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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

Champions For Change. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 23, 2018 - 20:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:14] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Some of the most important people never make the headlines. But they make a difference dramatically improving the lives of countless others. Maybe you know someone like that.

My colleagues and I were asked to seek out the change-makers, the people working on causes close to our hearts and tell their stories.

Tonight, you'll meet them. This is champions for change.

Good evening. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Over the next hour, we are going to introduce you to some amazing people who are passionate about making the world a better place. Twelve CNN anchors set out to meet them, but also to do more than that. We all got involved with the organizations we championed and the people they served. We tell you how they were changed and how all of us changed as well. Later on, I'll introduce you to my champion for change. A woman tackling an issue I care deeply about.

But first, let's start with my colleague Bill Weir. Bill lives here in New York which like many big cities has a big homeless problem. Most people walk right by the men and women living on the street, but not the folks from a group called urban pathways.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the richest city in the world, a place with so much to see, it's a sight that makes so many look away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

WEIR: But they lean in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. Are you OK?

WEIR: Rain or shine or constant rejection, they refuse to forget the forgotten. Because these Angels in Orange know that with enough relentless compassion, they can turn a life like this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look how great my closet is. I got shelves. For my shoes. I put my sneakers up there.

WEIR: Into this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look how big my bathroom is.

WEIR: This is Robert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a shower. And I got a hand shower.

WEIR: And he is kind of excited about his little studio apartment because for a decade, he lived here. This is your old home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Where I got add an aneurysm.

WEIR: You had your aneurysm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes

WEIR: Wow. For years, he sneered at those Angels in Orange until a near death experience urged him to trust for change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My real story is about these people. They saved my life. They saved my life.

WEIR: I think about that story a lot walking around my city. And I wonder if we repeated it enough times in enough cities, could America rid itself of homelessness? And you think about it this way. You see a sick and lost person on the street every day. Day after day. Feel sorry. Then maybe give them a couple bucks or buy them a sandwich.

Well, years of data shows us that good intention actually feeds bad habits. And a vicious expensive cycle of emergency rooms and shelters and drunk tanks. What that person really needs is a home. So instead of money the money, maybe give them a card to a place like urban pathways, charities that believe in housing first.

FREDERICK SHACK, CEO, URBAN PATHWAYS: It's not as complicated as it appears. If you can provide people with stable housing and with support, in conjunction with you, will do the work. To find dignity and to basically reach their full potential.

WEIR: Which is different from the old model, right?

SHACK: Totally different.

WEIR: With the old model, a person had to get clean and sober first. They had to get housing ready. But years in scary shelters and shadows can make this near impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my giant sized microwave that I love so much. Oh, yes.

WEIR: They do so much better in the place of their own.

This is a long way from a park bench.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, and the subway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the best part is to see them come through at the end. Ten years down the line, you see them, you won't even recognize them.

WEIR: In over 20 years of outreach, Martha has seen so many transformations, including Charles, her street team partner.

WEIR: You were on the street? How old?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighteen.

WEIR: Really? And what happened? How did you get there? How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gangs, so I left. I stayed in shelter. I got my first apartment and I'm like 33.

[20:05:02] WEIR: Congratulations. While they are out here building trust, their colleagues are building homes with a creative mix of public and private financing.

WEIR: On behalf of your friends at urban pathways, welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Can't wait to go check it out.

WEIR: After losing his mother to cancer and his home to a scamming landlord --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's beautiful.

WEIR: This Robert's bipolar disorder could have led to a life on the street, but thanks to donors like Extell Developments and a small government subsidy, his new apartment cost about the same as keeping him live with shelters and emergency rooms.

SHACK: Ask any New Yorker, would you rather spend $22,000 a year and have a person sleeping on the sidewalk or spend $23,000 a year and have that person living in an apartment like this!

WEIR: So what kind of future do you imagine now that you are in a place like this for yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goal is to, you know, start working. I'm going to get my social work degree.

WEIR: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: you know.

WEIR: Give a little back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Absolutely. Give a little back.

WEIR: And that is why Angels of Urban Pathways are my role models.

I want you to hang on to this card, OK. My Champions for Change out there proving what can happen with a little old fashioned compassion and a new idea.

You trust me? You trust me?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: You got him. He trusts you, Bill.

WEIR: He trusts me. He is a tough nut to crack though. I have to keep going back to that guy.

GUPTA: This, I think even's dealt with this at some point. You say in your essay, it's this sort of awkward look away, the panhandle sights that people don't know how to behave necessarily. Have you changed? I mean, do you behave differently?

WEIR: I do. I do. And it took a while. My first subway ride in New York, I ended up inertly wrestling with an obvious deranged homeless person. It's an odd introduction in New York City and it scared me for a long time and I thought this place was just completely unhinged.

But you live here, you start to see the same people every day and the fear sort of melting away. You start to wonder what's the story that put this person here?

It is interesting because there is so many things that you think, OK, some sort of addiction, some sort of mental health issue. Just no money, no housing, which comes first, right. How do you decide?

WEIR: I think in a place like New York and other big cities, it is so expensive. Cost of living is so expensive. People are living check to check and maybe if there's an addiction problem that gets in the way of that, some estranged family members and then before you know it, you are living in your car and then the car gets reprocessed and the shelter system is very scary. And for the people who are out there year after year after year, it's actually a tiny percentage of the overall homeless population. Social workers, policymakers think if we could tackle those guys who have been on the street for decades, maybe we can ultimately solve homelessness.

GUPTA: Right. Thank you.

WEIR: Thank you. Likewise.

GUPTA: Up next, Anderson Cooper is going to return to the scene of a particularly tragic but memorable story to see how one champion uses music and play to help orphans strive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:11:00] GUPTA: One of the story that hit me hardest in my now 17 years of reporting was the earthquake in Haiti back in 2010. My chest still tightens just thinking about it. The destruction and desperation ultimate had an impact on my friend, Anderson Cooper. So he went back to Haiti to meet up with his champion for change, a woman who is restoring hope among the country's orphans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC 360 (voice-over): There's some 75,000 children living in orphanages in Haiti. Around the world, there are more than 140 million. The vast majority of these kids will never be adopted. So how can we help improve their lives?

That's the question Dr. Jane Aronson has dedicated her life to answering. She runs a foundation called worldwide orphans or WWO which works in Haiti, the United States and four other countries to develop ways to help these kids learn and love and laugh.

WWO funds programs in local schools in orphanages to help promote play as a tool of learning.

DR. JANE ARONSON, FOUNDER, WORLDWIDE ORPHANS: It's about using music as way to learn and be playful.

COOPER: And they train teachers to be active participants in the class. That's the school principal on the drums.

So these are all the kids who live in the area?

ARONSON: Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: Wow. So little.

Music and play isn't just about having fun. It's actually about helping kids grow. Why have a toy library?

ARONSON: It's the ideas that toys and play actually enhances learning. Very simple idea. It's been studied over the last probably a hundred years.

COOPER: Play actually has an impact on the brain of children.

ARONSON: It changes the physiology of the brain.

COOPER: At WWO programs, it's not just orphans, all disadvantaged kids are welcomed.

ARONSON: When was the last time you played this, Anderson?

COOPER: This is 3-year-old Jevinska. Her father abandoned her and her mother now works as a volunteer with WWO. Jevinska is not enrolled in preschool. This toy library is where she learns.

When we first meet her, she is quiet. Want to put that on top? Put that in there? Wow.

But after using the blocks to play, she becomes animated and engaged. Oh, no.

ARONSON: I think you have a little attachment going on.

COOPER: She does. I like your hair.

ARONSON: Yes, see. This is what you have going on right now. You were successful in communicating with her and getting her attention and then she got close to you.

COOPER: Hello. I have heard you say that if a child has one adult who love them, they can be healthy.

ARONSON: Yes. Absolutely. Healthy emotionally and physically because the adult serves as their secure attachment figure that provides them with good nourishment and education and the support they need when they face challenges.

COOPER: Dr. Aronson first got involved in Haiti after the earthquake.

COOPER: Back Dr. Aronson with us.

We were here eight years ago in a hospital when a 5-year-old boy was named Manlay Elise (ph) rushed in. He had been trapped underneath the rubble of his home for more than seven days. What's he saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to drink some juice. Want to drink some juice.

COOPER: Amazingly, Manlay (ph) survive d, but ten members of his family, including his parents, did not.

In the years since, Dr. Aronson has stepped in to help care for Manlay (ph) and his two brothers.

I'm Anderson. She brought us to meet Manlay (ph) now. He is 13 and lives with his brothers and extended family in Port-au-Prince.

Initially, after the earthquake, I mean, he was kind quiet.

[20:15:21] ARONSON: He was almost like in a state of stiffness and paralysis. Emotionally and physically.

COOPER: For months.

ARONSON: For years.

COOPER: For years.

Thanks to WWO, Manlay (ph) is in school and is thriving. He wants to one day become a doctor or soccer player.

In Haiti, soccer is a big part of WWO's learning program. Manlay (ph) joined us at the field as well. Watching him laugh and play like any other 13-year-old boy is remarkable considering what he's been through.

He is an example of the good work that Dr. Jane Aronson and WWO are doing on the ground in Haiti and elsewhere around the world. And with more funding, there's no telling what they can do to help this generation of kids grow up to be happy and healthy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: You know, as we tackle the big problems in places like Haiti we shouldn't forget power of play to bring strength to the most vulnerable. And speaking of bringing strength, Kate Bolduan sat down with a group of women determined to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE), what would it be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would be completely alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It gives me a type of support I never had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: You can see the rest of Kate's story and many others at CNN.com/champions.

But up next, Brooke Baldwin takes us to space camp.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:20:52] GUPTA: CNN NEWSROOM anchor Brooke Baldwin has been a total space geek like me since she was a little kid. Lucky Brooke got to go back to the U.S. space and rocket center in Huntsville, Alabama to meet a NASA engineer who spends her summers inspiring the next generation of women astronauts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA HANSON, NASA ENGINEER, PSYCHOLOGY & COMMUNICATIONS LAB: When I see these kids and especially these young girls on the training center floor, I'm just so excited for them because I know that their possibilities have just exploded and they are going to do great things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Hi performing kids, rocketing to a bright future.

But you know, some smart kids never get a fair shot to shine especially those in low income areas.

CNN TONIGHT anchor Don Lemon met a champion for change who works with a group called Oliver Scholars. Their goal, find those high potential kids and give them a once in a lifetime boost.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Hi. You here to be interviewed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are, hello, good morning. Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A kind of bit nervous but I'm actually kind of excited to go through the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will I do good, will I do bad? I don't know. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking at selecting 100 students. We have

over a thousand nominations.

It's a very selective program. Not sure if I would have gotten in if I were applying at this point.

MANNY VEGA, DIRECTOR, PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT, OLIVER SCHOLARS: I'm (INAUDIBLE), the director of Guidance and program development of Oliver Scholars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most important thing today is to have fun. We are asking questions of you but you should have questions of us.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Any one or any organization that gives access to children who would probably not have it I think it's important. And to be quite honest, a lot of kids look like me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to Barnard.

LEMON: Like Ariana for example who is going to graduate from Barnard College.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten years since my first introduction at Oliver and this is where I am. I'm so excited. I went through two rigorous summers with the program.

SUGEIDY FERREIRA, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: I had also experience with my mom. She said that this prom is the best shot we go to a great future.

LABEEBAH SUBAIR, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: They also teach you to be very well rounded. So like it's not just about your academics.

VEGA: I give credit to Oliver for giving me the opportunity when I was 12 years old for transforming my life to grow outside the bounds of zip codes and area codes and connect to the globe.

LEMON: Manny is the ultimate give backer. He actually walks the walk and talks the talk. He was grateful that he felt obligated in a good bay to go back and share and make those experiences happen for other people.

Manny, you a 2004 graduate? 2004 graduate.

VEGA: I live and breathe Oliver. I grew up through the program. I have been working in Oliver for the past eight years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the first things that's engrained in scholars immediately is Oliver has three tenants of leadership, scholarship and service.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really like an essential part of where my motivation comes from in terms of leadership. What I'm doing now is going to work to build my future.

KEVIN PEPIN, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: My favorite of those three is called leadership. I think there's so many different types of leadership.

I play quarterback. That's the leader of the team. Having gone to Oliver and having had experienced in leadership kind of does prepare you in the classroom, on the field. Just anywhere you go.

LEMON: I had to dig in the tunnel, in the tunnel, I had to go into the tunnel. Kevin, what was that?

PEPIN: You were walking down the stairs and then you fell.

LEMON: And I fell.

PEPIN: And this was a dog. Had gotten dog, I would have said you fell.

LEMON: A dog is this. That's a dog.

Since you have been an Oliver Scholar, do you feel different? Do you think like you have changed?

PEPIN: I (INAUDIBLE) change. Oliver has made me proud of who am as a person of color, you kind of sometimes doubt yourself every now and then, but having gone to Oliver, it makes you solidify yourself.

LEMON: I was eating and I got sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes sure that you understand the best parts of yourself.

LEMON: Do you speak Chinese? Are you fluent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four years into it.

LEMON: Give me a little.

[20:25:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every Oliver Scholar must complete at least 150 hours of community service. To (INAUDIBLE) completed a total of 452 hour of community service in the U.S. and abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So (INAUDIBLE) is one of my all-time favorite students. She's a leader. I have so many great stories of her decision to play on the football team at Riverdale. She is just incredibly fearless and has made her mark here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Oliver does well -- it forces you to look into the future.

LEMON: La Viva is getting the scholarship award tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And all of our experiences is truly a rare gem that every child deserves and will benefit from immensely.

You have like an idea that this is sort of like what I want to do my future and these are the things that I need to do to get help with it. LEMON: Did you pick your college yet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.

LEMON: Where are going?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to Yale.

LEMON: You are going to Yale? Oh my God. Oh! Yale! Yale! She's going to Yale!

VEGA: Oliver opens those doors and to provide the foundation, the mentorship, the support, the tough love and knowing that the world is tough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything can happen. Literally anything can happen. I'm at this amazing juncture right now where this is the first time that I don't know what's coming next.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: And 99 percent of those Oliver Scholars go on to college. About a third of them enroll in Ivy League schools.

Up next, fixing a smile. We head to Colombia where one surgeon is repairing hundreds of cleft palates.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:38] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A person's face reveals a lot. What they're thinking how they're feeling. Who they really are. But when you're born with a facial deformity, the face can feel like this unshakable badge of shame. Especially for children. CNN "NEW DAY" anchor Alisyn Camerota met a surgeon in Colombia who gives kids born with cleft palates a new smile and a new chance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You don't think about it when you can smile, but there's something about smiling that makes you approachable to other people.

I'm Alisyn. A smile is actually really, really important.

Can I hold you? Hi. I'm going to see you again at the medical center tomorrow.

MAURICIO HERRERA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, OPERATION SMILE COLOMBIA: My name is Mauricio Herrera. I'm medical director of Operation Smile in Colombia. I'm also a plastic surgeon volunteer for Operation Smile. When you have a cleft palate, you cannot speak well, you cannot eat well. All the food is going through the nose. This is really a nightmare. We are right there and we fix it and that's why we exist.

CAMEROTA: How you doing? How you feeling today? Need some help? I got involved with Operation Smile probably eight years ago and I learned about it through my friend, Lisa Lori. She had three sons born with facial abnormalities. Even before I knew that CNN was going to do Champions of Change, I was going to be taking my twin daughters on this medical mission to Colombia because I wanted them to see how life changing this surgery is.

We're heading about two hours outside of Bogota now. Obviously you can see it's much more rural where we're going. We're going to meet Juan. He's 8 years old. Several years ago, he already had the surgery. But he still needs services. He needs speech therapy and things like that. Ola.

JUAN DAVID LINARES, HAD CLEFT PALATE SURGERY (through translator): My life has changed a lot because of the foundation. When we go, I feel better and I'm really thankful because it's been so great. I love all the doctors that help me. I can speak now.

WILSON LINARES, JUAN DAVID'S FATHER (through translator): The truth is, that if he hadn't gone to a foundation like this, I can't even imagine how Juan David's life would be because we wouldn't have had the means or the money for the surgeries.

CAMEROTA: Once upon a time, there were three little brothers. Hermanos (ph). On a personal note, my daughters were born very prematurely, so I can relate to the idea of having a baby that suddenly needs more medical care than you ever expected. Why wasn't the status quo in Colombia good enough?

CARLOS ARTURO VARGAS AYALA, FOUNDER, OPERATION SMILE COLOMBIA (through translator): The reality is that in the past, the children were hidden and no one knew the seriousness of the situation. Since we came in, they've come to know us and have lost that shame.

CAMEROTA: And you're a volunteer.

HERRERA: Yes. Of course.

CAMEROTA: Meaning you -- the volunteers here don't get paid.

HERRERA: We don't get paid. But we get paid. More than money. And that's more important.

CAMEROTA: Your life is going to be different in one hour from now.

We're ready.

Watching a little 7-month-old baby have his face operated on and seeing the tubes in him and, you know, scalpels, it was a lot.

It's OK, sweetie.

And then watching Samuel come out of anesthesia. And open his eyes and become alert and carrying him to his mom. It was really intense.

Oh, my gosh, what an angel. Look at this little angelic face. You did it. Great job, doc.

[20:35:07] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problem.

CAMEROTA: OK. You want to see mommy? Let's go see mommy.

He did so well. He did perfectly. It's just really amazing to see how in a space of one hour, these little children's lives can be changed and their families and their mothers and everything can be so happy. It's just really, really inspiring.

Yummy.

Obviously, our Champion for Change, he's done this for 20 years and he has no plans to stop because he doesn't want one child left behind with a cleft palate.

HERRERA: I don't feel like I am a champion of anything. I feel that all these kids changed my life know the opposite.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: It's the very best of medicine. A relatively simple operation that completely transforms a child's life. It was so great I think that Alisyn could take her daughters on that journey as well.

Wolf Blitzer is one of our network's most loved anchors. Last summer, his mother passed away after years of struggling with dementia, so Wolf's Champion for Change is Dr. Ronald Crystal, an Alzheimer's researcher at Weill Cornell Medical Center. He heads this new therapy that uses viruses to fight Alzheimer's. It has yet to go through human trials. It may not work, but if it does, it could help treat one of our most feared diseases. You can watch while report online at cnn.com/champions where you can also meet Erin Burnett's Champion for Change. Erin profiles the brave women behind safe horizons. A network of shelters and support service for survivors of domestic abuse.

Still to come, Fredricka Whitfield introduces us to some heroes and some faces. It's called equine therapy. It's used to help veterans cope with PTSD.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:10] GUPTA: My friend Fredricka Whitfield is at home in the saddle as she is on the anchor desk. Her Champion for Change uses horses to help our veterans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY EDWARDS, FOUNDER, SPECIAL EQUESTRIANS OF GEORGIA: The PTSD, you can't get out of your head. Getting out of your head is therapeutic in itself. It's amazing to watch horses connect with people who have stuff going on. But for veterans in particular, it's a big, powerful animal that seems to understand them.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: How's it made a difference in your life?

RUSSELL FAIRBAIRN, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: It's pretty much saved my life. Going from a very dark place and not having a lot of people to talk to or people I was comfortable talking to about all the issues I had.

For me it was just wanting to run from everything, which I did for a long time. A lot of sue suicidal thoughts and I still battle with them. I still battle with a lot of anxiety, but there's an outlet for all that now.

(END VIDEO CLIP))

GUPTA: As you can see, Fred's full report online at cnn.com/champions.

Ana Cabrera also picked a Champion for Change who focuses on trauma. But instead of our vets, she's focused on families facing pediatric cancer. And for Ana, this is a deeply personal story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AILEEN RICHERT, MOTHER OF MIKEY RICHERT: I feel sad because I feel sometimes that his childhood was robbed.

MIKEY RICHERT, BRAIN CANCER PATIENT: Oh, gosh.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Mikey, how old are you?

M. RICHERT: I am 13.

A. CABRERA: So you're a teenager already.

M. RICHERT: Yes.

A. CABRERA: Mikey Richert has spent nearly a quarter of his childhood fighting brain cancer.

M. RICHERT: This side won't grow, because radiation.

A. CABRERA: I like your Mohawk. That looks good.

A. RICHERT: When Mikey was almost finished his second fight against medulloblastoma, my husband was diagnosed with stage four lung and bone cancer. To have that person get sick in front of you and watch them deteriorate as your son starts to get better, it was really, really tough.

A. CABRERA: Nine months after his diagnosis, Michael Senior Died.

A. RICHERT: At that point, you feel like you can't breathe. But you still try your best to take care of everyone and keep your little kids going.

A. CABRERA: Seeing Mikey immediately took me back to Colorado. And made me think of John, my brother. He was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was just 10 years old. Medulloblastoma. The same kind of cancer as Mikey.

JOHN CABRERA, ANA CABRERA'S BROTHER: Because doctors said that they didn't have a cure for brain cancer at that time, so I was taken back by that and I was like oh my, it looks kind of bleak for me.

A. CABRERA: I remember feeling as a sibling, very helpless. What were you thinking about in this picture?

J. CABRERA: I don't know. I was just happy that you were here.

A. CABRERA: I wanted to be b able to do something for him as he was struggling and suffering and yet there was very little I could do and I think that's what really led me to Candlelighters.

BARBARA ZOBIAN, FOUNDER, CANDLELIGHTERS: The day they found out that their child had cancer is the darkest day of their life, Candlelighters helps bring them into the light.

You look so pretty. Hi. Where's the other one? Get over here. I need double hug.

We needed that personal touch. That we are their best friends.

Hi, Joanne (ph). And they're ours, too. We become family.

A. CABRERA: Candlelighters is really a unique organization. Meets the family where they need it most. It may be a simple comfort or it might be a big wish.

ZOBIAN: If we can just make a tiny bit of difference, it's enough.

A. CABRERA: What did you see that Candlelighters can offer that wasn't there already?

[20:45:03] ZOBIAN: There's still is nothing like Candlelighters New York City. We're a family.

You have a diaper, a poopy diaper.

These families come from all over. They sit on my couch. They play with my dog. They lie down on the bed if they're tired.

A. CABRERA: Do you want to open it yourself or can I help open this one for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want one.

A. CABRERA: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes.

A. CABRERA: Put your head up for one second so we can get the collar working. Oh, yes.

ZOBIAN: I'm very, very happy.

A. CABRERA: What does it feel like to be able to help families in that way?

ZOBIAN: It feels like a fairy god mother.

A. CABRERA: Isn't that better yet? You have to be proper. When you're a cop, you got to be proper.

ZOBIAN: We're able to make little wishes come true every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're officially making them police officers in Central Park Precinct. And please welcome Peck M. Peterson (ph).

ZOBIAN: New York City is so rich. We share with them and we want all of New York City to feel the good feelings that we feel.

A. CABRERA: That's a very cool picture. Is that you at the Knicks game?

M. RICHERT: Yes.

A. CABRERA: For Mikey and his siblings, it was an unforgettable night court side at a Knicks basketball game.

M. RICHERT: Everybody was smiling.

A. CABRERA: For his mom, simply an hour of pampering.

A. RICHERT: It was such a nice treat to have a glass of champagne and get my hair washed and get it done for me. What Barbara did for me that day, that was just so nice to breathe again.

A. CABRERA: Barbara is a champion for these kids with cancer. Barbara is a champion for their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you more than anything in the whole wide world.

ZOBIAN: I could spend all of my life just crying but I'd be under a blanket and not helping anyone.

A. CABRERA: So instead you're making something with that.

ZOBIAN: I'm turning crappy into happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Ana, what a powerful piece. Thanks for sharing that. I'm an older sibling as well, so the connection between you and John really struck me. How is John doing?

A. CABRERA: He's doing all right. You know. He is such a resilient person and such a fighter and he's one of my heroes. He's been impacted long-term because of his brain cancer. The amount of radiation that his brain received. But he's a survivor. He's 17 years now in remission, which is huge.

GUPTA: I'm also struck especially I guess as a doctor, you focus on the treatments. The chemotherapy, the radiation operation, what's necessary, but all this other stuff that this organization does. Who would do it if not for organizations like them, right?

A. CABRERA: Exactly. It's about really helping the soul go through this journey and I think that's what Barbara makes this all about. The person and helping to keep their spirits up because these children have to be brave. These families have to just endure. It's such an intense situation to go through this as a family and then to have to do it in a place that's not close to home. That's not where your comfort zone is. In a place like New York City, which can be extremely overwhelming for people to visit. People from Kentucky, from Utah, from San Diego, other places around the country. And so Barbara makes it a little bit easier. She always likes to say these kids just need a break from being brave. I just want them to feel like kids and so she gets so much joy. Candlelighters get so much joy in being able to give a child a smile.

GUPTA: Turn crappy into happy. Ana, what a pleasure.

A. CABRERA: Thank you.

GUPTA: Please give john my best a well.

A. CABRERA: Thank you. And thank you Candlelighters for what you do.

GUPTA: And when our colleague, NEW DAY anchor, John Berman, his family first settled in the United States, his great uncle's found this place to fit in. It was Boston's West End House. Now, three generations later, that youth center is still this important place for young immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How has the make-up of the kids who use this changed?

ANDREW MUSTO, BOARD PRESIDENT, WEST END HOUSE: Now, we're supporting people from all over the world. It's a new need, but in reality, it's the same need.

BERMAN: The West End House offers 1,600 kids and teens a home away from home. A place to learn new skills, succeed in school and create lasting friendships.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: And up next, I'll introduce you to my Champion for Change. It involves a problem we all see and we can all fix.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:29] GUPTA: One of the most distressing issues I report on is hunger. I just don't get it. Consider this, in the United States these two problems are happening at the same time. Lots of people are going hungry and lots of food is going to waste.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: When I first heard the story I'm about to tell you, I really didn't believe it. It starts with these adorable children. Four out of five kids in this classroom are food insecure, not sure when or if they will get their next meal.

Covering hunger, even wide spread hunger, famine have been some of the most emotionally tough stories I have covered in 17 years as a journalist.

Hello and welcome to a very special edition SGMD, the front lines of famine. I'm in Dadaab, Kenya, in one of the largest refugee camp in the world.

Still, I wasn't ready to believe just how bad the problem was back home. What is happening in the United States is, by no mens a famine, but one in eight Americans, one in six children struggle with hunger.

CHARITY MILLS, TRI-LAKES CARES CLIENT: So what I have found is that poverty lives right next door, all of us. It can happen to anybody. And it happens due to some sort of catastrophic event that you're not expecting.

GUPTA: And there's something else, the face of hunger might surprise you. It surprised me. Charity Mills, mother of five. Her husband, back in grad school retraining after the recession. Every meal now dependent on the generosity of others.

MILLS: There was a time when we were 100 percent dependent on it and that was is difficult time.

[20:55:05] GUPTA: So today, the organization Feeding America is all about feeding Charity Mills and her family.

GUPTA: Do you do this every morning?

PAUL LOBATO, DRIVER, CARE AND SHARE FOOD BANK: Yes, sir.

GUPTA: It's incredible work.

LOBATO: It is. I love it.

GUPTA: Here in Colorado Springs, Paul Lobato and I are on a mission to collect food that might otherwise go to waste.

LOBATO: There is food that will be picked up today that will help feed people tonight.

LOBATO: Yes, sir.

GUPTA: Forty percent of food goes to waste in this country. How do you live in a society where 40 percent of the food goes to waste and people are hungry?

LOBATO: I think when people recognize the waste that happens in the fields, on the docks, in stores and people's homes, they will feel empowered to do something about it.

GUPTA: Today, Paul and I bring back almost 1,000 pounds of food to be inspected and sorted and a lot of it lasts longer than you think.

MARY LASCH, VOLUNTEER, CARE AND SHARE FOOD BANK: I think that's the biggest surprise that meat in a can would last that long.

GUPTA: So five years after the expiration date.

LASCH: Yes.

GUPTA: I did not know that. That surprise me.

When you spend time in a place like Feeding America and meet some of their two million volunteers, you'll quickly realize, everyone here has a story about hunger. Like my Champion for Change, Mary Lasch.

LASCH: I know the pain in the stomach, the sadness. You're scared to say anything. My parents worked at a five-star resort in the Poconos. My dad was a chef but yet his kids were hungry because of abuse and neglect. He didn't feed us but he fed hundreds of other people daily. But not his own kids.

GUPTA: How much of what you went through, at that time, is part of what you're doing now?

LASCH: That is what drives me. If I can make a difference in one child's life a day, I feel that my work is done.

GUPTA: This is it. This is feeding America. It feels like you're actually doing something worthwhile.

PATRICK BRENNAN, FACULTIES MANAGER, SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK: So we're going to dig some potatoes and this is what a potato plant looks like.

GUPTA: This is it.

BRENNAN: This is it right here.

GUPTA: People forget food comes from the ground sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing.

GUPTA: Former Green Beret, Patrick Brennan is my commanding officer today at this farm in San Antonio.

BRENNAN: We've got this basket here full of stuff and we harvested this morning.

GUPTA: That's all pretty good looking produce.

BRENNAN: It's fantastic.

GUPTA: The one thing I hope you will remember, if we simply stop wasting food, we could absolutely feed America. Remember those kids, the food we're passing out and we'll feed them and their families this food that might have otherwise gone to waste.

XANDER, SEND HUNGER PACKING RECIPIENT: When I get those food bags, they're really heavy and that heaviness is love.

GUPTA: It's hard to hear about these kids. You can't believe that kid is hungry, first of all, and they're taking food home for their family. It's a lot of responsibility, I think and, you know, it's like we can do better.

It's the reason I wanted to tell the story of Feeding America. Matt Knott is organization's president.

MATT KNOTT, PRESIDENT, FEEDING AMERICA: I think it's a solvable problem actually. And as I said, we're working at scale to solve that problem to get food from every point in the U.S. food supply chain from farm to fork, whether it's surplus food, to capture that food and to get it to people who need it most.

GUPTA: People like Charity Mills. The food we picked up earlier has made its way to the pantry and then to Charity's home.

MILLS: So tonight is the spaghetti which is a pretty typical family meal for us.

So your science test back today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MILLS: That is good.

GUPTA: Have you ever stepped back and thought about how many people you've likely helped feed now?

LASCH: I haven't. But I don't feel like it's been enough yet. So however I can help, as long as I can help them, I will do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: I should point out that Feeding America was originally called Second Harvest. Because they go collect all the fruits and vegetables that no one else wanted. It's called gleaning. This sweet potato, for example, never gets sold in the store, but it could feed a lot of people. So resolve to eat uglier fruits and vegetables and you too can help feed America.

If you've missed any of the show tonight or want to see more of these amazing stories. Go to cnn.com/champions. That's where you can also hear CNN anchors share their personal thoughts on this journey and the importance of passion, commitment and be a rule breaker when it is necessary. Maybe you'll be inspired to become a champion for change as well.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Good night.