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Children Making a Big Difference in the World; Five Amazing Kids with Big Heart. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching 360. Young Wonders, a CNN Heroes special starts right now.

They're encouraging love of reading with other kids, introducing girls to the infinite possibility, and fun of exploring computer science.

Reaching out to children who are battling illnesses, teaching us that planting the seed for healthy eating starts today, helping to protect the planet, recycling bottles and cans by the truckload.

Already these young people are making a difference, serving as reminder that you are never too young to change the world.

Tonight we're honored to share their inspiring stories. This is Young Wonders, a CNN Heroes special.

Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper. It's never easy to change the world, no matter how young or old, the ability to stand up for what you believe in, fight for it, to work for it. It takes a profound kind of courage. You have to ignore the scene x and forget the norms of who can and can't be a leader.

You have to trust your instincts, and listen to your heart, day after day. This is what young wonders do here at CNN Heroes, that's what we call inspiring kids who are doing amazing things, no matter their age.

Over the years we shared some of their stories as part of our annual CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute. Tonight, we're thrilled to introduce you to this year's young wonders. Already these five kids have found incredible ways to bring more hope, decency and kindness into this world.

Each saw a problem, they thought of a solution and didn't wait to grow up to act and are inspiring others around them. As unique as these young wonders, I hope you'll be inspired by their efforts. If you want to learn more about them you can go to at any point during the show.

These incredible young people will also make an appearance at CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute this Sunday night.

Kelly Ripa will once again going to co-host with me as we honor this year's top 10 heroes live from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Now to kick things off, let's meet the first young wonder, Sidney Keys III. He is a young man who loves to read, and for that he is lucky. Sidney is 11 years old, around the age when research suggest that boys especially lose interest in reading.

At one point Sidney had a hard time finding books that mirrored his own experience. That changed when he visited a local bookstore in St. Louis. Its focus, African-American children's books.

Sidney's world opened up, starting a new chapter in his passion for reading. When he saw the wide range of books reflecting kids just like him, it sparked an idea to share the stories of culture and history with his peers.

Didn't take long for Sidney's monthly reading club Books n Bros to take off. No surprise. Because when you see yourself in books and you believe your stories are worth telling, your imagination has no boundaries.


SIDNEY KEYS III, CNN HERO: I am 11 years old. This is my first year in middle school. How I would describe myself? I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say Sidney is encouraging. Motivating. He's a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knows what he wants. He is one of a few unique kids that just happens to thrive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is kind of a quirky kid but he is cool with that. You know, lot of kids spend a lot of time trying to be things that they're not. But Sidney, he is himself, he owns it.

KEYS: Hey, Roxy.

Ever since I was little, I just loved to read. I just love listening to different kinds of stories. So when I'm reading a book, I'm zoned into the book. I feel like I am one of the characters in the book sometimes. And once I get hooked in that book, then I'll probably be reading for a while. If I go to a public library or anything, I'll probably have trouble finding something that I like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a chapter book about amazing Africa.

KEYS: I realize that there was a need for African-American literacy and boys to see themselves in books in a positive way. I wanted to share that with everyone else too.

It was against the law for most black people.

Books n Bros is a book club where we read about African-American literacy. We meet once a month on the first Sunday of the month to discuss the book we just read. Statistically, boys are behind in reading and so we want to combat, I guess that stereotype where boys don't read as much as girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, man?

[22:04:57] WINNIE CALDWELL, SIDNEY KEYS' MOTHER: This all started mainly because I surprised him with a visit to EyeSeeMe, African- American children's bookstore. That's when he explained to me mom, I don't even see books like these in my school library, I don't see any books that represent me in my school library, and that was a problem.

PAMELA BLAIR, CO-OWNER, EYESEEME: If our children don't see themselves, they want to be something else. Characters they're reading about, they want to be those characters, they want to have hair like that character, eyes like those characters, skin tone like the characters that they're reading about. So it is really important our children read books that reflect who they are in their community.

I have some history books for you.

Usually we pick from a genre that we haven't picked from so that the boys don't get tired of reading the same genre over and over again.

And actually these book look very interesting, too because I know...

Sidney is choosing books. He has to think about all 62 members that he is choosing for. So he is doing a really good job of picking about all the other boys and girls.

KEYS: Maybe a historical fiction.

BLAIR: Historical fiction. There's hidden figures. I think you guys read hidden figures before it.

KEYS: Yes, we've read.

I could be in a bookstore for like two hours. And my mom would be like are you going to read all those? I am like no, I just want to pick one I like. But then like an hour later, I'm still picking out books. When I do go and have a stack of books, maybe six or five, and I probably read the first chapter of each book, then I'll see which one I like the most.

I want to read one more chapter.

CALDWELL: We're in there awhile. It is not like in and out situation.

KEYS: Top two favorite books. I like the Frederick Douglass and I also like the walk in front of Birmingham.

BLAIR: So I will order 62 books for you, guys and I'll call you when it comes in. All right.

CALDWELL: Some people, they're surprised when I tell them I work for my son.

KEYS: Hi, my name is Sidney. My role is head bro in charge, known as founder and CEO.

CALDWELL: I make sure he knows like mom is the overall boss, but I do respect him as far as this being his vision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you make the sign in she feel like the name and then like the bro.

CALDWELL: Any time someone calls us for speaking engagement or any type of business endeavor, you know, I say it sounds like a good idea, let me run it by Sidney first.


KEYS: Sorry, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the question again?

KEYS: Not many 11-year-olds run a meeting. Usually they're just there. The schedule is going to be, first going to do an ice breaker. It is an interesting experience because it is really fun being able to control a whole bunch of 20 and 30-year-olds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Ranel Parker. And I'm a big bro.

KEYS: Big bros are basically mentors for the bros. We want them to see positive African-American men and also because they help a lot with the book club with keeping boys under control.

Some of the kids who join, their parents signed them up, and so they weren't excited about it. But when they actually got into the book club, they ended up having a great time and they would actually read the book. Even drew larger crowds. So discuss them. And they would be able to talk about them with the fellow bros.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why Harriet Tubman was able to run the...


KEYS: So what they liked, do what they didn't like, or how they improve the book.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the mid-1860s, most professional restaurants think only white Barclays.

KEITHEN STALLINGS, BOOK CLUB BIG BRO: I think this concept is dope because a lot of kids try to be other things than their authentic self, you know. And so I think it's really cool just to come out and say reading is cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that is just another tall tale.

STALLINGS: And to set a platform for kids to come in if comfortable reading and be surrounded by like-minded kids I think is going to lay a great foundation for them as they grow older.

KEYS: I thought it would get this big, but not this soon. This is the next book that we're going to be reading. It has only been

a year, and it's just fun and cool thinking about how fast its grown.

All the big bros, find questions on page 109 in the book.

CALDWELL: I'm super proud of him. Words really can't even describe how proud I am.

KEYS: We're going to ask if you're finished answering tough questions yet.


KEYS: All right. Cool.

CALDWELL: He found a way to balance the growth of his business.

KEYS: We'll start from over here.

CALDWELL: And still be a kid.

KEYS: I ruined it!

CALDWELL: Still be a friend, a good son. I would say the sky is the limit. And I don't even want to say the sky is the limit, he is into space. He may just go out of this universe somewhere.

[22:10:05] KEYS: I do really feel like I'm making a positive impact in my community because all the boys are having such a good time in my book club, I see all smiles on their faces. I really feel like I am making reading fun again.

Cool bros read!


COOPER: Next year, Sidney hopes to double his book club membership. >

Up next, a 19-year-old who is doing her small part to close the gender gap in the tech world when we come back.


COOPER: Welcome back to young wonders, a CNN Heroes special.

Science, technology, engineering, math, you may have heard it referred to by the acronym STEM. Even at young age, there's a real gender gap, a disproportionate number of girls turn away from math and science early as elementary and middle school, mistakenly believing that they don't belong.

Our next young wonder is determined to change that equation and show young girls that they do. Christina Li she was a high school sophomore when she experienced that STEM gender gap herself and the intimidation that came with it. So like any good programmer Christina decided to go back to the

source, challenging herself to debug the gender code and find a solution to this complex problem.

For three years, now Christina's free computer science camp empowered middle school girls to ignite their own spark and say hello, world.


CHRISTINA LI, CNN HERO: For most computer science system programmers in the whole world is the first thing they would type out in a new computer science language, they're like testing a new system, but it's also symbolic in a way.

There's so many possibilities with computer science. People used to think that every programmer was just like nerdy or geeky and (Inaudible) or it's only for guys. But I don't think that's true anymore.

[22:14:59] I'm Christina Li. And I think computer science can be for anybody. I'm from Michigan. Both my parents are from China. I'm a triplet.

Is that me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christina and her two brothers were like three musketeers. Even when at one years old, they really liked using the blocks to build the city, the road. Christina always tried to challenge herself to build something new.

Big part of my childhood was making things with my brothers. We learned to tackle problems, think of different solutions. We made egg racing cars, where we put an egg in the driver's seat. So this car was made out of cereal box. I had CD's for the wheels, chop sticks for the wheel axles, and pipe cleaners to decorate it with.

I remember trying to figure out how best not to have the egg break.

When I was in third grade, my brothers and I made this character called fish guy. I was super interested in making a web site for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband and I we are not good at the computer. And she really need to do all by herself.

LI: So we made a web site for him where we showcase all of the different characters of fish guy. It was really cool to show our friends. It made me want to learn even more.

I got a lot more interested in computer science in high school, especially when I joined my robotics team that's in Michigan. I was a programmer on the team and it was really cool to see my code controlling an actual robot.

For most of the time on my robotics team, I was the only female programmer out of like 10 or 11 programmers. Because in the first time (Inaudible) And I felt weird about it just because it was very evident that this gender gap existed.

ERICA JOY BAKER, FOUNDING ADVISOR, PROJECT INCLUDE: The technology fields it is extremely male dominated. We only see about 30 percent representation for women in most tech companies. That's really funny because the first programmers were women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can multiply and divide more than 2,000 times a second.

BAKER: For a long time, the stereotype of what a computer programmer looked like was a woman. And then roughly in the '80s it sort of switched.

LI: Sometimes it's pretty intimidating to like walk in a room and not see anybody that looks like you. It was very obvious that something was wrong. So I just wanted to do something about it. When I was a junior in high school I decided to make the free five day computer science camp for middle school girls. I named the camp Hello World because I want to have girls to say hello to the world to computer science.

Welcome to Hello World, how are you guys doing today? Good. How many of you guys have played pong before.

So one of the things we make is a game using language called scratch where it's very easy to use and it's just putting blocks together to create code. So we make games like Flappy Bird and Pong. It's super satisfying for me to see them figuring out by themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I am bluebird currently and the bird flies with the tubes using a space bar. I realize it's that it's actually not that hard once you get the hang of it. It just comes to you. I didn't know I could do anything like this because I've never done anything like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you click that on button, the light bulb goes on. You go crazy. You finally did something and it's working.

LI: So the little white robot things on your desk those are called finches. They look like birds which is why they're called a finch.

Another project that they coded was this little finch robots. And these have a lot of sensors on them, they have two motors so they can go any direction. The girls really liked that because it was so interactive because they can actually play around with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a volunteer at Christina's camp. When questions were asked, I would go around and help Christina.

Since we changed the x and y coordinates, so you're doing it right.


LI: They would work on their projects on their free time. They were like I want to change this, I want to adjust that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your game is literally out of this world.


LI: Interacting with other girls it gives them a sense of belonging and it shows them that, you know, that there's strength in numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I kind of did a little bit feel alone when it comes to having an interest in computers. I didn't talk about it with friends much. At the camp, once it started, all the girls are like, my god, wow. Just hearing that, I felt so part of the group.

BAKER: We need to show young girls that yes, this is for you, it's relevant to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can change your background.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. I don't want to.

BAKER: You can do things that are fun with it. And you can make a career of it.

[22:20:03] LI: I think it's important for me to host a camp like this. Right now, STEM and science, technology, engineering and math it's super male dominated. I just want to make sure you guys understand how cool like computer science is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my computer science class now, there's only five girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you think of reasons why not more girls are taking these classes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls are just generally more into being creative and expressing themselves and what they don't realize is you can do that in computer science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad actually works like in that field, and I always -- I see him at home I'm staring at the computer. I'm like that seems like really boring. And after I'm at camp I'm just like, this is actually really interesting like, I would actually look forward to going to work every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christina Li is definitely a role model for me, she's a girl. So I can do that too. She started out like us. She had an interest in something and she went for it.

LI: Now I am a sophomore at Stanford University studying computer science and mechanical engineering with a focus in robotics. I'm one of the mechanical leads for the Mars rover project. And I'm also on the on the solo card team. I'm even taking an aerial robot science class.

My whole team worked together to build this robot and I'm super excited and super happy to see it actually take off and fly.

I recently found out that I got an internship at SpaceX that has the goal of putting humans on Mars. So, I'm super excited. There's just so much more to learn.

So I've run the camp three years now, and I hope to run it again next summer. Hopefully these girls will show me more girls, and you know, it just causes a ripple effect. Ever since I was little I really like solving problems, the gender gap was just really one big problem. The whole world just happens to be my little contribution to fix it.

BAKER: There are so many more groups of people who aren't representative. Racial diversity is abysmal. It is easy to talk about the problems, but to find solutions is the challenging part.

LI: We're like building the future, right? We should all make this future together and try to make it as inclusive as possible.

BAKER: I think it is extremely excellent that Christina saw a problem and took action. There's an African proverb, each one, teach one. Christina is reaching one girl. That is important work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This camp gave me a lot of confidence. Before I wasn't sure if I could do it or not. But now I can take the risk and I'm good at this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do look up to Christina, it is not necessarily following her path. She inspires me to make my own path.

LI: It's not that I want them to exactly follow in my footsteps. I really hope to show the girls that their ability is unlimited. Girls can do anything they want to.

Hello, world!


COOPER: Such important work. Christina intends to hold her fourth annual Hello, World camp next summer.

Coming up, a teen in Australia on a mission to spread kindness and comfort to kids battling illness. Meet a Tasmanian angel when we come back.


COOPER: Welcome back to Young Wonders, a CNN Heroes special. Our next young wonder is hard at work on remote corner of the world on the island of Tasmania, Australia.

Four years ago, Campbell Remess started his project with a selfless idea one Christmas eve. Campbell was nine years and he was concerned about children who were spending Christmas in the nearby hospital. He wanted to give them presents.

And not only did Campbell decide to make them, he set out to make them, he set out to make one present a day for a year for four years in counting.

Project 365 by Campbell has touched the lives of children all over the world. His presents, one of a kind teddy bears. Each pairs face each one's name is different. And you'll never believe how many he's made. What started as a simple act of kindness has grown into an unwavering mission one that started with his local hospital. That's where we meet Campbell tonight.


CAMPBELL REMESS, CNN HERO: My name is Campbell. I am 13 years old.


REMESS: Hello. It's Campbell from Project 365. My organization is called Project 365.


REMESS: Hello.


REMESS: I'm good.


REMESS: I make teddies for kids that need them.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does get very lonely in hospital.

REMESS: I give them a bear; try to cheer them up a bit.

REMESS: It feels really soft.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Campbell.

REMESS: That's a gift. Hope you enjoy playing with it, cuddling it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Campbell takes them to the hospital, you see these sick children pick straight up, you feel the energy in the room.

REMESS: I got this bear for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting a teddy from Campbell was so nice. It just feels great and it's a relief I've got a friend there.

REMESS: Obviously their reaction, you want to go back, do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're a good man, Campbell. Lot of happy kids because of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, guys. Do you want some afternoon tea?


REMESS: I am one of nine kids in this house. It is a very, very busy house. While my brothers and sisters are out doing their own thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Campbell is just drawn to that sewing machine.

REMESS: This is just my thing. My hobby. What I love doing. When I was nine, I asked mom on Christmas Eve if I could take presents for kids in hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said why? That would cost a fortune. He said I will make them.

REMESS: I had never sewn anything at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was expecting he would do some paintings or some drawings.

REMESS: I decided to make a teddy bear because everybody loves teddy bears. I went up to my room. Five hours later, I came down with this ratty shaggy bear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Its leg was sideways, its ear was back to front and inside out too I think.

[22:30:03] REMESS: Very ratty, very everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it was actually clearly a teddy bear.

REMESS: It was a really good feeling after I made that first bear. Over the time, I've got quicker and quicker, and now it takes me about an hour. The top of the shelves are full of hospital bags. Going to the hospital at Christmas time.

So this is Marvin (Ph). And this is Melby (Ph). This is Elch (Ph). When start doing their faces and shaping and putting their eyes and noses i it, it's really cool you see their personality come together. I reckon I've made over 12 to 1,400 bears. It's simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now it is bears going every direction all over the world for every reason possible.

REMESS: I sent them to lots of different people that have been hurt in lots of different ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he is in a way, he is trying to hug the whole world better to make it OK. It's just love.

REMESS: If everybody was kind and not mad, it would change the world. It would change the world a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He inspired a lot of people without even realizing it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple of years ago Campbell came home from school, and was expecting to be told that dad was cancer free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had a few recurrences. I went to get results one day and they weren't so great.

REMESS: I gave him a bear to get him through, to see if it would help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He come out with this bear and said dad, I made you this bear. It's been a bear. You're weak. I had the tumors removed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His cancer hasn't come back. It stayed away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People say there's magic in Campbell.

REMESS: Here you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it is more than that, too. Campbell's heart and soul, his passion, his love, he is everything that the bears are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to give you one of these from the bottom of my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Campbell gets a lot of requests for bears. And he would do it 24/7 if he could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People reach out to him when they don't have any more hope. They look for Campbell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll open a few away miles and have a look and there will be one that jumps out. Campbell. Come look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Deb. One the 19th of September, my niece Annie who was only 14 passed away unexpectedly. A little brother william is only 8, and he has no other siblings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anne was my best friend. I miss her very badly. I wish there was one wish I could have her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watched your beautiful work have done with so many people, I'm just wondering if you could help her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you thinking?

REMESS: Maybe that one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Christmas is going to be tough. Father's day, mother's day, birthdays. These kids a lot (Inaudible), they adore each other. They just absolutely adore each other. I requested the bear because he needs a safety net, he needs something to make him feel safe.

REMESS: Hey mom. Finished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awe. Look at him. He is so cool. That's beautiful. REMESS: This bear's for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Campbell.

REMESS: I hope you like him


REMESS: It's got big, fluffy ears. Big fluffy ears. And a bow tie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Campbell gave me a big fluffy eared teddy. I've never seen rainbow fabric before. Rainbow is my favorite color. As soon we leave in the cemetery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a big rainbow. The bear might help me sleep at night. I am snuggling it doing everything that's how I only do with Annie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you know, move to make Campbell.

REMESS: I hope the bear will make a difference. I hope it will just be by side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mind boggling that a young man does this for other people. That will be (Inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To have a positive and have something lovely come out of this for real, to make him feel special and he is loved. He is not going to (Inaudible).

[22:35:07] REMESS: I think the magic in the bears is the heart, it's the heart that the bears give the people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're powerful bears. They have this energy in them that gives love and strength and hope.

REMESS: Hope is a big medicine. Hope is that's all you need, hope.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: This year, Campbell started auctioning his bears to send children who have cancer and their families kindness cruises, vacations to give them a much need break from their battle.

Next up, a teen health activist is helping kids learn to love their veggies. Found out her recipe for the new happy meal when we come back.


COOPER: Welcome back to Young Wonders.

Childhood obesity affects one in five school age children according to Centers for Disease Control as millions of kids across the United States. Our next young wonder was fueled by statistics like that and a family healthcare to get off the couch and take action.

[22:39:55] When Haile Thomas was just 8 years old, her dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Her family's journey to better health inspired her to teach the next generation about the power of food.

In 2012, Haile started the HAPPY Organization. Bringing cooking lessons and nutrition education to kids in underserved communities. Now 16, Haile is the youngest certified integrated nutrition health coach in the U.S., which remain steadfast in her mission to rewrite statistics and help kids live a healthy happy lives.


HAILE THOMAS, CNN HERO: I learned a lot about cooking from my mom. She and my dad are both from Jamaica so I've always just had really awesome food and flavors in my life.

I love that you get to be super creative with cooking. I think it's really cool to see a bunch of ingredients that may not have matched so classically come together and really create something unique and super flavorful.

I love that aspect of just being able to kind of play around with it like a science experiment and see what happens.

Look at this. You see the light coming down from the clouds. It's beautiful.


THOMAS: I was 8 years old when my dad was diagnosed with type two diabetes. He could easily become blind or lose a limb or even die. We were definitely really scared but I think being so scared forced us into action. We found out that food could be the cause and definitely the cure as well.

Wash this.


THOMAS: Yes. We learned about the ins and outs of nutrition and well- being and all these things that we were never really aware of.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haile is very motivating. She was the driving force behind a lot of the stuff that we learned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, this is so pretty.


THOMAS: And she watched, daddy, what did you eat for lunch? She kept us on point. She really drove us to go that route for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's crazy. THOMAS: I was also thinking of hazel back butternut squash.

We were completely able to reverse my dad's type two diabetes within about a year of just really pushing the healthy eating and changing your life-style habits. It just proved to me as an 8-year-old how powerful food is. And that's when I think I was super inspired to share that with my peers.

CHELSEA CLINTON, VICE CHAIR, CLINTON FOUNDATION: Childhood obesity is, I think one of the most significant challenges we face in our country right now. The child who is obese is more likely to be obese as an adult, more likely to develop diabetes, more likely to have heart disease.

Kids aren't as healthy as they should be, as they deserve to be. One of the people I have been most impressed with is Haile Thomas. She has helped more people than she will ever know be healthy, and she's inspired so many people, including me.

THOMAS: These are beautiful squash and butternut squash, acorn. Nutrition is super important for our growth and development, for our brains and our bodies.

This is one of the cutest carrots I've seen.

Ugly produce is awesome.

We really just saw a lack of real low cost nutrition education in my community and across the country.

I love the purple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I want one too.

THOMAS: I was 12 years old when I started my nonprofit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Can we say welcome, Haile?

Welcome, Haile!

THOMAS: Hi, guys. I'm super excited to be here. We're going to look into the cereals little bit more because it's super important to know what's in our food.

We do cooking classes and nutrition classes to kids all across the country.

So how many of you know how to read food labels?

We really just want to be sure that every kid has the opportunity to know how to make a healthy choice and how they can incorporate that into their everyday.

Here it says there's sugar, dextrose. Dextrose is another form of sugar. We already heard sugar before, right?

So we go over reading food labels, researching ingredients.

Gelatin, do you know what's in gelatin? Pig skin. Yes. Right. Why is there a form of pig skin in my cereal?

Really understanding serving sizes and how much sugar is in a lot of our food.

[22:44:55] You guys think there's three and a half or four teaspoons of sugar. Drum roll.

We really love to just make it interactive and fun.

Actually, four and a half teaspoons of sugar for this little bit.

Hello. Hello. Yes. You guys are going to make your own cereal, a.k.a. granola. OK. Super important for us to share a healthy alternative that's super fun to make, easy ,and of course delicious.

Mix it in. Yes. There you go. We have our coconut sugar and we have our maple syrup. There's no refined sugar in here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We learned about how we should watch out for the sugars and drinks of food.

Healthy food will give you energy for the rest of the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I learned that you can use healthy food to make something really, really good.

THOMAS: That smells amazing.

These were chef definitely inspire and empower kids to make healthier choices.

I'm proud of you guys. You killed it. It was so easy to make, right?

It's opening a lot of eyes to what's going on behind the food that they're condition to eat.

I love it.

We have been able to impact over 8,000 kids through our programs over the past four years. The point of all of this is not to scare you but really shows us how weird our food can be. I became a certified health coach this year. Currently I am the youngest certified integrated nutrition health coach in the country.


THOMAS: Yes. Cheese seeds they're really, really great for fiber. It also has a lot of protein. They're little tiny, tiny little seeds, but they do so much for our body.

The number one tip for eating healthy is to be open to try new things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It tastes good. Awesome. THOMAS: But also just take spices and flavors that you love and apply

them to healthy foods and ingredients.

So would you guys want to eat this instead of boring boxed cereal with a ton of sugar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get a little more?


CLINTON: She's so powerful and advocate now. Because she has the credibility of her own story. She's helping kids understand that making food doesn't have to be a chore but can be a really enjoyable part of life.

THOMAS: I am truly able to see lives transform right in front of me. And it's just that one moment where a kid realizes that they can do better for themselves and their families that is so important to me. That's what exactly helped my dad get better.

Thank you so much for having me. And I hope you enjoyed. We are teaching kids how to fuel their bodies the best and they will ultimately have the energy and the vitality to be their best.


COOPER: Haile's remarkable work is causing ripple effects and she has no plans to slow down.

Coming up, a determined 8-year-old who's built a driving recycling business on a mission to help save marine life. Our final young wonder of 2017 when we come back.


COOPER: Welcome back to young wonders. Our final young wonder got hooked on recycling at just 3 years old. Growing up on the Pacific Coast of California Ryan Hickman learned from his dad that recycling bottles and cans can help protect our oceans and the amazing marine like that inhabit them.

An alarming amount of plastic is dumped in the ocean every year. Ryan became determined not to contribute to the Pacific trash vortex and has since recycled more than 275,000 cans and bottles. A total of 60,000 pounds.

In the process Ryan turned his efforts into a thriving business involving his community. Today, Ryan's recycling is helping to protect the sea scape one beach at a time.


RYAN HICKMAN, CNN HERO: Well, I'm Ryan Hickman. I'm a junior (Inaudible) life to recycle. I'm 8 years old and I'm in third grade. That's definitely not water.


HICKMAN: Thank you. Recycling help the earth, people, plants, animals and other living things. It's very easy to recycle. You get (Inaudible) toss them in the trash bin. Boom.

I was three and a half and my dad and me took a bag of cans to the recycling center and we got about $5 and like doing it so I've been doing it ever since.

I love these.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was his idea to enlist all of our neighbors and to get more people recycling for him. He was hyper focused on it.

HICKMAN: So, I'll teach you the best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The longer it went the bigger it got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a pleasure to meet you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had neighbors, friends and family. His grandmother and grandfather's neighborhood was saving for him. Churches and different schools. We have a country club called El Niguel Country Club, they save every can and bottle from every one of the trash cans at the post and they call us every couple of weeks to come and pick it up.

HICKMAN: Like pretend I'm already a golfer. I'm golfing. I'm sure hot, I need a drink. Here comes the drink cart. Toss it in the trash bin or leave it in here for somebody to collect.


HICKMAN: And this person named George, he comes around every golf course bin and pulls out all the trash and recycles it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can take that.

I've been doing this for probably two years with Ryan. Whenever he comes, he is always looking. He cannot pass a trash can without looking. He is 100 percent driven.

HICKMAN: Gatorade bottle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'll get it first.

COLLIER: I never met a kid like that.


COLLIER: I haven't met many adults like that.

HICKMAN: Everything is all loaded in.

COLLIER: He actually understands what he is doing and its effect.

HICKMAN: The fun stuff happens after. Bye, George! Bye! And there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perfect. Want to take the trash can back to dad?

HICKMAN: My mom and dad and grandma on Tuesday help me sort.

HICKMAN: Never a full bottle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are going too fast.

HICKMAN: And then once we have a full bag, we tie it up and stack it along the wall with the others. We load it up in our truck and drive to the recycling center usually and we are first in line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We estimate that Ryan recycled 270,000 cans and bottles and I think that's about 60,000 pounds of cans and bottles.

HICKMAN: And probably one of our bottles is processing right on that conveyor belt.

RALPH ALCANTAR, V.P. MATERIAL HANDLING, REPLANET: He's helping the environment. I mean, for every 2,000 pounds that he recycles he saves 14,000 kilowatts of energy.

[22:55:00] And then at least 40 barrels of oil. So he is doing his part. You know, we need more people to follow like him.

HICKMAN: Thank you. Then we go home. Get all the money and it goes to my bank account. Then I save it for a trash truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pushing for college and he's pushing for a trash truck. We'll see who wins.

HICKMAN: On the weekends my dad and me go to the beach to pick up trash. Hi! Hi! What is that? A dirty sock? Scrunches, hair ties. This is what I got. Zip ties. Cigarette butts. Today I found a golf ball.


HICKMAN: Just a rock. Sometimes real cool stuff like a diaper or poop bag.

Scrunches are winning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we got it all.

HICKMAN: Yes. I'm going to drag it.


HICKMAN: Yes, we cannot overfill this one. Well, and this is what I found at the dog store. This is 10 cents. Next we go to the marine center, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Is this clean mammal center? And it's in Laguna Beach, California, United States of America. OK. Follow me. I donate money. Ten bucks for each of these shirts. And

I help rescue them and feed them food and medicine. Pretend I'm a sea lion and I come across a bag and I eat it. They rescue me and they give me without and they let me go about a month later.

I give money to this place because it saves all these animals like that one. Here it is. Right here. Those fishes are mine that I donated. I already did this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ryan had an opportunity when he was in first grade. His first grade teacher put together a classroom exercise and he spoke to his class about what he was doing with recycling. And that turned into a full-fledged interview with our local newspaper and it just got bigger and bigger.

And my wife called me at work one day and she goes, hey, the Ellen show called the house, they wants to have Ryan on the show. And I was like the Ellen show? Like Ellen DeGeneres? She goes, yes, I'm pretty sure that's who it is. So, Ryan was on the show the following week.

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: Why do you love recycling so much?

HICKMAN: Because it saves the planet and it keeps bottles and cans out of the ocean for animals to not get sick or die.


DEGENERES: Isn't that amazing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the show they had told us, you know, be prepared, after you're on show you're going to get a lot of phone calls and sure enough, he did. We had days where he was getting thousands of e-mails a day.

HICKMAN: They sent me an e-mail so I wanted to put this one tiny white pin in inside the Philippines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we had the opportunity with Ryan's story to be in contact with some people we probably wouldn't have normally. And some of those are kids at schools and adults all over the world that are asking Ryan how do you recycle? What can I do better in my area? He is more focused on his recycling today than he ever has been.

COLLIER: Too much trash is left in the oceans on the ground. And I think we need to do more. And Ryan is an influence on me and hopefully other people.

HICKMAN: Do you guys have stickers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would probably not be doing this if it wasn't for Ryan, so he's opened my eyes to make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything else you want to add?




COOPER: Ryan's passion is contagious and we can't wait to see what he and the rest of these inspiring young people are going to be up to in the coming years.

So there you have them. Our five young wonders of 2017 already making a world of difference. If you want to learn more about these amazing kids and get involved in their causes, just go to CNN

And we're thrilled that they are going to be joining us this Sunday night at the 11th annual CNN Heroes an all-star tribute live from the American Museum and National History in New York. We'll honor this year's top 10 heroes and find out who is going to be named the 2017 CNN hero of the year. I'm co-hosting with Kelly Ripa. It's going to be a great night.

Thanks for watching. Good night.