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CNN Heroes: Where Are They Now?

Aired November 24, 2011 - 20:00   ET


DOC HENDLEY, 2009 TOP 10 CNN HERO: This is what I wake up in the morning for. This is everything to me.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: They hail from every corner of the globe.

EFREN PENAFLORIDA, 2010 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: We are the change that this world needs to be.

COOPER: Serving others with a dedication and passion that sets them apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is giving life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what it's all about.

COOPER: They're CNN Heroes. For five years we've honored them, everyday people changing the world. These men and women never sought the spotlight but each year the entertainment world's brightest stars come out to salute them.

Tonight catch up with some of our past honorees to see how they're still making a difference, come along with celebrities who've left the glamour of Hollywood behind to see our heroes in action.

DEMI MOORE, ACTRESS: So wonderful to be here. Thank you.

COOPER: Folks like Demi Moore, Gerard Butler, George Lopez, Rain Wilson and Holli Robinson Peete, and JR Martinez.

And meet a new group of amazing individuals, the Top 10 Heroes of 2011. So join us as we celebrate people who made giving their way of life.

Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper. To all our viewers around the world, welcome. To those of you here in America, happy Thanksgiving.

Tonight we're celebrating the spirit of giving by looking at people who give back all year-round, our CNN Heroes. In the past this is the night we brought you "CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." This year that broadcast will be live from Los Angeles on Sunday, December 11th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to join us for a remarkable night.

If you're a fan of that show, you're going to love tonight's lineup. So let's get started. For the past five years we've asked you, our global audience, to tell us about people in your communities who are making a difference. Your nominations led us to our CNN Heroes, enabling us to shine a spotlight on people who are rarely in the public eye.

The result has been inspiring.


COOPER (voice-over): Since 2007 CNN viewers have helped us find these rare individuals, submitting more than 40,000 nominations from more than 100 countries. From those thousands we've honored just 164 men, women and young people worldwide as CNN Heroes. They're all determined, resourceful, passionate and their missions run the gamut.

LINDA FONDREN, 2010 CNN HERO: Go, girl. Go. Good job.

COOPER: Sustaining life. Preserving dignity. Protecting the powerless. Defending the planet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to come inside.

COOPER: And nourishing the soul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be here for you and help you out.

COOPER: They've helped hundreds of thousands of people in 75 countries creating a legacy of change around the world.

(On camera): Tonight we gather to honor the best that humanity has to offer.

(Voice-over): Each fall we select an even more elite group, the Top 10 Heroes of the Year. The award brings $50,000 and global recognition in "CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." The celebrity- studded gala which salutes our heroes' selfless work.

GREG KINNEAR, ACTOR: The people that they find are always pretty amazing.

KATE BECKINSDALE, ACTRESS: They've been absolutely doing everything from the goodness of their heart and not expecting to have a lot of attention for it. So it's great to give people that attention.

RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: To honor those people that put their lives first to help others. You know what I mean? These are true heroes.

COOPER: That night we also announce the Hero of the Year. The person with the most online votes who receives an additional $250,000.

But it's the exposure, the spotlight on the world stage that benefits all our heroes the most. Since 2007 our honorees have raised more than $6 million in donations and grants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be honored in something that you love doing, showcased internationally was tremendous. And it's still reaping benefits as we speak today.

COOPER: With their courage and humanity, our CNN Heroes are still lighting the way inspiring others to follow their example.


COOPER: As you've just seen, our CNN Heroes live and give back all across the globe. They do all kinds of work, but ultimately their stories have the same message. That one person can make a different.

Take Dan Wallrath, one of last year's Top 10 Heroes. When this Texas homebuilder realized how many hardships injured soldiers had to endure when they returned home, he decided he had to help. So he began building and giving away free homes to wounded veterans.

DAN WALLRATH, 2010 TOP 10 CNN HERO: I want you to read the sign for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Future home of Sergeant Alexander Reyes, United States Army.

COOPER: Since being honored last year, Dan's program has expanded from one to five states. He's now given more than 30 wounded warriors and their families a place to call home. We caught up with him as he was visiting a long-time friend. Someone whose own star has also recently been on the rise.


WALLRATH: It's great to be back in L.A. again. Twelve months ago we were here at the CNN Hero tribute show, and it's just been an incredible year.

KID ROCK, CNN HERO PRESENTER: It's my honor to present CNN Hero, Dan Wallrath.

WALLRATH: Being a Top 10 CNN Hero was just very humbling.

The true heroes are the service men and women who answer the call.

After the show aired, things just took of for us. We were contacted by "ABC Extreme Makeover." We did a home in Ft. Hood for a family there. Then they called us again. Our story is getting out there just every day. We're building houses all over the United States now.

We're out here in L.A. to visit a real good friend of ours. Hey.


WALLRATH: I've known JR Martinez for about three years now. He's our national spokesman. He's involved with "Dancing with the Stars." And he wants us to come out and be with him.

I've been watching on TV. And you've been doing amazing. I'll tell you, it's just been -- I know it's hard to work with this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a pleasure to kick his butt. I do enjoy it.


WALLRATH: JR was a soldier in Iraq. One of our wounded heroes.

JR MARTINEZ, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: I ran over a land mine. By the time they're able to pull me out of the vehicle, I've been burning over 40 percent of my body. It was tough.

WALLRATH: Man, I won't stop you. I want to see you dance.

MARTINEZ: Yes. Well, you don't know this, but you're actually going to dance, too.


MARTINEZ: I just kind of made the decision every single day to just be positive, to smile and just try to make the best of it. As I did that, more opportunities came to me. And I got a role on "All My Children."




MARTINEZ: And then now "Dancing with the Stars."

I just want to inspire. No matter what war you face in life, you can win it. You can win the battle.

WALLRATH: Good stuff.

MARTINEZ: Man, I'm so glad you came out. You made it out to L.A. to come catch a show.

WALLRATH: We're proud of you.

MARTINEZ: Thank you, man.

WALLRATH: We're proud of you.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

WALLRATH: JR is bringing a lot of attention to these young men and women that have to deal with these incredible injuries.

You being here, you know, just helps our cause.

MARTINEZ: We wanted to kind of honor those men and women who have, you know, given their lives, while paying a tribute to the war wounded.

WALLRATH: I just -- I cried.

MARTINEZ: It's amazing to think that, you know, how far, you know, we've come. WALLRATH: Last year at this time we were four or five homes. We're 32 homes now. It's just unbelievable. We're changing lives. There's 43,000 injured heroes out there. Our goal is to build every one of them a new home. The spotlight is helping us to help them.

The more people know about what we're doing, the better off we're going to be. We can put more and more families into new homes.

MARTINEZ: We just keep doing it, man. There'll be a lot more homes to be built. A lot more homes to be built. But right now I got to get to dancing.

WALLRATH: All right, man.

MARTINEZ: I'm going to teach you a little step, too.

WALLRATH: All right.


COOPER: And congratulations to JR Martinez, who won the "Dancing with the Stars" competition just a couple of days ago.

If you're a fan of JR, tune in on December 11th when he'll be co- hosting our red carpet pre-show live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right before "CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." No word yet on whether he'll be showing off any of his fancy footwork, but it's a live show so you never know.

Coming up, find out which of our past heroes brought actor Gerard Butler to tears. And later in the show see actress Demi Moore's emotional journey to visit the 2010 Hero of the Year.


MOORE: So wonderful to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much for coming.



JEWEL, SINGER: People that are nominated as CNN Heroes are people that are just were trying to find a solution to a problem that they thought needed fixed.


COOPER: All CNN Heroes share a common bond when faced with a problem that many of us might believe is too big to tackle. They take action.

Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, one of last year's Top 10, is just one example. A salmon farmer from Scotland, Magnus found his mission in a pub when he wasn't able to forget the images of impoverished refugees he'd seen on the "Nightly News." He decided to do something. He started Mary's Meals, a global food program that now feeds more than 580,000 kids every day. Since being recognized as a CNN Hero Magnus has been able to do even more to help others.

When he learned about the devastating famine in Somalia, he once again decided it was a crisis he couldn't ignore.


COOPER (voice-over): It's the most severe drought to hit East Africa in 60 years. The U.N. Refugee Agency has called it the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Tens of thousands have already died and more than half of them children. And the United Nations says three-quarter of a million Somalis could starve to death in the coming months.

MAGNUS MCFARLANE-BARROW, 2010 TOP 10 HERO OF THE YEAR: It's overwhelming coming here and to see the scale of the need here. Most people when you see children on the brink of starvation, the first desire of all of us is to give those children something to eat.

COOPER: That's exactly what Magnus has been doing since September when he brought 20 tons of food to Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. Delivering the aid was a daunting challenge since a terrorist group has blocked many western humanitarian organization from entering the country. Mary's Meals used its regional partner to do what others couldn't.

MCFARLANE-BARROW: So often you hear it's not possible to get the food to the people that need it in Somalia. Well, we've just seen today that it certainly is possible. This work is about people. It's always really important to get food for the people that we're working for.

How long has she lived here? Three months. Why did she leave? They lost everything.

Everyone I've talked to here has walked long distances from their homes. They all talk about how their cattle have died, how they now have no farms to go back to. The meal that we provide is a porridge mixture called the (INAUDIBLE). Very, very cheap but very nutritious. That's good. One meal costs six cents.

COOPER: Mary's Meals plan to ship a total of 200 tons of food by the end of the year. That's more than two million meals. It's been a life changing journey for this one-time salmon farmer who feels more at home helping others than he does in the spotlight.

MCFARLANE-BARROW: The CNN Heroes thing was a bit weird for me, because this isn't about me. There are thousands of people all over the world involved, but at the same time it was the most wonderful opportunity to tell people about Mary's Meals. And it's allowed us to feed many more people as a result. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: This year's "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" turns the tables on the traditional award show, bringing out celebrities to salute our everyday heroes.

Last year Magnus was honored his countryman actor Gerard Butler. Gerard is known of course for playing some pretty tough roles on the big screen, but he found himself surprisingly moved by Magnus' story.

CNN's Piers Morgan recently spoke to him about it. Here's what he had to say.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Last year you were a presenter on CNN Heroes all-star tribute. You introduced Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow. Tell me about that experience.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: I found myself reading this, you know, about this incredible man and what he's achieved. And just feeling -- I was just very, very moved.

Please join me in honoring CNN Hero and I'm proud that he's a fellow Scotsman, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow.

I was just completely choked up.

MORGAN: You're choked up, you did, yes.

BUTLER: Yes. I think it was the total pride that we were Scottish and just the complete humility with which you could feel everything about his story and the work that he did.

MORGAN: You actually went and saw Magnus at his home, didn't you? Tell me about that.

BUTLER: I chased him down. We'd swapped a couple of phone calls and I said, OK, I'm coming to visit you, so I went and spent the day with him and his family and saw his charity and all the people that work for him. That is such a worthy cause because they feed more than half a million children every day all over the world.

MORGAN: He's a remarkable man, isn't he?

BUTLER: A remarkable man and a beautiful soul. And I really learned a lot from him just in the times that I've spent with him.


COOPER: Coming up, Demi Moore travels across the world to fight sex trafficking alongside our 2010 CNN Hero of the Year.

And later in the show comedian George Lopez pays a surprise visit to a hero.


GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN: Is that the door right there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's the door.

LOPEZ: It smells delicious.




LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: You like our Heroes concept?

JERRY SEINFELD, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: I do. I love the heroes. That's beautiful.

KING: It's nice to see everyday people.

SEINFELD: That's the classiest thing on CNN. I love it. Don't you think? That's really classy.

KING: Do it every Thanksgiving, I think.

SEINFELD: Yes. It's great. It's great.


COOPER: Becoming a CNN Hero has helped many of our honorees attract celebrity supporters allowing them to raise awareness and much-needed money for their important work. That's what happened to 2010 Hero of the Year Anuradha Koirala.

Since 1993 she's been fighting sex trafficking in her native Nepal. With her relentless determination this tiny women has rescued more than 12,000 girls.


ANURADHA KOIRALA, 2010 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: Just imagine what would happen if your daughter was standing there, and if your daughter was there, what would you do? How would you fight?


COOPER: Actress Demi Moore shares Anuradha's passion about ending the sex trade. When they met at last year's tribute show, the bond was immediate and it led to a remarkable journey.


COOPER (voice-over): From the first moment, Demi's passion for Anuradha's cause was clear.

MOORE: I admire our next hero because of the brave and serious work she does. She says stop. Stop selling our girls. It is my honor to present CNN Hero Anuradha Koirala. KOIRALA: I asked everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking.

COOPER: As they walked offstage, the personal connection was unmistakable.

MOORE: I'm thrilled. I feel so moved and I feel inspired to continue the fight.

COOPER: Just moments later Anuradha's night got even more memorable.

(On camera): 2010 CNN Hero of the Year is Anuradha Koirala.

KOIRALA: Thank you, thank you so much.

COOPER (voice-over): Demi was so inspired that months later she partnered with CNN's "FREEDOM PROJECT" for the documentary "Nepal's Stolen Children," heading to that country to see Anuradha's work firsthand.

MOORE: So wonderful to be here.

KOIRALA: Thank you so much for coming.

MOORE: I wanted to come to learn what you're doing that's working.

COOPER: Demi was stunned by the stories she heard from the women and girls who've been saved by Anuradha.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): At a brothel I was forced to have sex with men, and if I refused, they would burn cigarettes on my body.

COOPER: The border between Nepal and India isn't very secure, making it a haven for sex traffickers.

MOORE: Can you explain it to me, like, how it exactly works?

KOIRALA: Every girl they watch. And they watch the men also.

COOPER: Anuradha and her team constantly monitor the area to save girls before they're taken out of the country.

This is Tuli from a small town. She was taken at a busy bus stop while traveling to the city and spent six months in a brothel in Calcutta, leaving behind a young daughter. Anuradha's organization Mighty Nepal helped her escape and is bringing her back home for the first time.

KOIRALA: Tuli, how do you feel to be home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): I feel very happy.

MOORE: If there's something that you would like me to say on behalf of you, I can pass that on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): Nobody should be left like that. Everybody should be punished.

COOPER: Demi took their messages and her questions to Nepal's former prime minister.

MOORE: What's happening here with trafficking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to double-up more modern type of checkpoints.

COOPER: Anuradha was impressed with Demi's knowledge, commitment and genuine connection to the girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language)

KOIRALA: Thank you for coming all the way and taking my story and sharing with everybody.

MOORE: I promise to do a really good job of sharing this so that we can -- we can end this.

COOPER: And what has it meant to Anuradha to be CNN Hero of the Year?

KOIRALA: Becoming a Hero of the Year was really very prestigious thing for me because of CNN, because of money, because of Demi Moore. Everybody is so aware of this issue. Before we were single-handed but now there are lots of people around the health and in Nepal itself joining hands to fight this crime.

We need to do this for all our daughters. Thank you. Namaste.


COOPER: You can see all Demi Moore's visit with Anuradha later tonight in the CNN "FREEDOM PROJECT" documentary "Nepal's Stolen Children."

Tonight you've heard about the impressive work being done by some of our previous honorees. Well, this year we're honoring a new group of outstanding individuals, the Top 10 Heroes of 2011.

Each of these remarkable men and women will receive $50,000 and will be honored at "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." It's live from Los Angeles on December 11th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Each one also has a shot to be named "CNN Hero of the Year." That comes with global recognition and it brings an additional $250,000 to his or her organization.

You can decide who that deserving person will be by voting right now online, on your tab or even on your mobile phone. Just go to The person with the most votes will be announced live on December 11th.

So now meet five of this year's Top 10 CNN Heroes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER (voice-over): Amy Stokes from Yonkers, New York. She's using the Internet to redefine the word family, matching hundreds of teens lacking role models with caring adults from around the world.

From Anaheim, California, Bruno Serato. When he learned just how many motel kids in his area go to bed hungry, this chef began serving up a solution, one plate of pasta at a time.

DERRICK KAYONGO, CNN HERO: Those are clean. That's very good.

COOPER: From Lawrenceville, Georgia, Derrick Kayongo, turning trash into treasure, he collects tons of discarded hotel soap and reprocesses it to save lives in impoverished communities in nine countries.

Diane Latiker from Chicago, Illinois, surrounded by neighborhood violence, she opened her home and invited gang members in. Today she's turning the building next door into a safe haven for hundreds of teens.

Eddie Canales from Shirts, Texas, after his son was paralyzed playing high school football, he devoted his life to supporting other young players sidelined by spinal cord injury.


COOPER: See the rest of this extraordinary group later in the hour, and you can find out more about all of our Top 10 CNN Heroes on

In the spirit of giving, we've also made it easy to donate to these amazing individuals. Just go to our Web site. All transaction fees are waived so 100 percent of your donation goes to their work.

Coming up, go inside one of California' maximum security prisons with actress Holly Robinson Peete and find out which hero inspired actor Rain Wilson to travel to the poorest country in the western hemisphere.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Natalie Allen. A very happy Thanksgiving to you tonight. So much to be thankful for.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords celebrated Thanksgiving with the troops. It's her first constituent event since she was greatly wounded in a mass shooting in January. Giffords and her husband served meals to military families at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

A record number of shoppers, about 152 million of them, gearing up for Black Friday. Take a look at the early birds camped out in California. Stores are getting ready, too. Many big retailers to open tonight. Among the major big box stores, Toys-R-Us will open its doors at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight followed by Wal-Mart at 10:00.

A deadly plane crash east of Phoenix, Arizona. Six people killed. Three of them children. The small plane slammed into the Superstition Mountains exploding on impact. Flames spread near the crash site. Rescue crews reached the wreckage over night. Officials say the plane appears to have disintegrated.

CNN Heroes "Where Are They Now" continues in just a moment.


HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE: The best part about the CNN Heroes is that none of them were seeking recognition. They were all just entranced in the work that means so much to them.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Actress Holly Robinson Peete was deeply moved by the work of 2008 Top Ten Hero, Carolyn LeCroy who helps incarcerated parents stay connected to their kids through videotaped messages.


CAROLYN LECROY: The Messages Project is on to help children of incarcerated parents know they're loved.


COOPER: Holly recently joined Carolyn as she expanded her program into a fifth state, California. They visited a maximum security prison, and Holly recently told me it was an experience she will never forget.


COOPER: It was back I think in 2008 that you really got to know all the top 10 heroes first.

PEETE: Yes. I am totally star-struck. I show up every year. I am constantly, you know, walking up to people. I know exactly what they've done and I'm just proud to be among them on that evening.

COOPER: You also ran the Social Suite at the last heroes, the tribute show.

PEETE: Well, hosting the Social Suite was a thrill. What I loved was the fact that you had this mixture of the CNN heroes, and then you had celebrities. For instance, I remember tweeting with L.L. Cool Jay and talking about some of the people that he was getting a chance to meet.

COOPER: That's what's so interesting about the show. The people we're star-struck by our folks whose names aren't well-known, and you have to love Carolyn LeCroy. What about her sparked your interest?

PEETE: Of course, Anderson, all the heroes blew me away. There was something about Carolyn's story that I especially connected to. I just found myself intrigued and had to help her out. We kept talking about California, California. It's the most incarcerated state in the country.

That's where I live. So I said, we got to get in there, and we finally made it in. I was impacted by it for the rest of the day and still am.

(voice-over): When I was involved with Heroes in 2008, I became a CNN Heroes groupie. Carolyn's Messages Project just touched my heart.

When you think about the people in this world that need help, the last people on that list are children of incarcerated parents. That, to me, is why I'm coming out here today.

(on camera): That's it? I think this is where we check in. We finally did it. You're my superhero. I love you.

LECROY: I love you, too.

PEETE: So since I met you in 2008, how many institutions have you been able to bring the Messages Project to?

LECROY: When we received the award, we were doing six prisons just in Virginia. We have institutions now that are doing it in Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

PEETE: So what are the total number of messages delivered by the Messages Project now?

LECROY: We're right at 9,000.

PEETE: Wow. That's a lot of children that have this opportunity. Gate, please. So tell me about this facility.

LECROY: This is a maximum security prison. It is the pilot for California.

PEETE: No pressure.

LECROY: Girl, here we come. For each window you see, there's two guys in there. My understanding is there are about 4,300 inmates. These are guys with big sentences, a lot of life sentences.

PEETE: Thanks.

LECROY: Good morning. How are you? I'm Carolyn.

PEETE: I'm Holly. I'm Holly Robinson Peete.

LECROY: All right. How many children you got?


LECROY: You have four. Where are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're in Arkansas.

LECROY: OK, this is really important. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very important.

LECROY: Talk from your heart. You have 15 minutes. We're going to give you a save net. Just a little security blanket for you. Good luck. You look great. Are we ready to roll? Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, kids. I know that you're angry with me, and you should be angry with me. The difficulties that you've faced over the years, that's my fault. Hold on a second.

PEETE: What really impressed me with these dads is that they were all so crystal clear on how important this project was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to have something so that whatever time you feel like seeing me, you can have me there.

PEETE: Everybody just got it. They were nervous. It's hard for men, period, to talk about their feelings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When she ask will you give us a kiss, I love you, OK? I'm going to put this down real quick.

PEETE: I loved your eye contact. It's the little things, you know. I don't know how they go where you have to have a little bravado and swagger to get through your day to come in here and just unleash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always have your picture right here with me. That feeling that I feel, I can't really --

PEETE: Most of them did, you know, weep. You could see that pain. You could see that sadness, that guilt that they had for whatever decision they made ten years ago, 15 years ago that has impacted their children their entire lives.

LECROY: When you set these fathers down in front of that camera, they're dads.

PEETE: I felt I was in a room with some men that were desperate to convey to their children that they love them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep doing good and listening to grandma. Remember, I always love you. When you were a baby, Katherine, I used to sing you a song. Katherine, let's sing the song. It says I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky. I'll be there. I swear. I'm sorry I'm not.

PEETE: It was your singing. Your singing was great. Can I see your pictures?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just had her first dance. She said I'm going to be going to my first dance, and it just killed me.

PEETE: Do you want to send a shout out for her dance?

PEETE: Then let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

PEETE: Thank you.


PEETE: These are the envelopes that these disks are going to go in. Make sure the right disk goes to the right family, right?

(voice-over): I'm so enamored with the Messages Project. I can't imagine with all the things going on in these children's lives what this means to them. On behalf of all of them, thank you so much.


COOPER: Up next, comedian George Lopez visits the man he calls his hero in Queens, New York.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was growing up, my grandma's kitchen was like this, the same wall.





RAINN WILSON: It's so singular to see people that are -- these are the people that we all should aspire to be.

COOPER: We've heard stories from celebrities who have been moved by our CNN Heroes. Well, actor, Rainn Wilson best known as Dwight on "The Office" was one of the first to be so inspired.

Back in 2007, he heard about CNN Hero Aaron Jackson's work helping deworm malnourished children in Haiti. He was so impressed that he got involved. Since then his commitment to Jackson has continued to grow. Take a look.


WILSON: I was literally sitting in my trailer at "The Office," and I was looking at the CNN web site. They had CNN Heroes. I think it was in the first year, and I saw this story on this guy, Aaron Jackson.

This is a young kid from Florida that grew up on a golf course and didn't really have much direction in his life. And then he went traveling in the third world and he saw poverty. And he decided to devote his life to making the world a better place.

AARON JACKSON: Today, we dewormed an estimated a little over 100 people. WILSON: It's been great to be able to help out Aaron Jackson and planting peace by doing fundraisers. I've got to introduce him to people and help raise money and just help his organization really getting moving.

He's the amazing guy doing all the really hard work, and you know, give him the cash and just let him do what he does best. They have four or five orphanages in Haiti, and I also went out when they distributed the deworming medication out in the rural villages and towns.

You're distributing food, aid all around the country. So many kids can be, you know, eating their fill, but because there's so filled with warms, they're unable to digest and process the food. So it's really a waste.

JACKSON: You deworm a kid and the worms shoot out in 24 to 48 hours. It's amazing. You see a kid highly anemic and not alert at all, once you rid them of worms, they come back to life and that's what's amazing. You see an immediate impact.

Since that Hero segment in 2007, we've actually raised enough money with Rainn's help to deworm every child in Haiti, all 3.2 million kids. Anyone can be a hero. It takes a little bit of work.

WILSON: There's one thing I could take away from my experience with CNN Heroes, is these stories are incredibly inspiring. They inspire me to step up my game and try and do more to help the world.


COOPER: As you have just seen, the exposure, being honored as a CNN Hero can be transforming. It allows our honourees to expand their work in ways they've never imagine possible. Here's a look at how some of our heroes have found new ways of helping others.


COOPER (voice-over): Marie Da Silva's life and work has changed dramatically in a few short years. They helped her leave her job as a nanny and devote herself full time to her organization to provide free education, food and medical care she aids orphans in Malawi.

Marie's school was originally run from her crowded childhood home, but within six months of being honored by CNN, she fulfilled her dream to build a new high school for her students.

The new facility includes a library, staff, classrooms, and health clinics. It has doubled the student body, now supports 400 kids, 25 of them in college, and remains the only free secondary school in Malawi.

Army Veteran Roy Foster was recognized for starting a transitional living facility for his brothers in arms struggling with homelessness.

ROY FOSTER: There will be no man left behind as long as we are this nation.

COOPER: The exposure helped expand his program to include veteran women and families in need and to open a one-stop resource center where vets can access support services under one roof.

This month this once homeless veteran's journey comes full circle as he launches a program that gives home mortgage free to qualifying vets at risk of living on the streets.

Since Doc Hendly was honored, the former bartender has expanded his global work into eight more countries, 12 in all reaching 100,000 people in need with free, life-saving water.

After the Haiti earthquake, Doc's organization reached 10,000 survivors with life saving filters to provide safe drinking water for five years. What's more, in less than one year and against incredible odds opened a factory in Haiti that distributed another 4,000 filters and employed Haitians.

And answering a desperate call from the drought ravaged horn of Africa, Doc's group has worked with local partners drilling 27 wells that will help sustain 17,000 lives.

In the Philippines, 2009 Hero of the Year, Efren Penaflorida's remarkable story continues to unfold. This once bullied kid from the slums returned home from the 2009 All-Star tribute, his first trip to the U.S., a national hero.

He can now be seen weekly in his own search for heroes on Philippine television. Meanwhile, Efren's dynamic team company has reached nearly 2,500 poor Filipino children with its mobile push cart classrooms, which have been replicated nearly 60 times across the country.

This year the group opened an education center in Efren's hometown. From all walks of life in the far corners of the globe, CNN Heroes continue to reach for their dreams.

EFREN PENAFLORIDA: We are the change that this world needs to be. Mabuhay!


COOPER: The work being done by our past honourees is impressive. But as you know, this year we're also celebrating a new group of amazing individuals. You met five of them earlier in the show. Now hear the rest of this year's top Ten CNN Heroes.

From Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, he was diagnosed win curable cancer, he sold his business and started living his dream providing free coaching, food and life lessons to these kids from slums.

From Mexico, Richard St. Dennis, after severing his spinal cord in a skiing accident, he gave the gift of mobility and a brighter future to hundreds in Mexico. Robin Limm from Bali, Indonesia. Since her sister's death from pregnancy complications, she's helped thousands of low income women have healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries.

From Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Sal Demasili.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it's tough for everybody.


COOPER: Call him the Dear Abby for the down and out. Each year he keeps hundreds of working poor afloat providing foot, rent and basic necessities.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no judgment on how to do this.


COOPER: And from Texas, Taryn Davis devastated by her husband's death, she built a centerhood for war heroes celebrating love, survival and sacrifice together.

All these men and women have dedicated their lives to helping others, but now you have a change to help them. Vote for the hero who inspires you the most online, on your tablet, your cell phone, any mobile device.

Just go to The person with the most votes will be named CNN Hero of the Year, and they're going to receive $250,000. So vote now. It's your chance to help a hero. The results will be announced live on December 11th at CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute.

Up next, funny man, George Lopez dishes it out to the hungry on the streets of New York City.



JESSICA BIEL: This is the best presenting I've ever gotten to do. So I'm thrilled. I'm just thrilled it's not about me today.


COOPER: As you've seen our annual tribute show can be pretty emotional, especially for the celebrities who present the awards to our honourees.

Back in 2009, the enthusiasm that comedian George Lopez felt when he introduced CNN Hero Jorge Munoz, it was pretty clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN: How many times have been driven by a group of people standing on the corner and you know they need help. You never stop the car and do something. Well, our next hero, Jorge Munoz -- I got to like that. He did it.


COOPER: Lopez got a lot of laughs. It was Jorge, a school bus driver from Queens who feeds more than 120 people every night who won over the audience and his presenter.

The experience made a lasting impression on George who stopped by our studio recently to pay a surprise visit to the man he calls Jorgito.


COOPER: You're probably one of the most memorable presenters we have on the podium. You called him Jorhito.

LOPEZ: Jorhito kind of like Georgy and buddy, camaraderie guys. He's impressive to me.

COOPER: What was it about Jorge Munoz that really moved you?

LOPEZ: The fact that he's really sacrificing his own life and time and to include his family every night through rain and through snow and the coldest nights. Those people wait for him. The minute I saw the story, Anderson, I was all in. I love this guy, seriously.

COOPER: To me, it's such a great example of what heroes is all about. They do whatever they can and however they can.

LOPEZ: Absolutely.

COOPER: I heard you had tried to slip him an envelope with some money.

LOPEZ: I gave him $5,000 the last time. But I asked him to take care of his family, to take them on a trip someplace. I'm not sure what he did. I'm going to ask him.

LOPEZ: You're going to surprise him tonight?

LOPEZ: I am. I'm going to see his face and surprise him. I'm very excited about that.

COOPER: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LOPEZ (voice-over): This is my buddy, Jorhito. It's great to see him and surprise him and to see his work and what he does first hand. He really puts everything into perspective with everything that's going on in the country.

On the rainy nights in New York when it's cold, the weather is starting to change, you want to make sure you feed people and they're not hungry. Is that the door right there? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's the door.

LOPEZ: It smells delicious. Horhito!

JORGE MUNOZ: Wow. George. Whoo-hoo!

LOPEZ: Don't worry, man. I've come to help you.


LOPEZ: Look. Let's get to work.

MUNOZ: Wow, wow.

LOPEZ: That's awesome. Hey, kids.

MUNOZ: Come on in.

LOPEZ: What's going on?

MUNOZ: George Lopez.

LOPEZ: You make all the food in here, Jorge?

MUNOZ: Yes, all the food here.

LOPEZ: It smells delicious.

MUNOZ: Beans, tomatoes.

LOPEZ: From the driveway it smells.


LOPEZ: What time do you start?

MUNOZ: At 5:15 in the morning. I always say when you hand a meal to those guys and they say thanks so much, that's when I get paid. You impress me. You're here. You're in my home.

LOPEZ: You're my hero, man.

MUNOZ: I have four refrigerators. There's one more in the hallway.

LOPEZ: There is? Let me see. Here's what I'm going to do. Remember the last time when I saw you I gave you the envelope?


LOPEZ: What did you do with that?

MUNOZ: I put it in the checking account, the foundation account and I use it for this.

LOPEZ: I'm going to give you another $5,000.

MUNOZ: Thanks. I need it now.

LOPEZ: OK, beautiful.

MUNOZ: That's the gift from the person right there.

LOPEZ: That's beautiful.

MUNOZ: Not that many people have the honor to be invited by the president of the United States to the White House. It was special to receive that. This is a special medal from his hands.

LOPEZ: To think that a guy would be a school bus driver all day and come home tired every night without fail to make sure that these people are fed is inspiring. In my opinion, this guy is a star. Let's go. What time do you come? Like 9:30?

MUNOZ: At 9:40.

LOPEZ: Want some food?


LOPEZ: You're welcome. The fact that they touch their stomach and they are happy and have a hot meal on a cold night is great.

MUNOZ: George came here and he helped me and now knows what I feel inside when I do this.

LOPEZ: You see this and you think every night do you that, man. It's beautiful.

MUNOZ: In seven years I missed one day.

LOPEZ: Even though it's freezing, I have such a great glow inside of me. It's more amazing than an hour ago when I was at his house. Congratulations on your work, all right. I'll see you again. God bless you.

MUNOZ: You, too, man.


COOPER: Since he was honored in 2009 his food program has been replicated in 25 other cities around the country. That means a lot of people go to bed with full stomachs tonight because of him.

That's our show. We hope you enjoyed this look at what our heroes are doing now. We're proud to salute the work these remarkable individuals continue to do every day of the year.

Don't forget, join me for CNN Heroes, an All-Star tribute, on Sunday, December 11th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We're going to be coming to you live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles with a host of celebrity performers and presenters who are going to help us honor this year's Top 10 CNN Heroes. It's a CNN holiday tradition that always inspires so you don't want to miss it. Thanks for watching for me, Anderson Cooper, and all of us here at CNN, good night.