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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute. Aired 9-11p ET
Aired December 6, 2015 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: From the American Museum of National History in New York City, this is "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host for the evening, Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much. Welcome to "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE." Tonight we're gathered in this amazing room, the Milsteen Hall of Ocean Life in the Museum of Natural History New York to celebrate extraordinary men and women who highlight the best of what humanity has to offer. Tonight, you're going to meet heroes who remind us that compassion and kindness are still very present, very much alive in the world today.
Among other things, they are bringing healthcare to the homeless, supporting our combat veterans, aiding single parents with cancer, caring for kids in the poorest parts of the world, even rescuing sloths in South America.
I'm going to just tell you right now I'm obsessed with sloths. I don't know if you know much about sloths. They sleep 18 hours a day. They poop once a week. It's the life I aspire to.
It's wonderful that so many big names could donate their time to be part of this evening honoring our heroes' work. My great friend, Kelly Ripa is here with her husband, Mark Consuelos. This is Kelly's third time presenting at "Heroes." We appreciate both of them being here.
Another great friend of mine is here who harasses me all year long but never so much says on New Year's Eve. She sends me completely inappropriate text messages, dirty, dirty pictures of herself. Kathy Griffin is here. I'm watching you, Kathy. I am watching you. All right?
Now, throughout the night as you meet our CNN Heroes, I hope you'll be inspired to get involved with their causes. You can go to cnnheros.com at any time where you'll see ways to interact and donate during the show. And while you're watching, you can also get involved on Facebook, on Twitter. You can visit our account on Instagram to see exclusive behind the scenes pictures from tonight's event.
CNN has given each of our top ten honorees $10,000 so they can continue to do their important work and, of course, later tonight one of the honorees will be named 2015 CNN Hero of the Year and they will receive an additional $100,000. So let's begin tonight-- Let's meet our first CNN Hero. On any given night, nearly half a million people are homeless in the United States of America. Many are experiencing a temporary crisis. They're living in a shelter. But 15% of them are chronically homeless. They live with serious medical conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, mental illness. Our next hero seeks these men and women out to bring them care in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To tell us about his remarkable work is a proud supporter of Direct Relief which provides essential medical resources for people in need and during disasters, as well as the support of the Trevor Project, he's the star of the upcoming film "Snowden," please welcome Pittsburgh native, Zachary Quinto.
ZACHARY QUINTO: Do I matter? When it's 10 degrees outside and the wind's blowing and all you've got is a cardboard box in an alley, you're thinking, do I matter at all to the people passing me by? Everyday in my hometown, Dr. Jim Withers makes sure they know the answer. Twenty three years ago, he rubbed the dirt in his hair, muddled up his clothes to go out and get to know the runaway teenagers, pregnant mothers, elderly men, and the veterans struggling on the streets of Pittsburgh.
He started Operation Safety Net to bring them medical care through street grounds. Now, he has a drop-in center, mobile van and a clinic too, and this reached more than 10,000 individuals and helped 1,200 of them transition into housing. And when he's treating someone, he embraces them, looks them in the eye, says their name, and tells them in no uncertain terms, "Yes, you matter."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JIM WITHERS, OPERATIONSAFETYNET.NET: Did they put staples in or stitches?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, they put staples in.
WITHERS: OK. Let me take a look. Any bad headaches or anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I've got some pretty bad headaches.
WITHERS: Just kind of look off towards the bumper of that car. I've been walking the streets of Pittsburgh for 23 years. Can you make a fist? Does that hurt?
The truth is, and it's a difficult truth, is that any one of us actually could end up there. We're lucky.
[21:05:06] We try to keep our team down to four people. It can be a challenge to keep with where the camps are, how many people are living in places that you'd never want to live.
Safety Net. We got some food, some water. I got Dr. Withers with me today.
WITHERS: We always try to check in with how they're doing medically, do they have their medicines?
He's on Dilantin, or Tegretol? So these are the 100 milligrams.
We record what we've done in a confidential record.
All right. Good to see you.
It's just really like you would do in an office.
Any chest pain or...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The only complaint, doc it's, like, too tight.
WITHERS: The skin's too tight on the pacer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Too tight.
WITHERS: So you build trust with folks whose trust has been broken. Have you ever tried to hurt yourself before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's real hard for me. I ain't got none of my parents.
WITHERS: You're not alone. We'll be there for you, OK?
It takes time, it takes sincerity, it takes flexibility and a sense of humor. You look good. You aged better than I did.
We try to have a good selection that will cover all the different kinds of illnesses. We have bags that are for pain relief, antibiotics, blood pressure pills. I kind of had to make this up when I started. The streets taught us what it needed.
It's just a very ongoing presence that tries to improve how healthy they are.
What hurts the most?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This knee is so swollen.
WITHERS: It's not hard to go out to see them. It's hard going home at night and knowing there are people still sleeping out there. Once you know they're there, it haunts you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did so much for me.
WITHERS: Maybe society doesn't have time to get to know the people and see the value and strength in people. All I would really ask is we don't judge people that we don't know. Don't judge people unless you walked in their shoes.
I think the take-home message is that you matter as a human being. Good and steady. You got a good heart.
And people need to hear that and feel that, and once they do, then I think their healing begins. All right. I'll see you next time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
WITHERS: Love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUINTO: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Dr. Jim Withers.
WITHERS: To be honest, I didn't go under bridges to save homeless people. I went there to save myself. And perhaps, my profession. Our society is losing its humanity, and only by reaching out for the people that have been tossed aside can we regain it. The real heroes are our brothers and sisters who suffer while we stand by and judge them from a distance. Go to the people. Work with them to find solutions. This is what the global street medicine movement is doing. Thank you, and god bless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up next, Victoria Justice, and later, Neil Patrick Harris. "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" is proudly by sponsored by Subaru. Love. It's what makes a Subaru a Subaru.
[21:12:08] COOPER: Hey, welcome back to CNN Heroes. Throughout tonight's broadcast, we hope you go to cnnheroes.com to learn about our honorees. You can donate if you can because every dollar counts and helps them continue to do their life-changing work. You can also connect on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram with a lot of behind the scenes photos. Take a look at one of the photos that was just posted. There is actually a sloth playing piano backstage. I don't know why.
Back to our heroes. According to the world Health Organization, in Nepal, more than a quarter of the country lives in poverty. And in its rural areas, that number rises to nearly half. That life is especially hard on children, many are orphans. They receive really no formal education. And many spend their days hammering rocks into pebbles to earn money. Here to tell us about a hero who's building these kids a better life is a champion for the Girl Up Campaign, which creates opportunities for girls in the developing world. She's also the star of the new film "Naomi and Eli's No Kiss List," Victoria Justice.
VICTORIA JUSTICE: In 2006, a high school graduate from New Jersey didn't know what she wanted to do, so she took a year off to travel the world. Maggie Doyne helped a team rebuild a seawall in Fiji, she spent time at a Buddhist monastery. Then her work with refugees in India brought her to Nepal and to a riverbed where she met a little girl in a tattered orange dress who said, Namaste Didi. And that simple greeting of hello, Maggie decided to support that little girl so that she could go to school and have a better life.
Maggie stayed in Nepal and knew she had to do more. She called her parents and asked for the $5,000 she saved from baby sitting to start the Kopila Valley Children's Home. Today, almost 50 children live there because they need a better place to grow up and feel safe. Maggie also built a town in school where 350 kids can learn. And all of this good is happening because Maggie had the courage to go out into the world and find her calling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE DOYNE, BLINKNOW.ORG: There is something naive about it, I think. Like, I can take on the world. Good morning. Wake up time. Everything that happened to me happened like that. Time for breakfast.
I am now 28 years old, and the most proud mother. Time to get up for school, sweetie. We're a family of almost 50 kids. We're home. Yay. We started with just one child and then it grew to five. Then the cap became 30 and then that kid comes in that you just can't say no to. It's life or death.
[21:15:00] Good morning, Ravi. Ravi is the youngest in the family. He came to us at just about 4 pounds. He was like a sack of bones really. He had to be resuscitated. He went on a ventilator. He is just a miracle baby.
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: Welcome to Kopila Valley.
DOYNE: When you walk in the front gate, you don't see what the kids have been through in their past. You see healthy, laughing, thriving kids. We wake up in the morning and go off to school and then come home and do homework and eat our meals together and everybody goes to bed at night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night love.
DOYNE: I love you. I can't imagine our family without a single one of them. As the home grew, the project really grew. I asked the community what they thought would really change and impact the region, and everybody agreed on the same thing. Our children need quality education.
We have created one of the top-performing schools in the entire region. You got it. Our kids are the poorest of the poor. The ones who aren't supposed to make it. After a couple years here, they're just so healthy. It's amazing to watch that transformation. We call it the Kopila effect.
Hima was the first girl that I enrolled into school. She was a rock breaker to make the income to support her family. They were just children. They were doing that all day, every day. Hima now is doing amazing. Her family's running a little shop. Her brother's now in our school. Her mom is working at our women's center.
I said to myself, one day I'm going to walk across this dry riverbed and there's not going to be a single kid breaking stones. And today there's not a single kid because they're all in our school.
Most women my age definitely have a different reality, but I have everything I need and all the love in the world.
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: We love each other like a sister or brother because we are one family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Maggie Doyne.
DOYNE: I am so incredibly honored to accept this award on behalf of all my little heroes in Nepal at Kopila. I draw all of my inspiration from them. There's no time to waste. If you are educated and free and empowered and safe, you have to use your strength, your power, and your gifts to help the rest of our human family.
I'm also so grateful to my co-founder, Tope, who's with me here tonight, and to the BlinkNow family and to everyone who's had the faith in our vision. We cannot lose sight of the task at hand, change the world in the blink of an eye. Thank you.
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: Live from Nepal. We love you, mom. We love you, mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up on CNN Heroes, Neil Patrick Harris. Taylor Schilling, Justin Theroux, and Sharon Stone. If you want to learn more about our heroes, go to cnnheroes.com.
[21:21:56] COOPER: Hey, welcome back to CNN Heroes. You may not know this, but the United States leads the industrialized world with a number of homeless women and children. Many of the women are victims of domestic violence, some are just getting out of prison. Our next hero focuses her work on rebuilding these women's lives in California, in San Bernardino County. To share her extraordinary story, a supporter of the Representation Project that strives to end stereotypes and stop social injustices. She's the Emmy-nominated star of "Orange Is The New Black." I'm a huge fan. Taylor Schilling.
TAYLOR SCHILLING: When we see a homeless woman and she's high, covered head to toe in filth, or she's crying, most of the time we look away, cross the street, but Kim Carter doesn't, because she survived that journey to the depths of despair.
At 5 years old, she was given her first drink. At 17, she took a hit of crack cocaine and was hooked. For more than a decade, she lived in alleys and abandoned buildings, had a daughter and gave her up, and cycled in and out of prison. During her last time inside, Kim enrolled in a rehabilitation program and worked for her second chance. She rebuilt her life with a new home, a new job, and she reconnected with her daughter. And in 2002, she wanted to help other women do the same and started the Time For Change Foundation.
Kim and her staff have provided counseling, childcare, and job training to hundreds of women and children as they transition into permanent housing. Kim and the women and children she's helped are why we have to stop crossing that street. We must stand with them, get to know them, so they can find their second chance and realize the potential that resides in their hearts, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIM CARTER, TIMEFORCHANGEFOUNDATION.ORG: This is my old housing unit right here. (inaudible). When I was deepest in my addiction, I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought about life. I never thought about saving myself. But after I became a mother, it became haunting.
So this is it. This is my bunk right here. I spent years laying right here. This is the reality of what my life had came to this 2 x 4. You can almost touch the wall. That's how tight it is in here.
Sometimes when I went to jail, it was a blessing because I was able to lay down and I was able to sleep and I would be let out again back out into homelessness.
Good morning, family. Good afternoon, family. How you all doing today?
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: Good.
CARTER: So my name is Kim Carter, W number 25395, W number 49068. And I say it so you can know that I am you and you are me.
[21:25:06] My last time in prison, I was sitting there thinking, what happened? There wasn't one thing that happened. A lot of things happened. Don't give up on yourself because you still worthy.
What option does a woman with nothing have to start over?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been homeless almost six months.
CARTER: We meet women where they are. The bus station, at the hospital, coming out of jail. We'll pick them up and put them into an environment where they can heal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a frightening experience. It's frightening.
CARTER: My goal is for them to leave fully self-sufficient and to get their children back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was just very abusive. When I left, I left with nothing. I got my two girls and left. We were sleeping in the cars, in motels. Anywhere where I could put their little heads down to sleep. I worked so hard to not lose them. I haven't had my girls for a year and two months now.
It's been a long, long journey. Fighting for them. Trying to get them back. Thank you, Ms. Carter. Thank you. I can't make up for the time that I lost with my daughter, but I can help make sure another mother doesn't lose time with theirs. I'm here. I'm not on the margins of society no more. I'm a part of society. I'm a change agent. Who knew?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHILLING: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Kim Carter.
CARTER: If my life's work has to be measured, and my determination defined, let it reflect that I do what I do because I love my daughter. I love my daughter. And I live with this pain because I wasn't able to be there for her when she was young. See, there was no Time for Change Foundation there for me. But see, my God, he allows me to make sure that no other mother has to go separated from her kids because she might need some help or because she might be homeless. That's what my God allows for me. See it's right there, where that pain is in me and that love is in me, that's where I find my passion and my purpose. That's where I find my dedication at. I get to help women reclaim their children, become those nurturing parents they always wanted to be. The work that I do, this is like the air that I breathe, so I can't stop. Thank you.
COOPER: Throughout the night while you're watching, you can also connect on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Tonight we continue our tradition of honoring young people who are also making a difference. At CNN, we call these inspiring kids young wonders. Our first young wonder is tackling an important issue. In the United States, one in six kids between the ages of 3 and 17 live with a developmental disability. Something like autism or Down syndrome. For those who want to play on a sports team, their choices are limited. Our first young wonder loves to play ice hockey and he wanted to create something specifically designed for these kids. Here to share his story is a Canadian, which means naturally he's been an ice hockey fan since birth, which frankly was not very long ago. He's a young wonder in his own right, he's the star of the powerful new film, "Room," please welcome Jacob Tremblay.
JACOB TREMBLAY: Let me tell you why Isaiah Granet is a great person. He gets that every child is amazing and knows that some need a little bit of extra help.
[21:30:06] When I say some kids can't be on a hockey team just because of who they are, he created one for them. They get to skate every weekend and make friends. They're called the San Diego Chill, and they're my favorite team. You know why? Because Isaiah is more than just the coach, he's a cool kid with a heart of gold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAIAH GRANET, SANDIEGOCHILL.ORG: I love ice hockey. I love the feel of when I'm skating. The wind on my face. And the puck on your stick. It's such a rush. I wanted to help kids with developmental disabilities play the sport I love and cherish so much. My challenge for you guys is to skate across the ice. No coach's help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GRANET: They were working on stopping. Every Saturday we want our players to see their friends and their teammates. Now you can go. We want them to feel joy coming into the rink. Way to go. Way to go. You see how much faster you are when you use your left foot? The majority of our coaches are in their teen years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can do it. There you go. There you go, keep coming at me.
GRANET: Players know that while they're out there and their coach is there, that they will be safe. That is huge for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Casey bonds really well when she has the boy coaches. She's the typical teenager. I think for her, she just really wants to do well for them.
So proud of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job.
GRANET: Just a little action, a little time out of your day can make such a big difference in someone's life. I can't think of a better use of my time. When I see a player smile, it makes it all worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a big hand for our young wonder, Isaiah Granet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up next, Common. And later, Kelly Ripa. CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is sponsored by Humana. Helping to close the gap between you and the care you deserve.
[21:35:07] COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Heroes. We are very grateful for everyone who donated their time to be here and help us on our Heroes. Once again, we tried to get my friend, Wolf Blitzer to come, but of course he's preparing for an upcoming debate. He's very busy down in Washington, D.C. Let's take a look at what he's been doing right now.
He loves Drake's "Hotline Bling." I don't know what it is about Wolf.
So tonight, there are a lot of different ways for you to interact. And I want to show you right now, my background is a sloth. Don't judge me, Kathy Griffin. It's what I can do. You can go to our Facebook page over here. Just want to show you -- let's take a look over here. You can go to our Facebook page right now, talk about what's going on. You can also go to our Twitter page, join the conversation, and you can even join us on Instagram and see behind the scenes pictures.
When you learn about our Heroes, I hope they'll inspire you to get involved in one way or another. So let's get back to their amazing work.
In the struggling neighborhoods of Chicago, death, shootings and violent crimes are often daily occurrences. Those victims are overwhelming the emergency rooms and the operating tables. That means many are on Medicaid, many of the uninsured, the underinsured, they see their healthcare delay. Here to tell us about a doctor who's been serving Chicago's underserved for 20 years. He's a proud supporter of Music Versus Gun Violence, the new campaign to end gun violence in Chicago. Academy and Grammy Award winning artist, Common.
COMMON: Treat first. That's the mantra of the biggest, boldest, bad ass doctor in my hometown of Chicago. Dr. Daniel Ivankovich is an orthopedic surgeon who has seen it all. Broken bones. Twisted knees. Bad backs. Dislocated joints. All treatable conditions, but for those living in the roughest neighborhoods, treatment isn't easy. They don't have a lot of money. They're on Medicaid and they don't have insurance. So they're told to wait. Months, sometimes years would go by while they lived in pain and their conditions worsened.
Dr. Dan said, "Enough is enough," and co-founded the OnePatient Global Health Initiative, which runs three clinics and performs more than 600 surgeries a year. Many of them for free. He drives around with his skull rings, leather cowboy hat, and tells the people that he sees them, hears them, and wants them to get well. Treat first. That's the Dr. Dan way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DAN IVANKOVICH, ONEPATIENT.ORG: I've been serving in these communities for the past 20 years. Jackson and Laramie is where one of our clinics used to be. We had to leave because over the course of a year, we witnessed four murders. It was like we're in the middle of a war zone.
Can I get the smothered chicken? This restaurant I've been coming to for years. It's the best food in the city. Thank you very much. You guys enjoy your meal. Have a beautiful day. Awesome.
We're on the west side and the west side is a rough side. Living in these communities with the threat of violence constantly in the air truly affects how people live their lives.
During my training, the trauma and the gang violence was never ending. Serving a large population of gang bangers, the problem is that you are constantly fixing the same people over and over again. You're basically putting a Band-Aid on a major problem.
Many patients with knee arthritis, with bad backs, they kept getting put to the back of the line. How is it that the people that are doing bad things are getting the priority, and the people that are just good people that happened to be poor are being ignored by the system? I just said, "You know what, I need to take care of these people."
Have a seat. How are your knees feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're feeling better.
IVANKOVICH: We want to try and buy you more time for your knees, so the knee replacement is going to be sort of the last thing when everything else fails. [21:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You will surely find a way when you
start cutting, chop, chop, saw, so you have (inaudible). That's one thing I like coming to you because you are more entwined with us.
IVANKOVICH: I'll see you in a couple of weeks, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okey-doke.
IVANKOVICH: The goal is going to be to have these legs be parallel. We'll be good to go. Ricardo Garcia. To the left.
RICARDO GARCIA: Ten years ago, I was in a hit-and-run. I broke my back, broke my hip, shattered both legs. I was left for dead. I did not have health insurance at the time. I was told I had to leave the hospital. My legs are still broken, my knees are still broken.
IVANKOVICH: We call it treat them and street them. Nobody is offering them a definitive solution to their problem. Left knee's been great?
GARCIA: The left knee is awesome.
IVANKOVICH: Even if I got to do a crazy incision, I would try to do one.
GARCIA: I had about eight doctors turn me away. He fixed me when no one else would or could. He looks at me as a person, not as a number.
IVANKOVICH: I don't see barriers. I see solutions. From the day I started, I saw that not all people were treated equally.
GARCIA: There you go.
IVANKOVICH: People want to live and they want to love. They want to laugh. My goal for my patients is to just give them their life back. I want to be the battering ram to try and level the playing field.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COMMON: As you can see, this guy is very cool. Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Dr. Daniel Ivankovich.
IVANKOVICH: Thanks. Thank you. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. In the world that I see, everybody matters, and nobody is invisible. Especially poor people, people of color and people with disabilities. I serve as one example that everyone can care enough to fight for what is right. I hope that my efforts inspire others to follow. It's an honor to be recognized as a CNN Hero. To my family and kids, for supporting me and putting up with those 120-hour workweeks and to my dear wife, Karla. She transforms lives with me on Chicago's frontlines every day. I wouldn't be here tonight without you. Peace and love.
MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: Thank you, Dr. Dan!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For helping to fix my knee. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For bringing my leg back to life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And giving us hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, Justin Theroux, and later Kathy Griffin honors a hero who's helping our combat veterans. CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is sponsored by Microsoft. Empowering us all.
[21:46:16] COOPER: Welcome back. While you're watching at home if you'd like to help out one or more of our Top Ten Heroes, your donations will make a real difference so please do it now at cnnheroes.com.
In the state of South Dakota, the Lakota Sioux Nation stretches across 3 million acres of land including the Cheyenne River reservation. Nearly 10,000 Native Americans work to keep their community together fighting against the endemic problems of poverty, unemployment, addiction, suicide. To tell us how our next hero is helping, here's Justin Theroux.
JUSTIN THEROUX: We all have that promise we made years ago that's gone unfulfilled. We think it's too late to do anything about it, but Rochelle Ripley shows us it is never too late to keep your word. Forty five years, that's how long it took Rochelle to honor her promise to her grandmother.
When she was young and visiting her grandmother's farm in Indiana, she told Rochelle stories about her Native American heritage and asked that Rochelle one day go and help the Lakota people. It wasn't until Rochelle's own granddaughter was born that she finally made that journey. What she saw was this. The spirit of the people was inspiring, but the conditions were deplorable. And in 1998, she started hawkwing. To date, she and her volunteers have delivered more than $9 million in goods and services. What used to be an unfulfilled promise is now a labor of love. And her incredible work has earned her the beautiful, powerful, and fitting name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHELLE RIPLEY, HAWKWING.ORG: We call her (inaudible) means you're helping people, women. (inaudible). She's helping us a lot on this reservation and she never gave up on us.
Part of the reservation we're going to right now is the poorest part of the reservation. It's going to be a dirt road all the way in to Cherry Creek. The Lakota reservations are very isolated. It's a very large landmass with about 10,000 people living on the reservation. The irony on Cheyenne River is it's one of the most beautiful places you can come to. The sunsets are extraordinary. The people are loving and wonderful. That is contrasted with this immense poverty. You have extremely high rates of suicide, addictions. The spirit of the people is here. It's alive. But they struggle with the conditions tremendously.
Health issues are another huge challenge.
You got 11 people in your house. I'm going to give you a couple of these. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are all major issues. So have them back here at noon. We're going to feed you. We got all kinds of stuff.
Food often is in very short supply. It's both nutritiously insufficient and inadequate in quantity. And you have homelessness on top of houses that no one should actually be living in. We're going to be helping a family where the mom has unfortunately gone blind.
And we're almost to the front door, there you go you're at the front door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At first, I was traumatized, because I was blind. All my electricity outlets and stuff were no good. And it could have been a house fire.
[21:50:07] RIPLEY: They want to get the floor down tonight so that's secure for you. We're doing as much as we can to make her house safe for her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's even more newer in here. I can't see it, but I feel it.
RIPLEY: We really do work collaboratively with the tribe everywhere we go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know she has a lot of respect. She comes to the leadership and asks what are the needs of our people. She's a very responsive person.
RIPLEY: It's so good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?
RIPLEY: When I come here, there was a connectedness to the people and to the land. They say when I get here, welcome home. The sky is immense, the stars are magnificent. There's a beauty and a magic here that everyone who comes here feels. We're all humans. We're all children of this earth, and we need to work together so that everyone has a chance at having a decent life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THEROUX: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Rochelle Ripley.
RIPLEY: Thank you. The vastness of the Great Plains of America makes you feel like you can touch the sky. But beneath that sky, the suffering is equally vast. Here live the children America has left behind. Please join hawkwing to bring help and hope to the children, parents, veterans and elders of the Cheyenne River, Lakota Sioux tribe. From the bottom of my heart and that of the tribe, wopila tanka. Great thanks to CNN Heroes and each of you. For my grandma and my son in spirit, and my daughter who's here with me tonight, you are my heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Neil Patrick Harris, and later tonight we'll reveal the 2015 CNN Hero of the Year. CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute is sponsored by Geico. Proudly highlighting those people who are improving our world everyday.
[21:55:50] COOPER: How you doin'? This is basically a dream come true for me. This is all I need. This is a sloth. Her name is Snooki, I'm not kidding. I wish I made that up, but I didn't. She's an animal ambassador, and we're very grateful that the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, Connecticut brought her here tonight. Our next hero is from Surnam in South America. You know where that is, don't you? Yes, you do. She likes to give blow on her face, but frankly who doesn't?
In Surnam, 94% of the country is covered in forest, the most of any country in the entire world. But as urban areas grow and through industrial development, the habitat of sloths is being threatened. To tell us how our next hero is working to protect the sloths, please welcome the supporter or so many causes including God's Love We Deliver, which brings nutritious meals to people too sick to come for themselves as well as the Trevor Project, my friend Neil Patrick Harris.
NEIL PATRICK HARRIES: Thanks, Anderson. How refreshing to observe a Snooki with no spray tan. We all love animals, and it is heartbreaking when someone has to search for a lost dog. One day, Monique Pool looked everywhere for hers. When she couldn't find and she called the local animal shelter, they didn't have her dog, but they did have a baby sloth. And even though she had no idea know how to raise and care for a sloth, it was impossible for her to turn away an animal in need. Soon after, she started receiving calls about more sloths that were tangled on fences or injured or living in someone's backyard tree.
Soon her house was packed with these adorable animals. It was slothefied (ph). So she started the Green Heritage Fund Surinam to help these amazing animals and other creatures of the rainforest and its waterways. This is the only earth we have. Our environmentalists and accidental sloth experts can't be its only protectors. We must join them to care for it so that our beloved animals, the like the sloths, can be where they're supposed to be, living in the canopies of our trees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONIQUE POOL: Sloths are very cute because they're very slow animals. They like to hang out. They look really relaxed, like a little Buddha who's content and they have always a smile on their face. But sloths are facing loss of habitat in the urban area. When sloths are in trouble, all the telephone calls come to us. Even the zoo calls me. This is Stewie.
All animals we rescue we bring them back to my house, which is now like a temporary shelter. It's ridiculous the way he's lying. My life with sloths.
My biggest rescue effort was in 2012 when we heard about this plot of land that was going to be cleared. We call this Slothageddon (ph), sloth Armageddon. We rescued in total 200 animals, mostly sloths.
There were sloths all over this place. In my living room, in the cages. I was slothefied (ph). I still have a lot of sloths. Whenever I walk into a room, you will see a sloth hanging here or sitting there. What does a sloth do all day? It sleeps.
[22:00:00] It grooms. It eats. It sleeps a little bit more. He's so relaxed. It's just amazing. He came in with his nails cut. That is why he has to stay with us. We make sure that our sloths feel really well cared for here. It's like a meditative moment.
All animals we rescue, we check their health and then we move them on to life in the forest. So this is mango, and we are going to release her now. And she's very excited about that.
The best part of a rescue is when we release an animal.
You are going to the forest.
Sloths are not pets. Wild animals belong in the wild.
Mango, find yourself a safe spot.
You can see that show belongs here. This is her home. She's out of my reach. That is good. Out of the reach of humans. They are solitary animals and they can really be relaxed with themselves. It's a really good lesson for humans to learn, to be content with yourself. Yes, you are. Some people refer to me as the sloth lady. I think it's an honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the woman that proved sloth is a virtue. CNN hero, Monique Pool.
POOL: Gracias, thank you. To our parents. Our foundation's volunteers and to CNN for this award, and to our sloths, at their own pace they brought me here. It is an honor to speak out for them and all the voiceless animals in my country and on this blue planet.
The message they want me to bring to you is that we must find a way to conserve our last pristine tropical forests for the billions of tons of garment, freshwater and clean air and by the (INAUDIBLE). We must protect this planet we call home for the sloths, the other animals and our voiceless, future generations. Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello from Surnam! Monique, we are so proud to be part of your team!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Covered in sloth hair.
Our next young wonder is a high school student in northern Virginia who loves computers. Now when you were 16, think about how you would answer this question. What were you doing when you were 16 with your friends in your parents' basement or by yourself?
COOPER: I don't know why you're laughing. You probably were not doing what Christopher Kao and his friends were doing. After Chris two or to the third grader, he realized that some kids didn't have a computer at home with more than half of low income families in the United States having no access to the Internet or computers, half. Chris got his friends together and started the nonprofit, Reboot for Youth, to refurbish and give computers to families in need. And what he is doing with his friends should reassure parents everywhere that good things are happening down in the basement. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the chief technology officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the chief communications officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the chief operating officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am the CEO.
CHRISTOPHER CAO, REBOOT FOR YOUTH: Running a non-profit at the age of 16 is definitely hard. To stay organized, our team has board meetings, and we talk about the strategic planning of Reboot for Youth. The organization's headquarters is just the basement. I bring out some more laptops. His parents were generous enough to let us operate there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can kind of tell by the number of shoes that are in the hallway. I pretty much make cookies and bring them down every Saturday.
CAO: It's crazy madness of high school students running around fixing computers, looking for parts. (INAUDIBLE) parts. We receive donations. Most of these computers are in pretty poor shape. We use the teamwork we have in order to find the problem and try to solve it. So this one actually works. Describing the different parts of a computer, I guess I'll start off
with the power supply, the VGA, USB the motherboard. I guess that is all the basic components of a computer.
Hi, how are you?
People are surprised when they come to pick up a computer, because they think we are just the kids of the adults that run the organization. Locally, we have given out about 150 computers, and globally, we have given about 50 computers. I think we have created a positive change in the community. But we aren't stopping there.
[22:05:45] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you! Thank you!
CAO: We are trying to provide every family around the world with computer computers.
COOPER: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving a big hand for a young wonder, Chris Cao.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up next, Sharon Stone salute the man who is providing clean water to the people of India.
CNN HEROES, an all-star tribute is sponsored by Microsoft, empowering us all.
[22:09:06] COOPER: Welcome back to CNN heroes.
Water scarcity is a growing global crisis. More than a billion people live in areas without access to water. To share our next story about a hero who has designed a potentially game-changing water system for his people in India. The global ambassador of Amfar and the star of the new series "Agent X," Academy award nominee, Sharon Stone.
SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: When you grow up in one of the driest regions on earth, you learn at a young age that water is precious. This is the truth that Bhagwati Agrawal learned as a young boy in the village located near the tar desert. In that region after the monsoon season ends, there is not a drop of rain. Its deep-wells are drying up. And a lot of the water is barely drinkable. It's a hard way of life. And the responsibility to find, collect water and bring it home is left to the women.
This is how his mom spent her days. He would walk with her to the well, and he drank that filthy water. He saw the other women burdened by this responsibility. And in 2003, after a successful career working as an engineer in the United States, he decided to devote the rest of his life to providing clean water to his people. He started sustainable innovations and created a rainwater harvesting system called Akashgunga. It collects the water from the rooftops and stores it. The name in Hindi is "river from the sky." And it is simple. It is beautiful, and it is genius.
[22:11:07] BHAGWATI AGRAWAL, TOP 10 CNN HERO: As a child, every morning I would accompany my mother to fetch water. Sand under your feet is burning hot. It takes a lot of effort. You need to make multiple trips, and then the whole morning is gone, just to fetch water for the family.
Water is so precious that they will even do their dishes with sand. The only relief is during the monsoon season when it rains. With the Akashgunga, they invented to collect it from the rooftops through gutters and pipes. It is divided into two parts. One part for the homeowner and another part for the community. (INAUDIBLE) comes down the main pipe (INAUDIBLE). Of which is buried under the street. Which leads to the community reservoir. The water comes straight to their doorstep. Then water is pure, clean, and safe.
When a child is born, the mother will perform water worship at a local well. These people understand how important water is, so we educate them about the system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because of rainwater is clean, now the children don't get sick.
AGRAWAL: When we use the cultural bonds, it communities embrace the system and then everyone takes pride in it. Having water has unburdened the women. Now they are free.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because of the water problem, most of my daughters did not get a proper education. It used to take us six to eight hours to get water. Now it takes me six minutes. Now the youngest is in college. My mind and heart are at peace.
AGRAWAL: As a boy, once I refused to help a lady at a local well. My mom was shocked. And she told me I should be willing to help others. When I think of my mom, I become quite emotional. She was a woman who had not educated of living in a small village, and many times I simply marvel at her wisdom. When women come to me to say thank you it makes me proud that I kept my mother's wishes.
STONE: Ladies and gentlemen, please help me honor Bhagwati Agrawal.
AGRAWAL: Clean water is freedom. For girls it's freedom to get an education. For children and elderly, it is freedom from sickness and disease. For women, it's freedom to work. Akashgunga and enterprise is working clean water and freedom to thousands of people in India. With your help I can bring clean water and freedom to millions of people within my lifetime. So please join me and bring the water. Thank you.
COOPER: Hundreds of thousands of veterans in the United States are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and our next hero is helping them to find healing. To share his story, my co-host from New Year's Eve and currently in the middle of her "Like a Boss", tour. And she is like a boss. She is also a longtime supporter of Veteran tickets foundation and a huge supporter of our troops, please welcome Kathy Griffith.
KATHY GRIFFIN, ACTRESS: I just want to say that you are more comfortable with a sloth than you are with any human being. Admit it. Were you scared of Sharon Stone? I felt you are little scared of her.
COOPER: I love Sharon Stone. I'm scared of you.
GRIFFIN: You should be scared of me. Because Sharon Stone, I could eat you up for lunch. Get out. Get out.
Hi, everybody. Hello. Hello. Long before there were trains or cars or planes, when the war ended, the soldiers marched home. They had time to walk off the war. After United States marine Sean Gobin finished three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he decided to fulfill his dream of hiking all 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail before he went off to business school. He completed that long walk with a buddy and raised money for wounded veterans. What he discovered with each step and with each breathtaking view was that it helped him process his time in combat.
So in 2013, he started warrior hike so that other combat veterans to walk off their wars too. No matter where a veteran's journey ends, along the trail or at the final mile marker, that chance to walk and think gives them the strength to begin a new phase of their lives feeling stronger, centered and with their eyes focused on the path in front of them, the path that leads them home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go!
SEAN GOBIN, TO 10 CNN HERO: In war, once the fighting starts, the switch, there is no time to cope. There is no one else in the world that understands a veteran like another veteran. It's a common bond, but also a common suffering.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just angry at everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't handle it. And end of story like my marriage.
GOBIN: I was definitely in a bad place when I first got out of the marines, and hiking the trail is really what helped me get out to the other side. Doing a long-distance hike is just like a deployment, except your mission is to be a civilian again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give me a kiss. Love you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been an opportunity to kind of get my life back together, because it all came falling apart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see you in about six months.
GOBIN: To hike for eight hours a day for months on end, they experience every type of terrain and weather that you can imagine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love the rain.
GOBIN: You're on an emotional rollercoaster the whole time. We all these experiences come to the surface, and then you have to deal with them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there for the first months of Baghdad. And I still don't sleep well, because sometimes I still hear the screaming. Why was I the one that survived? Why did my marriage have to go awry? I have had days when I have thrown down the pack and slammed the hiking sticks across the trail. And after a while, you begin to understand, well, it's what it is now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many years you got in now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifteen years.
GOBIN: Connecting with the communities along the way helps reestablish your faith in humanity. You catch yourself wanting to talk to people more. I don't get so mad at myself. I've had some of the best sleep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been life for six months. You don't want it to kind of end.
[22:20:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it.
GOBIN: The final day of hiking involves climbing the mountain top. It definitely represents overcoming everything that you've experienced. Being rewarded with some of the most beautiful views on the entire trail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job, guys!
GOBIN: At the end, it makes all the work worthwhile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been really, really hard, but I definitely think it will make me a better woman.
GOBIN: Congratulations, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sean. Appreciate it.
I'm really happy. Got some peace. Got some focus. A new book opens, and a new journey begins.
They are just glowing with anticipation of what life has to offer. The whole journey is just about coming home.
GRIFFIN: Please join me in honoring CNN hero Sean Gobin! Come on, Sean!
GRIFFIN: Hike on up here, baby. Congratulations. Enjoy!
GOBIN: So I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize just how powerful of a therapeutic tool the outdoors can be. And the beauty of the outdoors is that they are free for everyone and accessible from everywhere. So for those of you who are living with demons, you too can find peace and healing in the outdoors. Thank you.
(APPLAUSE) COOPER: Over the years, no organization has been a greater supporter of our efforts at heroes than Subaru which has generously sponsored CNN HEROES since 2008. I want to send you a message from Tom Dahl, the president and chief operating officer of Subaru of America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DAHL, PRESIDENT/CEO, SUBARU OF AMERICA: This year, we at Subaru celebrate eight years of partnering with CNN HEROES. We are proud to sponsor the event that recognizes ordinary people who are doing good around our world. These individuals humble the rest of us by their generosity in giving back to society. They are also role models for us at Subaru.
Through our share the love initiative, we too encourage people to think of other and to make a positive contribution to their communities. Over the past eight years, I have met several CNN heroes, and they are an exceptional group of people. One thing we have learn is that to continue on with their good works they need our monetary support.
So tonight, I'm asking you to join Subaru in donating to the CNN HEROES. And if you do, Subaru will match your donations dollar for dollar up to a total of $500,000. We at Subaru know how good it feels to give back, so please join us in making our world and our local communities a better place. Donate now at CNN heroes.com.
[22:26:45] COOPER: Welcome back.
Nearly 12 million families in the United States currently have children being raised by a single person, meeting their daily needs and responsibilities is hard enough, but when they face a devastating illness like cancer, too many lack support.
Here to tell us how the next hero is helping parents and guardians throughout Phoenix, Arizona is a proud supporter of the ovarian cancer research fund and one of the host of "Live with Kelly and Michael," my great friend, Kelly Ripa.
KELLY RIPA, HOST, LIVE, MICHAEL AND KELLY: Her name was Michelle singleton. She was the proud mother of four children. And at the age of 32 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a single parent and struggles while fighting this brutal disease.
Michelle was Jodi Farley Berens' childhood friend. During treatment, Jodi would buy her extra cleaning supplies at the store and make her another meal while cooking for her own family's dinner so Michelle didn't have to because when you are dealing with stage four breast cancer, staying alive for your children is really your number one job.
Michelle did not make it. And Jodi knew that there must be other parents out there fighting and alone. She co-founded singleton moms in honor of her friend. She and her volunteers have given practical, financial and emotional support to more than 300 parents and their children. Cancer may take our mothers, our sisters, our childhood friends, but our love for them never dies. What lives on is what we do to ensure that others are not alone in this fight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I found out I was going to be a mom I was just on top of the world. There was just this hope, this excitement. I was just ecstatic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good.
When I found out that I had stage four breast cancer, I literally felt like my heart just dropped to the ground and exploded. It's time to stop. And your brain just doesn't know what to do with that information. All I could think about was, my God, my daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want any toast? You want any tea or anything like that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
JODY FARLEY-BERENS TOP 10 CNN HERO: Having to face your mortality at such a young age is unfair. You just want to be there for your kids. You want to watch them grow up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being a single mom and being on chemotherapy, I needed a lot of support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here I go, mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an emotional rollercoaster, a physical rollercoaster. When you can't really do much, looking at the dirt on the floor, it's like one more level of stress. It's hard to ask for help. And with single ton moms, you don't have to ask.
FARLEY-BERENS: Some of the parents we support, fighting cancer is their full-time job, and they need help.
[22:30:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say the main areas are bathrooms and floors, because I can't clean, I can't bend, you know.
FARLEY-BERENS: Our goal is to come in there and relieve some of that stress and give them some extra time with their children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're so lucky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've helped pay some bills. House cleanings. Pre-made meals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is the raspberry chicken.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The emotional support. To have a community come and rally around you, they started this sort of chain reaction of positivity. It's Maddie Rooney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are times now when I feel like I'm enjoying life. I might not feel great every single day, but I remember to take a look at my daughter and smile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready for trick-or-treat?
FARLEY-BERENS: It's my hope that singleton moms can say to cancer, you can't defeat us. We are still going to be strong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just take one each, please.
FARLEY-BERENS: The strength that they show is an inspiration to me every day. We are family. We are friends, and this is what we should be doing for each other.
KELLY: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN hero Jodi Farley-Berens.
FARLEY-BERENS: Thank you. This is an amazing honor. I'm proud to be part of CNN HEROES family. Family is the heartbeat ever singleton moms. Everyone has a role in this work. Because someone we know and love fighting cancer. These parents are rock stars. They are courageous and positive. Their ability to fight through pain and keep a smile on their face and plan for the future and be excited about today, they are an inspiration. These families are extraordinary, and they are my heroes. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, we honor a hero who's making his town healthier.
And Bethany Mota introduces us to another wonder.
CNN HEROES, an all-star tribute is sponsored by Subaru, proudly matching every dollar donated to the top 15 CNN HEROES.
[22:35:00] COOPER: Welcome back to CNN heroes.
One of the most reliable indicators of a student graduating from high school and going on to have a successful career is their ability to read at grade level. But 80 percent of low income students do not. Our next young wonder is a student in Delaware trying to help other kids find joy in reading. To share her stories, an ambassador for pacer which helps stop bullying, the supporter of UNICEF and a You Tube phenomenon, Bethany Mota.
BETHANY MOTA, YOU TUBE PHENOMENON: School can be lonely and difficult when you're struggling to read. Imani Henry had some trouble with her eye and she would memorize books just to get by. But in second grade, the books got too long and her condition was finally diagnosed. To help make reading fun, her brother and father would act out the characters and even use funny voices. It made all of the difference. And she really wanted other children to experience reading that way too. She started 100 men reading because sometimes the most enjoyable way to hear a story can be with people you look up to and respect.
IMANI HENRY, YOUNG WONDER: My dad and brothers helped me when I was struggling with reading.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being the older brother, you are the protector. Seeing your little sister cry is probably the top five worst things you can experience in the world.
HENRY: It made me feel special that they would help me with what I was going through.
Here are my assignments and how many books you need. I decided to make a program to make kids not have the same difficulty with reading that I had.
The 24 kids in this classroom.
And also giving them the feeling of having the male role model in their life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Graduation party!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
HENRY: For some of the kids, they don't really have dads, and you don't get to see a lot of male teachers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see a man come in and read and be excited about reading, they may be sitting there thinking, OK, reading is cool.
HENRY: Everyone should have a positive male role model. It's someone that gives you that feeling of love and support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at all these smiles. It's so good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been a volunteer for five years. It does take a village to raise a child. I feel the need to come in and share. I feel like I'm leaving a lasting impact.
HENRY: So far, the volunteers have read to over 25,000 children in public schools across Delaware.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know how difficult it can be to learn to read. And I have a few tips for you. One, never give up. Two, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Three, readers make leaders.
COOPER: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a big hand for our young wonder, Imani Henry.
COOPER: In the United States, nearly 24 million people live in what are called food deserts. They are geographic areas where access to healthy food is difficult or nonexistent. Our next hero decided to bring healthy food to the rural town of Canita, North Carolina.
Here to tell us his powerful story, a proud supporter of the rain forest action network and the star of the "Good Wife," please welcome Chris Noth.
CHRIS NOTH, STAR, GOOD WIFE: No matter how hard we try to outrun our painful pasts, sometimes it stays with us for a reason. When reverend Richard Joyner was a child, his father was a sharecropper. He worked hard sowing and tilling the land. At harvest time with his family by his side, he was so proud of what he had accomplished. And then the owner would drive up, take everything away and tell him that they had earned nothing.
That humiliation caused Richard so much pain that he hated that land, and he left. He joined the military and later became a pastor, and his calling led him to Cunita, North Carolina, population 300. He went there to preach. And in one year, Richard says he presided over 20 funerals and that many of these deaths could have been preventable and could be stop with healthier food.
So Richard looked at the land and knew what he had to do. He started the Cunita family life center to grow fresh food. And more than 80 young people in the area helped plan, plant and harvest nearly 50,000 pounds of produce a year for the local families and to raise money for supplies and scholarships. Richard's past stayed with him for a reason, to give him the strength, to put the land to good use for the children and their future and for him to reconcile and heal.
[22:41:13] RICHARD JOYNER, TOP 10 CNN HERO: This garden is really my sanctuary. It's where I come to watch God at work. The little plant that just looked like it's not getting up. You kind of nurture it a little bit. And all of a sudden, it catches. That is how life is.
We were having untimely deaths, chronic diseases. I had to do something. Growing up I didn't like farming. We were sharecroppers. It was painful, still is painful. I just literally was praying one day, and I really heard a voice say look around you. And really, there was nothing but land, and I almost said, is there anybody else that I can talk to? But it was almost like my eyes opened up to the farm.
All right. Come on, guys. Who wants to do eggplants?
It gave us an opportunity to create something that united us. It is intergenerational, but the children, they are their leaders in this process. The students are learning a lot.
Pick all the beans. What are they good for? Diabetes, heart health.
One of our goals is to get as much fresh food into homes as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to start making a kale salad. Pour it in.
JOYNER: If they grow it, they'll eat it. If they cook it, they'll definitely eat it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My favorite food is string beans. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carrots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sweet potatoes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything out here.
JOYNER: It makes the families healthier. It's a game changer.
All right, get on the tractor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I first started, I got suspended from school a lot. Working out here in the garden brings patience. My discipline has improved. It made me feel good.
JOYNER: There you go, guys. Good job.
They are definitely learning how to work together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll help you.
JOYNER: There you go.
And how to reap exactly what they sow.
Tobias, this is your last fall garden before you go to college. You planted this in February. Now look. Grown, ready to harvest. You show us what can happen. I tell you, if I ever had a son, I don't think one could be no better than you.
With me working in the garden has been a healing place. And at this point now I like the garden. It's a place where we can produce. It is a place we can play and it is a place where we can live.
NOTH: Please join me in honoring CNN hero reverend Richard Joyner!
JOYNER: Life is precious. We took a huge barrier, transformed it into an opportunity. Our young people are leading us to a better place. They are growing beyond chronic diseases. They are going beyond disabilities. They are going way beyond old attitudes we can't, we won't, we don't have. They are strong and in charge. They are building new relationships, each other, to the Cunita family, to will lives. It is a blessing. To whom much is given, much is required. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, we salute our top ten heroes, and then, one of them will be named the CNN hero of the year. CNN HEROES, an all-star tribute is proudly sponsored by Humana.
[22:48:34] COOPER: And welcome back. We are here with CNN heroes in the mill stein hall of ocean life. Again tonight, while you're watching, if you'd like to help one or more of our top ten heroes, your donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total $500,000. Just go to CNNheroes.com. Give what you can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
And now here to perform for our heroes is a proud supporter of unlikely heroes which works to stop unlawful trafficking, her debut album is called "Cheers to the Fall," singing the powerful anthem rise up, please welcome Andra Day. (ANDRA DAY PERFORMING)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the break, Anderson Cooper reveals the 2015 CNN hero of the year. Share your thoughts about all of tonight's amazing honorees right now on Facebook.
CNN HEROES, an all-star tribute is proudly respond soared by Geico who honors those giving back to their communities.
[22:56:28] COOPER: Welcome back.
Since we announced the top ten heroes, we gave you the opportunity to go to CNNheroes.com and vote for the hero that inspired you the most. All of our heroes received a tremendous amount of support. And CNN has given each of them $10,000 to continue their work.
In addition, the Annenberg Foundation which is a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide is again graciously providing all of our top ten heroes with free training and guidance to help them grow their organization as part of its outreach program.
It is time now to announce the CNN hero of the year. The hero with the most votes will receive an additional $100,000 to continue their life-changing work.
Ladies and gentlemen the 2015 CNN hero of the year is Maggie Doyne.
MAGGIE DOYNE, 2015 CNN HERO: So if you had told me when I turned 18 that I was going to be the mom of 50 kids I would told you that you are totally crazy. And to my kids, I love you so much. Don't ever forget how much I love you.
And to the country of Nepal, thank you for so much for loving me and accepting me as a daughter and welcoming me into your country.
And to all of you in the room and those of you watching, please, please remember that we have the power to create the world that we want to live in just as we want it. And that is what all of the heroes here have done tonight. Thank you so much. This is so cool.
COOPER: I want to invite all our honorees back on stage. If all the honorees, all the other nine CNN heroes will come up on stage. Please continue to support our heroes' causes by donating at CNN heroes.com. And if you want to nominate someone to be a CNN hero in 2016, you can do that starting right now. I hope some of our stories have inspired you to get involved and do your part because you, too, can be somebody's hero, just as all of these people are.
Thank you so much and good night.