'd like to thank my wife, my lovely daughter, for their support. And I also thank you all for being Americans. Thank you.


COOPER: Education, yes, a lot of lip service here in the United States. But we all know that in tough economic times, our schools are often first on the chopping block. Now imagine a crisis of education in countries that face extreme poverty. Generations of kids growing up without access to learning, without the possibility of lifting themselves out of a life of deprivation. What can be done? One man has stepped forward to teach us the answers. His story will be told by an actress that works extensively with a charity, Eva Mendes.


EVA MENDES, ACTRESS: When you see children struggling and living in deplorable conditions, hungry and alone, do not pass them by. Connect with them. See them.

This is what our next hero, Efren Penaflorida, understands because he used to be one of those children. He grew up poor and fought off the overwhelming pull to join a gang, by connecting to his teachers and pursuing his education Efren started the dynamic teen company to show young people in the Philippines that there is a way out of poverty, that they don't have to take the path filled with violence and heart ache. They can choose one filled with promise. And so everyday, well, every Saturday, Efren and his team wheel in the pushcart classroom to the children in forgotten parts of the City. He teaches them how to read, how to write, how to take care of themselves. It's a simple yet powerful connection between Efren and the children who are hungry to learn, craving hope, and a hero in their lives.



EFREN PENAFLORIDA, DYNAMIC TEEN COMPANY, CNN HERO: I used to play in this place when I was a kid. These children will have their own family at 14- years-old, they have their own babies. Some of them will be involved in gangs, violence, and drugs. Some of them might be dead right now.

BONN MANALASAY, COORDINATOR, LITERACY PROGRAM: Efren was born poor. And he believed that the only thing that can get him out of there is to be educated.

PENAFLORIDA: I don't have resources. I don't have money. But what I only have is the education that I've learned in this place.

We sudden asked when we see children who can't go to school, because of poverty, so instead of them going to the school, we bring the school here. So through the pushcart. Right now we have four carts. We have a play center, literacy classes station, a clinic, and also a computer lab. What we're doing here is at least help them realize the value of education, and that learning is fun.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Pangarap ko rin pong magkaroon ng trabaho at para po matulungan ko ang aking pamilya.

"I dream of getting a job and helping my family."

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: May mga bagay na maling natututunan ko po tulad ng pagnanakaw, pagrurugby. Nakikita ko po kasi ang sarili ko dati sa mga bata po na pagala gala lang, hindi ganun kaganda yong buhay. Kapag darating po yong Kariton classroom tapos nakikita ko po yong mga batang nagtatakbuhan natutuwa po ako kasi nadadagdagan po yong mga batang natuturuan po ni Kuya Efren.

"There were some bad things I learned, like stealing, like sniffing glue. I see myself in these street kids. Their life is not that nice. When the pushcart classroom arrives and the kids run to meet the carts, I feel happy because that means that Efren is getting to teach more children.

PENAFLORIDA: My team with "Dynamic Teen Company" is to have a big space for a play center, a big space for a library, reading. And in the rooms for literacy classes. They are the heroes here. I want to give all the credits for them. So as long as there are children who are deprived, who are less fortunate, the kariton will still be pushing.


MENDES: Please join me in honoring cnn hero Efren Penaflorida.


PENAFLORIDA: Today we celebrate heroes. And I'm really honored to be with such great spirits. And I praise God as I stand before you today to represent every selfless and hard-working Filipino. Every child who's determined to learn. Every dedicated volunteer.

Thank you, Carmen (ph), my Kuya Bonn, my best friend and my mentor.


And I'm glad that he's here tonight. And my message to children of all races, please do embrace learning, and love it, for it will embrace and love you back and shall enable you to change your world. Thank you and Mabuhay.


cnn heroes is proudly sponsored by Subaru.

COOPER: Our next honoree embodies our profound ability shared really abut greatest of heroes. The ability to transcend personal tragedy. At the age of 16, this hero has a disabling accident. He had an accident that changed his life in ways he could never have imagined. Here to share this hero's triumph with us is a man who works for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Organization to defeat cancer and the story of Jordan Thomas, Neil Patrick Harris.


Neil Patrick Harris, Cure Organization, ACTOR: I am so honored to be here on such a deeply overwhelming night. This is amazing. I'm also a fan of young people who find a problem and have no fear whatsoever in saying, you adults got this all wrong and I'm going to fix it. Jordan Thomas --


Jordan Thomas is one of those fearless young people. At 16, Jordan was on his boat getting ready to enjoy beautiful day fishing with his family. He jumped into the water, was pulled toward the propellers and lost his legs.

Instead of just grieving for all that he had lost, Jordan found a way to give. In the hospital, he met other children who didn't have prosthetics because their families couldn't afford them or their insurance companies denied them coverage. And so, from his bed, he started the Jordan Thomas Foundation. He has raised $400,000 and helps each child - he helps each child get the prosthetics they need until they turn 18.

But Jordan didn't stop there. When he learned that insurance companies could deny kids a hand that could grasp a toy, or a leg that would let them run, Jordan went to Capitol Hill to change that law.

See, that's why it doesn't matter how old you are. A hero is someone who just acts, no matter what.

That's Jordan - a fearless young person trying to right a wrong.


JORDAN THOMAS, CNN HERO: Four and a half years ago, my mom and dad and I went five miles off the coast in the Keys to do some spear fishing. I was pushed behind the boat by a big wave.

I remember hearing the motor go, and I - I looked down and my fins were gone and I knew what had happened.

LIZ THOMAS, JORDAN'S MOTHER: We were a long way out, and - and I knew he had lost a lot of blood. And Vic did a great job of getting him into the boat and getting us toward shore as quickly as we could, and it was just my job to stay with Jordan.

J. THOMAS: What's so amazing is how your life can just change in an instant.

When I was in the hospital, I saw a lot of kids that didn't have the support that I had financially, and I realized that I have to do something to help these kids. So we started a foundation right there in the hospital. L. THOMAS: I think he's recognized that life passes very quickly, and you need to do what you think you're put on this earth to do.

J. THOMAS: We provide prosthetics for kids that can't afford them. We're going to help them until they're 18 years old, so families never have to worry about that burden.

You've got that new leg, don't you? Do you like this one more?

NOAH: Yes.

J. THOMAS: Noah - yes. He's just a wild man.

NOAH: I got an idea (ph)!

J. THOMAS: All right. Let's go.

His insurance company didn't give him a bendable leg, so they came to us so now he can ride his bicycle and climb stairs and do everything that a normal kid does.

NOAH: This is my favorite.

J. THOMAS: What is it?

NOAH: Watermelon.

J. THOMAS: His prosthetic isn't limiting him to do what he wants, and I think that's every amputee's goal, is to not be limited or defined by their situation.

Kids need new legs every 18 months. Insurance plans will provide kids with one pair of legs for their lifetime, which is like giving a kid one pair of shoes for a lifetime. It's just not feasible. It can't happen.

It can cost families hundreds of thousands of dollars to give their kids prosthetics.

Legs aren't a luxury. You know, kids deserve them and - and need them to be happy and productive members of society.

You know, my accident was a terrible accident, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world, because it's given me a new-found perspective in my life. So I'm extremely grateful for that.

I think it is feasible for every kid in the country to have prosthetics, and I'm going to sure work hard to get there.


HARRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Jordan Thomas.

J. THOMAS: Thank you. Thank you.

I - I can't put into words how deeply humbled I am to be here tonight with all of you. It is an incredible honor.

There are so many people that I need to thank that I can't possibly thank them all. My mom and dad, who've been so incredibly supportive. I - I certainly wouldn't be here tonight without them. I would also like to thank my brothers, Zach and Barrett, for their unwavering support.

Finally, I'd like to thank my foundation's beneficiaries, who inspired me to put my legs on each and every day to fight for other child amputees in need of our help.

You know, it - it took a serious accident like mine to realize the value in helping my fellow man. My biggest hope is that it doesn't take an accident like mine for everyone to realize the joy of helping those in need.

Thank you so much for bestowing me with this incredible honor. This has been the greatest night of my life, so thank you very much.


COPPER: We are - we're very grateful tonight to be joined by a performer who's every bit as charitable as she is gifted. With Britain's Rays of Sunshine Organization, she's made dreams come true for seriously and terminally ill children.

Her song tonight is a hymn to those who refuse to let life's tribulations beat them down and instead make the choice to be happy.

Please welcome Leona Lewis.


Thank you.


COOPER: We've seen tonight how a personal crisis can transform an ordinary person into a hero. But what about a crisis experienced by an entire country?

I'm talking about Zimbabwe. The stories coming out of that African nation are truly horrific. Girls and women are facing unspeakable brutality to their bodies and to their spirits.

From this nightmare, however, a hero has risen, and despite her ordeal, she believes in the inherent goodness of all humanity. Here to introduce you to her is the Goodwill Ambassador for UNIFEM and star of the upcoming film "Nine," Nicole Kidman.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS/UN AMBASSADOR: Tonight I want to honor the strength of a remarkable woman. What I'm about to tell you is shocking, but it is the truth. It is a story that needs to be told, because our next hero believes that that is how the healing begins.

Betty Makoni grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa. At 6, she was raped. When she was 9, her mother was murdered in front of her.

These horrors would give anyone the excuse to shut out the world, but Betty refused to give up on it. She became a teacher, and noticed that girls were dropping out of school, and she wanted to know why. Many had been sexually abused. Some fell victim because in her country rape is often used as a weapon of war. And many other girls suffered because of the virgin myth. That myth is, a man infected with HIV/AIDS can be cured by raping a virgin - teenagers, toddlers, babies.

So Betty started the Girl Child Network and offered counseling, medical care and support to build the girls back into strong, confident survivors.

Since 1999, Betty's network has rescued more than 35,000 girls and women.

While we can't stop a war from here, we can help Betty with her work. We can get the word out about that myth. We can tell the millions watching that it is a lie, it is a crime, and it is our responsibility to make sure that myth dies tonight.

Let's honor our hero, Betty, and save a girl's life.


BETTY MAKONI, CNN HERO: My name is Betty Makoni, and I come from Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is a country that has been in political and economic turmoil for the past 10 years. There's been a lot of political violence, something that we never envisioned as a people.

They've got many cases of women and girls who were raped in broad daylight, when everybody's standing by and just watching helplessly.

The project that I do is about women and girls being transformed from passive victims into survivors. Because when you survive 150 beatings, when you survive rape by 18 men who take turns, what more can we say about heroism in you as an individual?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Three cars with soldiers from the army approached my house around midnight. They pulled me by the hair and put me in their car and beat me severely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is when they raped me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Betty saved me. She took me into her arms and comforted me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Betty is always there for me. She gives me hope that there is still a better tomorrow.

MAKONI: The more you say your story, the more you become strong. And you've taught us all in the world to be strong.

I'm here to listen to you.

I do this because I'm one girl who grew up in anger because I was raped. I really wanted to end this abuse at all levels.

There are people who caused us pain in here. We want to set them on fire. When we set them on fire, there's nothing that will stop us from moving ahead.

When rape is used as a weapon of war, the effects and consequences are devastating for life. What happened to me should never happen to any woman and girl again. That's why I do my work.


KIDMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, CNN Hero, Betty Makoni.

MAKONI: Thank you so much, CNN, for the award, and to Robert Mukondiwa for nominating me and taking this journey tonight with me.

Ten years ago, I started the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe. We mobilized young girls to build the spaces where they can be respected and rescued, and also valued.

Our principle is simple, girls coming together in solidarity to build the spaces where they can be valued. If that is done, this is how they rebuild their confidence. This is how we transform victims to survivors.

My message to the world tonight is very simple. We can put a full stop to stop violations against the girls. We can build platforms for them to grow into women with full potential. This is something we can do, and join me, please.

I thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Still to come, Dwayne Johnson, Kate Hudson and George Lopez.


COOPER: Our next honoree comes to us from New Orleans, a city I love, a city which is rich in culture and cuisine, a - a place where the music is the native tongue.

We've seen a lot of heroes emerge from the floodwaters of Katrina. The man you're about to meet is one them, and he's helping kids in a very unique way.

Here to sing this hero's praises, a man who I would introduce as my dog, but I frankly don't really know what that means.

Please welcome, Save the Children's spokesperson, "American Idol's" Randy Jackson.

RANDY JACKSON, PRODUCER: I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. New Orleans is my second home. You just could never silence the Big Easy. Hurricane Katrina tried, but all it takes is one man for the band to play on. And that's our hero, Derrick Tabb.

After the storm, he watched the young people struggle, just like he did. They were lost, they were angry, just like he was. Derrick thought that if music saved me, then it just might save them.

So he started a marching band for at-risk kids in New Orleans. Five days a week, a hundred strong climbed down from the school bus. They studied hard, and when they were done, they grabbed their tubas, drums, baritone saxes, and the band plays on, shouting to the world with each note that our city is coming back.

The young people of New Orleans are back with their hero, Derrick, proudly leading the city's second line.


DERRICK TABB, CNN HERO: Katrina happened four years ago, but if you look around, it looks like it just happened a couple of weeks ago.

When Katrina hit, the music stopped in New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Katrina happened, it was scary. We didn't have a house anymore. It was a disaster.

TABB: The Katrina generation is a bunch of kids that are dealing with a lot. Not having a house is a lot to deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I have seen violence.

TABB: They're dealing with their parents not being in their life.


TABB: In New Orleans right now, it is a lot easier to get a -- a gun than it is an instrument.

Five, six, seven, eight.

The vision I had would actually teach them discipline, unity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Tabb is a good role model to follow after.

TABB: You all did that good. That sound good.

I stepped in and started this program because I honestly didn't think that nobody knew what the kids needed.



TABB: You almost got it.

I felt I was the best man for the job, because I'm a big old kid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people don't have money to put their child in a program like this. And for it to be free is a good thing.



TABB: A lot of people in the city of New Orleans don't have any hope. I had this -- all this in my head just to help kids. You have some kind of hope. You could do this, you know? And I could help you do this. To me, this program is hope.



ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome CNN Hero Derrick Tabb.




TABB: First of all, it is a true honor to be here amongst all these great heroes.

I started my program, the Roots of Music, basically to take kids off the street. It was inspired by Mr. Donald Richardson, my middle school band director.

I was faced by a lot of peer pressure on the streets. Without music, I would probably be in jail or dead. I just want to give the kids the same musical opportunity that I had. I want kids to be wiser than myself and my generation.

That's why we emphasize academic support for academic success. Please, world, continue to support the Roots of Music and all the kids around the world, because they are truly the future.

Last, but not least, continue to support all these heroes that was here today.

Thank you all.


COOPER: Those of us who did not struggle for food today are the lucky ones. More than 800 million people around the globe will go to bed hungry tonight. So, where do we even begin to make a change?

Well, one hero started in his own kitchen. To share his story, we have got a spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation, whose fund- raising efforts for earthquake victims in Guatemala earned him the title honorary mayor of Los Angeles, George Lopez.




GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN: Hello, everyone. I'm Sanjay Gupta.


LOPEZ: Lou Dobbs could not be here tonight.


LOPEZ: How many times have you driven by a group of people standing on the corner, and you know that they need help, but you never stop the car and do something?

Well, our next hero, Jorge Munoz -- I got to like that -- he did.


LOPEZ: Jorgito!


LOPEZ: Jorgito Munoz...


LOPEZ: ... asked a group of men, are you hungry? And now, every night, Jorge feeds as many as 140 people on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York!


LOPEZ: He spends all day driving a school bus, and then goes home and cooks with his family pots of rice, beans and chicken. And I will tell you this. After 16 years of marriage, I'm very envious of that.


LOPEZ: At around 9:30 at night, he takes the meals out and hands them out one by one who to the people who are always waiting. Jorge's called the angels of Queens, the Superman of Roosevelt Avenue. He is my hero, because, one day, he rolled a window down and asked, are you hungry?


JORGE MUNOZ, CNN HERO: I'm a school bus driver.

One day, I see these guys standing in the street. I saw them and say, what are these guys doing here? And I stop and I ask them. Says, the day laborers spend the whole day on the corner hoping getting a job. Says, if we have a job, we got money to eat. If not, you know, we don't eat nothing today.

So, I say, OK. Wait for me tomorrow here. I'm going to bring something to eat. I get up at around 5:15 in the morning, getting on my bus around 6:30. I finish my work around 5:00, be back at home around 6:00, and I start my second job.


MUNOZ: This is a family operation.

(through translator): Justin, the pasta please.

In the beginning, friend of mine, he donated a lot of bread, and, then later, I got more donations. The food start to come in big and big. Little, little by little, the food inside the houses get small, small. Now I have six refrigerators in my house.

Today, we're going to cook chicken, rice and beans. We're going to pack them up, drive to the corner. In the beginning, it was eight guys. Two weeks later, it was like 110, 120, sometimes 140.

But thank God I have enough food for everybody. I have my family, my sister. I have a home. I have stable job. Whatever I have wanted, I have. They are alone. They have nothing. They don't even have a place to stay. They don't have a place to sleep.

(through translator): How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Good. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A lot of people here call him the Superman of Roosevelt Avenue. He is the person that sees the emotion and needs of all of us.

MUNOZ: Thank God these people got something to eat tonight. When you see that smile, you say you're doing something good. Just give them a meal and then I say, see you tomorrow.



LOPEZ: Join me in honoring CNN Hero Jorgito Munoz.




MUNOZ: First of all, thank God. Thank you so much, CNN.

Right now, I want to -- everyone to know that my sister, Luz, is in Queens. She stay home. And, thanks to her, no one hungry tonight.


MUNOZ: I want to thank my family for helping me with all the cooking. I want to thank everyone who donates the food and the money. We couldn't do it without your help.

I want to tell you who is my hero. She's my mom. She's right there.


MUNOZ: She's retired. She should be able to kick up her feet and watch TV, but she help me to cook.

You saw how the packed the home is. Maybe after this, mom, your house is going to be back to you. She's my hero because she taught me to share. If you (INAUDIBLE) share just a little bit, no one's go to hungry tonight.



MUNOZ: God bless this country.


MUNOZ: Thank you so much.





COOPER: Our next performer's music is the perfect accompaniment for tonight's "Heroes." It's fearless, it's powerful, and it touches the spirit. And he's here to remind us to help somebody.

Join me in welcoming the man who wrestled the title of ambassador of soul away from me, Maxwell.





To the heroes of CNN.



COOPER: In war, it is often children who suffer the most. And our next hero saw the war in Iraq and saw a need not being filled and asked, how can I help? He's brought together United States and Iraqi military forces in the common goal of saving young lives.

Here to salute a hero who is changing lives for the better, please welcome the chairman and chairman of the Rock Foundation and star of the upcoming film "The Tooth Fairy," Dwayne Johnson.



DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR: As a parent, I would do anything for my daughter. If she needed me to carry her, cross mountains, deserts, the whole country, then I would.

Every child deserves this kind of devotion. Even on their darkest days, they need someone to lift them up and show them there's hope. That is our solemn bond.

And our Hero, Brad Blauser, is its keeper. Brad went to Iraq to work as a civilian contractor and found his calling. In Baghdad, he heard stories about parents carrying their children with walking disabilities and how some young girls and boys would pull themselves through the streets.

So, he asked an Army doctor what was the greatest need, and the doctor responded, children's wheelchairs. In a month, Brad had 31 of them and founded Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids. So far, he's provided 700 chairs.


JOHNSON: For the first time in these kids' lives, they aren't looking back over their father's shoulder or to the side cradled in their mother's arms. They're moving with their eyes looking forward.

Our Hero saw a need and he filled it in a war zone. That act of courage and compassion, it's strong enough to carry all of us.



BRAD BLAUSER, CNN HERO: Iraq is a country bring that's been through some tremendous struggles. Being out in the city on your own is taking your life in your own hands. I have been told, if I went out on my own, I would last about three hours.

Unfortunately, it's a situation where a lot of people, adults and children, are caught in the crossfire. I had no idea I would end up in the middle of a war zone giving out pediatric wheelchairs to children who had no way of getting them. When we go out on these missions, I know, sometimes, my life is on the line, but I'm willing to take that risk because the lives of these children mean so much. There's hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq who need these. I have become the source and the supply of children's wheelchairs, but, even more so, the source and supply of hope.

Ready to unload. One right here.

A lot of times, the children haven't slept the night before because they know they're going to get a child's wheelchair for the first time. They have seen them. They have -- they have wished for one, and now they're going to get one.

Just you lay back in it good and put your head there. You can take her out to the market. You can take her anywhere with you.

I have never really come to a point of just wanting to walk away. How can I leave? I have become their voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am happy because of the wheelchair. Today is a good day. God bless you.

BLAUSER: Back in 2006, we did our very first wheelchair distribution in the Sinjar province. Right as the wheelchair distribution began, we saw somebody coming over the hill, and he was coming in our direction.

Some soldiers looked and saw that he had a child. He was carrying an older boy. As the soldiers ran up to help take the child from his arms, he pulled back and he said: "No, I have carried my boy all his life. I can carry him the last 100 meters, so I can give him his wheelchair."



JOHNSON: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero Brad Blauser.




BLAUSER: Last year, I was in the heart of a war zone watching this show. And I can't believe that, one year later, I'm standing on the stage.


BLAUSER: This all began when I asked a friend, Lieutenant Colonel David Brown, what he needed, and he said, children's wheelchairs.

David, I'm so glad that you're here with us tonight. (APPLAUSE)

BLAUSER: Children with disabilities are a blessing. And they deserve to have their mobility needs met, because all kids are precious in God's sight.

Thank you so much to my family and my mother and my father, all the generous donors who support us...


BLAUSER: ... my friends at Reach Out and Care Wheels, the Iraqi people, and the U.S. military for all their support. Thank you so much.



BLAUSER: Thank you.

COOPER: Our next Hero is a figure of remarkable generosity. He's a man who saw young refugees without home, he saw them without food, and he wouldn't stand for it anymore. He opened his doors, becoming a father to many and a hero to us all.

Here to tell his story is a woman who is working to end the illegal wildlife trade with the WildAid organization, Kate Hudson.



A kid should just be able to be a kid. They should be able to run, play, make up stories, and jump and dance around to music, the way my son does. Kids should feel loved and safe. They should never have to witness the horrors of war, walk across a border alone, or live in a camp, abandoned, scared and hopeless.

This is why Budi Soehardi is one of the most courageous men in town.


HUDSON: In 1999, after the slaughter in East Timor, Budi, a pilot, organized a relief drop to refugee camps. In the middle of the chaos, he met the tiniest victims, the orphans.

He could have walked away and said, "I have done enough," but, instead, Budi did more. He built them a home, a place where he feeds the kids, provides medical care, and gives them an education.

But Budi goes one step further. He promises to be their father until they grow up. To 48 kids, he's their dad.

(APPLAUSE) HUDSON: They get to run and play because of him. They get to imagine and laugh because of him. They get to just be kids, because Budi is their hero.



BUDI SOEHARDI, CNN HERO: You can name any child. I can give you sets of them. Some children are just left at the door of the orphanage. Most of the children are here because their mother passed away in childbirth, extreme poverty, or the family had too many children.

Because of that, my wife, Peggy, and I decided to build the orphanage. The intention is to give them tools for their life, which is in the form of a proper education. We treat the children here as if they are our own children.

They call me Pa Budi. They call my wife as mama.


SOEHARDI: So, we will look after them the best we could. And, at the end of the day, they do not owe us anything.

(through translator): Only one obligation that you need to do is study. Remember that.

My salary has been the main financial provider for this orphanage. Behind me is a rice field. And that's where we make ourselves self- sufficient on rice. So, our orphanage is not only feeding the orphanage, but is able to give rice to the people who are suffering.


When I'm able to bring a new child to our home here, my wife and I are really happy. We were having 47 children. But as of today, the number 48 is here with us.

Welcome home. This is your new place, right? You're going to grow up here with lots and lots of new siblings.

If you do things based on the passion that you're having, the success rate will be very high.

If you only one measure of satisfaction, you will never be happy. But if you are able to give somebody a future better, that's really rewarding.

HUDSON: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero Budi Soehardi.

SOEHARDI: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, CNN.

This is your captain speaking. Greetings from Roslin Orphanage. We started with nothing, but today Roslin Orphanage is a place where you can ask for help, a place you can give your help, a place where we can work together based on humanity to do things for others.

As for myself, I'm far from being a hero, but let me introduce the real hero in my life: my wife, Peggy. There are three other heroes in my life, as well: my daughters Christine, Tasha (ph) and Christian. I love you very much. They have been sacrificing their holidays for the last eight years, and they've never been traveling overseas, even though they have the privilege to have traveled around the world first class on the best airlines. Instead, they are helping us at the orphanage and never fail year after year. Thank you, children.

We can do better if you come along, join us, and I guarantee that this world will be a better place. And to the humanity, I accept the reward.

MALE ANNOUNCER: Coming up...

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Pierce Brosnan...

MALE ANNOUNCER: ... a live performance by Carrie Underwood...

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: ... and we'll announce the "CNN Hero of the Year."


COOPER: Heroism is contagious. As our heroes move forward, others step up to help their efforts and become heroes in their own right. For proof, you need look only than our next honoree. A vibrant, joyful woman who bounced back from disease with a newfound purpose. Today she's a crusader for the health of women, and her campaign is growing.

Here to share her story with us is Pierce Brosnan.

PIERCE BROSNAN, ACTOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My first wife Cassie was a young woman making her way through the world. She was a magnificent mother. She was a wonderful actor who was human, generous, and graceful in her work, just like the way she lived her life.

Then, everything changed when cancer knocked on our door. We took our turns caring for her when she was weak, and we never stopped missing her now that she's gone.

There are too many of us who have lost someone to this brutal disease called cancer. And we are all sick and tired of cancer winning. It is time we had more survivors like our hero Andrea Ivory, knocking on our doors instead.

Andrea is a breast cancer survivor. Early detection and support from her family gave hear fighting chance, but she knew millions of women were dying because their cancer was detected too late. So she started the Florida Breast Health Initiative to sign up uninsured women for free mammograms.

With her volunteers, she's gone door to door to beat this disease, not just a few doors, but more than 20,000. That's how tired Andrea is of cancer winning. And if all of us fight, march, walk, run and knock on as many doors as possible, right alongside our hero, this cancer doesn't stand a chance.


ANDREA IVORY, FOUNDER, FLORIDA BREAST HEALTH INITATIVE (voice-over): I had cancer. I have health insurance. But throughout my treatment and recovery, I was thinking about those women who didn't have health insurance. It was right then and there throughout my recovery, I just knew that I had to make a difference in their lives.

(on camera) Good morning, everyone.

Every woman, regardless of her ability to pay, has a right to benefit from the early detection of breast cancer.

CHARLENE THOMAS, VOLUNTEER: The first thing they notice is probably her hair. It's always perfectly done.

IVORY: Florida Breast Health Initiative.

THOMAS: Second thing you notice about Andrea is she's very stubborn.

IVORY: Please, let me make an appointment for you. It's so convenient.

They don't have health insurance, we can get them free screenings, OK?

(voice-over) I knew that we had to have an unconventional approach. If we could bring the services to them, that makes all the difference in the world. We go to neighborhoods that are forgotten.

(on camera) Has anybody in your family had breast cancer?


IVORY: Your mother had breast cancer. And how's she doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She passed away when I was 7.

IVORY (voice-over): One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom went into the hospital and didn't -- they didn't accept her because she didn't have insurance.

NEREIDA AGUAYO, JESSICA'S MOTHER, VOLUNTTER: that was very scary. If I have to go through chemotherapy or anything else, how will I afford that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I introduced Andrea to my mom. She got us the free mammogram. When we got that phone call that the mammogram came back negative, that was one of the best moments of my life.

AGUAYO: I'm just happy.

IVORY (on camera): Not raining, yes!

(voice-over) If you could tell me that we would be visiting 20,000 homes or we would have helped over 600 women, I would have told you, I wasn't part of that.

When I talk to my volunteers or when I go knock on the door and talk to a woman, it's almost like an out-of-body experience. It's not really me, because I would have never done this years ago.

(on camera) So are you coming back next week? You feel the power? I feel the power.

AGUAYO: Andrea put faith in me in people. Now today, I have faith in people. We need more people that care for all the people.

IVORY: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never asked, "Why me?" Instead, I asked, "What for?"


BROSNAN: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor to present CNN Hero Andrea Ivory.

IVORY: Wow. Thank you.

I'd like to thank all associated with the Florida Breast Health Initiative and CNN for their support. We know early detection saves lives, and last month I celebrated five years being cancer free. Thank you.

A fifth grader wrote a letter why he wanted me to be here tonight. He thought that I could knock on every door in America and it would help doctors find a cure. He wanted me to be here tonight because his mom died from breast cancer, and he didn't want other children to feel like him. He has become my inspiration.

And though I couldn't knock on every door in America, I will knock on every door possible because I, too, don't want another child to lose their mom to breast cancer.

Thank you so very much. To my wonderful husband, Willie, who's my co- survivor, I thank you so very much for this honor. Thank you.

MALE ANNOUNCER: "CNN Heroes" is proudly sponsored by Humana.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Guidance when you need it most.

MALE ANNOUNCER: And by Tide, "loads of hope."

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Help families affected by disaster by purchasing yellow-cap Tide.


COOPER: A singer has come to our show tonight because she passionately believes in the values embodied by our heroes. On stage, she sings of heartbreak and salvation. Off stage, she's a champion for many causes, including her own hometown foundation. Her song "Change" is an inspirational anthem about how even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference.

Ladies and gentlemen, Carrie Underwood.


CARRIE UNDERWOOD, SINGER: God bless you guys.


COOPER: Well, we've met our ten heroes. We've met our ten heroes, each of whom has now been awarded $25,000 to carry on their urgent work. Now the moment arrives when we declare our CNN Hero of the Year.

Each time one of our ten nominees graced this stage, we were all reminded that everyday people can change this world. Since CNN announced the top ten heroes, we've asked people from all over the world to go to and vote for the hero who inspired them the most. We've received more than 2.5 million votes, and tonight the hero with the most vote wills receive an additional $100,000 grant to continue their extraordinary work.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to announce the CNN Hero of the Year. The CNN Hero of the Year is Efren Penaflorida.

PENAFLORIDA: Thank you. Our planet is filled with heroes: young and old, rich and poor. Men, women of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry. Each person has a hidden hero within. You just have to look inside you and search it in your heart.

So to each and every person inside in this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. As I always tell to my volunteers of Dynamic Club Company and Club 8586 Incorporated, you are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream. And collectively, we are the change that this world needs to be. Mabui.

COOPER: Wow. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks.

I want to bring all our distinguished honorees to join Efren on stage. Could all the heroes please come up?

How are you?

These are the men and women who have put their hearts and their souls into making life better for all of us. I'd like to leave you with the words of Abraham Lincoln that said, "Determine the thing that can and shall be done, and then we shall find a way."

We can change our world, and the heroes have shown us the way, if we have the courage to follow their lead. Go to Find out how. That's also where you can tell us about a hero that should be recognized. The nominations for 2010 heroes are open right now. Thank you, heroes, for all you've done.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Good night.