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2020 CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 13, 2020 - 20:00   ET



JIM GAFFIGAN, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: Hey, everyone. Hey. It's Jim Gaffigan. I love CNN HEROES. I even got this CNN HERO mask. Well, it's just a -- it's just a bib. I'm giving that to Anderson later on.

Anyway, I have missed you. I have. It's been a long -- well, I had no idea it was going to be this long. Did you? I didn't. I used to always say, hey, I want to spend more time with my family. But not this much time.

Anyway, that's not why we're here. Why we are here, it has been 365 days since my favorite event of the year. That's right. And it's not a buffet. My favorite event is CNN HEROES. Something that is really good for the soul. That's right. I'm talking about two hours of goodness.

Yes, this is the Oscars for good people. This is the Super Bowl of kindness. This is a party size chip bag of decency. It's time to restore your belief in humanity.

So, anyway, I got all decked out in my CNN HEROES swag. I even put on CNN underwear. Not really. Kind of really. Jake Tapper gave it to me. Here let me show you. Can you get the camera lower? What do you mean? I guess they don't want to show that.

Anyway, enjoy the show. And thank you, HEROES, all of you.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN Studios at Hudson Yards in New York City, this is the 14th Annual CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE. Please welcome your hosts, Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: And welcome to CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE. And welcome to viewers watching around the world. We usually broadcast this show from the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This year, obviously, that is not possible. We do have our own great blue whale to make us feel at home. And there it is.

KELLY RIPA, HOST: I'm so glad you brought your blue whale from home. He matches your eyes so beautifully.

You know, it's good to be in your quarantine bubble. That is for sure. So not only do I get to stand here next to you tonight, but I get to see you all the time.

COOPER: Kelly and I have been quarantining together. We test a lot, we isolate, we had Thanksgiving together.

RIPA: We do. We sure do.

COOPER: I don't get to talk to anybody else.

RIPA: That's pretty much all we have is each other. I wanted to be here tonight because just like all the other CNN HEROES celebrations, tonight is about hope and decency and compassion. And I know I say this every year, but we could all use a little of that right now.

COOPER: Yes. For sure. This year, we are celebrating some remarkable people as well as their acts of kindness and compassion involving the two biggest stories of the year, the ongoing pandemic and the fight for racial equity and justice.

We're going to talk to HEROES on the frontline of the pandemic and highlight organizations doing really critical work right now. For the last few weeks, viewers have been voting on their choice for this year's most inspiring moment and we're going to reveal that top moment later tonight.

RIPA: We're so grateful to all of the artists who have volunteered their time and participated remotely. Jim Gaffigan, Jeffrey Wright and Glenn Close are joining us again. Cynthia Erivo will be performing an amazing version of a classic song for us later. And for the first time, Angela Bassett will join us.

COOPER: Love Angela.

RIPA: I know. And Millie Bobby Brown and Orlando Bloom, and many others are with us as well.

COOPER: Anyone else?

RIPA: I think there is a surprise guest.

COOPER: That's right. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is here to talk about the way so many extraordinary people came together and answer the call to ensure that millions of Americans had food during this crisis.

RIPA: Welcome to the CNN HEROES family and to all of our guests, let's get started.

COOPER: As the pandemic continues to fill hospitals across the country, we want to begin tonight with our frontline workers. HEROES before, during and always because of their selfless work. One of our 2016 CNN HEROES Brad Ludden and his organization First Descents are providing frontline workers with a chance to regroup from their work.

RIPA: Here to honor them is a champion for the Light of Hope for children in Israel, which helps children fighting cancer and the star of "Wonder Woman 1984" Gal Gadot.

GAL GADOT, CNN HEROES PRESENTER: We can never forget what they are doing for us. The doctors, the nurses, and the hospital workers are doing day in and day out, night after night, in the middle of this horrific pandemic.


They are signing in for their shifts exhausted with their heads held high. They are prepared for the worst, COVID ravaging, body after body. They wear masks until red sores line the bridges of their noses and cheeks. They help intubate patients for hours on end. And when the end has come to countless family members, friends and neighbors, they are the ones who help with the letting go. They are in the room because loved ones can't be.

They hold a mom's hand, stroke a father's hand, sing to him. HEROES are what they are. And in their extraordinary work for us, they suffer and struggle with that daily trauma and pain. They must find a place to heal and recharge in order to rise again, go back to this courageous, noble and life-saving work. Work we will never forget and for which we will always be grateful.


SHANNON BASARA, MEDICAL ICU RN: At the beginning of this, it was haunting walking the halls of three different ICUs and walking past every single room and it was COVID patient, COVID patient. You see all these thank you notes in the halls, of thank you for risking your life, am I really doing this? Am I really risking my life?

It's very hard to look at life knowing I am being actively traumatized and I'm likely going to have PTSD from this. But you have to put that out of your head because you have to show up to work every single day and take care of these patients.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been trauma after trauma in the hospital. I feel super, super burned out. Yes. It's just been hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not easy having these conversations and being vulnerable with each other. It's why we don't do that work.

BASARA: I wanted to offer myself a chance to meet other people who have experienced things that no humans, no health care workers should have had to experience. But also to challenge myself. I'm terrified of heights. Never rock-climbed. So tomorrow will be an experience.

Oh, my gosh.


BASARA: I think reaching out and going on this First Descents weekend is another first step to reflecting on everything that we've dealt with over the past few months.

I'm a little terrified and exhausted. Just reminiscent of my day-to- day life, I guess.

We've been pushing ourselves on these new experiences and challenges which I'll take away empowerment from this. But we've also slowed it down. We focus so much on the lungs of this respiratory viral illness that when you get outside and breathe, you're so thankful for it because I can breathe, my lungs still work.

It feels like we've actually taken those guards down and are starting to feel things again. Maybe moving forward, I can handle this a lot better and knowing that there's other people, that I'm not alone.


So many of us have dealt with emotions that we've buried for so many of the past few months. And I don't think any of us could ever have asked for this help.

I did it.

And it's truly been a wonderful experience and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.



GADOT: When will we have a vaccine? That was one of the first questions we asked the moment COVID hit. Whether or not you had it or you watched someone you love struggle with the cough, the fevers, the lingering brain fog and threats of blood clots and heart struggles, we all wanted to know when.

And what's truly a scientific wonder is the speed of their pursuit for this vaccine. Normally, it takes years and years to develop an effective one. But not at this moment. We rallied the smartest people we know across this country and around the world to find it faster than ever before. Scientists and researchers hunkered down in their labs with the weight of our future on their shoulders.

They tested and retested. They went through the rigors of the trials. And they couldn't have done this work without the extraordinary souls who offered their health and well-being, who raised their hands, volunteered, and said, I'll do it, for the sake of humanity.


To the men and women who worked so hard for this treatment and the women and men who willingly signed up for every trial, know that our gratitude is as deep and profound as your commitment was to save countless lives in this world.


MIKE SMITH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION: I'm a scientist at Moderna actively engaged on developing a vaccine against SARS-COVID 2. I spent almost my entire adult life studying this class of technology.

Some dedicated space so that you can flow up top and down.

You work in extremely hard late to the night. You come home and on the news is the pandemic.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Significant breaking news. A potential vaccine against the coronavirus.

SMITH: It's almost like living in a movie. The meaning of each one of these batches feels different to me. As you can statistically look at how many hospitalizations in each of these batches potentially save and how many deaths. And so it becomes a powerful thing to think about.

COOPER: The COVID-19 vaccine will be the first widely distributed using the gene based MRNA technology.

SMITH: If you had asked me five years ago, I'd say maybe we wouldn't be ready. I feel like we're all lucky in a way that the science was there, the engineering was there.

COOPER: Then came rigorous testing and making enough for hundreds of millions of doses.

SMITH: I remember the lead up to the largest scale we'd ever made. The team had finally gotten across the finish line and they had sent a photograph showing their pride. It was a really incredible thing to see that.

We started to see the first press coverage of the phase one initiation. And to see it there being injected into a patient was incredible. Just to think about these heroes among us that are helping us bring the vaccine for everyone, for me and my family, too.

COOPER: Dawn Baker is one of those heroes.

DAWN BAKER, NEWS ANCHOR: Always wear a mask.

COOPER: A local news anchor, she spent the last nine months reporting on how many lives had been lost to COVID-19.

BAKER: The numbers to me were never just numbers. They were always about the people. In my family, we know nine people who have lost their lives. That was enough for me to do something that would make a change.

COOPER: In July, Dawn received the first shot of the phase three trial in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We dosed the first patient.

COOPER: She was prepared for any possible side effects. But not for negative backlash.

BAKER: I did learn about negative comments that black people should not be part of a study like this. I understand there's legitimate mistrust of health care and the government because of what has happened to blacks in America. But I do also realize that most of us over a certain age, we are alive because of vaccines. And at some point, we have to trust something.

Some of my friends who lost loved ones to COVID-19 have reached out to me and thanked me for what I have done. And I just want to make sure that we're all OK.

COOPER: Making sure we're all OK. A tremendous sacrifice for our safety.

SMITH: It's also an enormous responsibility for us. Every minute matters ensuring that this is done right, we get this vaccine available to everyone that needs it as soon as possible.


RIPA: If you want to support frontline workers and their communities during this ongoing health care crisis, go to You'll see a donate button for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. They are dedicated to making sure resources go into locations that need them the most in hard times. Every little bit counts.

COOPER: I want to introduce a doctor who's been on the frontlines battling pandemics long before COVID-19. He recently received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal, a prestigious recognition for federal employees. With us tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for being with us.


COOPER: On the scientific front, the fight to understand this virus compared to other pandemics, other viruses that you've worked on, what has it been like?

FAUCI: Well, it's just been rapid fire. You know, we've had this very unusual situation. I mean, in its scope and its magnitude and its impact is historic in the sense of nothing like this in the last 102 years. In all the viruses that I have been involved with, I've never seen one that could have such a degree of breadth and broadness of manifestations from nothing to deadly. And the extraordinary capability of it to spread from human to human.

I mean, it is highly contagious. It can be spread in the community by people who don't have any symptoms. I mean, it really is ganging up on us.

COOPER: The heroic efforts we've seen to come up with a vaccine, what has that taught you?

FAUCI: The thing that has been so unusual in a positive sense is that you've had something done in less than a year that would have taken several years. So science has really stepped to the plate and given us something in a record time.


COOPER: You've worked with a lot of people that do heroic work. Who are your heroes in this? FAUCI: You know, Anderson, my heroes are clear. My heroes are the

frontline health care providers, the doctors, the nurses, putting themselves on the line every single day, risking their own health and their own safety and that of their families to serve the public. To me, they are superheroes.

COOPER: How do you cope with this kind of pressure?

FAUCI: Well, Anderson, the way I cope with it is just focus on the enormity of the problem and the mission and the goal that I have is to end this terrible pandemic. When you focus like a laser beam, all of the other stuff, as stressful as it can be, it becomes peripheral. There's an end to this. And you want to be part of that process of ending it. So other things, you just don't let it get in the way.

COOPER: What do you tell people in this time where the vaccine is in sight but it's not there yet and you can still get infected and you can still get hospitalized, and you can still die? And many are dying right now.

FAUCI: Anderson, you make an extraordinarily important point. A vaccine is literally on the cusp of the threshold. It's here. People are going to be starting getting vaccinated in the next few weeks as we get into mid and late December. Now is not the time to get infected. Please, take care of yourself. Do the public health measures. Keep distance. Wear masks. Avoid crowded situations. Do things outdoors more than indoors.

Simple stuff to protect you and to protect those around you, because it's almost like a war. And we're coming to the end, we're coming to the relief. You don't want to be somebody who gets infected because you get careless when help is near and the end is in sight. So all the more motivation for people to double down on public health measures.

COOPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks for all the work you and everybody at NIH has been doing. Thank you.

FAUCI: Thank you very much for having me, Anderson.

RIPA: Throughout the year, there have been a number of moments that brought us joy and inspiration. The last few weeks, you have been telling us which of this year's most inspiring moments is your favorite. Here is a look at our first one tonight. And following each of them, we'll hear from viewers sharing why that particular moment moved them. Take a look and enjoy.


COOPER (voice-over): Before we never noticed the shift change. We didn't see the health care workers and first responders heading home after a long day. But now we do. We celebrated these Heroes every night in cities around the world.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone in health care, you are my hero. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beat that drum, ring that bell in celebration of

what they do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need them more now than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm so grateful for all of those who have put their lives at risk to benefit others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are true heroes that have inspired the world to break out into song.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter any of the circumstances, they keep going back and doing their jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without them, we wouldn't be here.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Millie Bobby Brown, Patton Oswalt, and later, our special guest, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.




Not only are we honoring heroes and highlighting inspiring moments, we're also recognizing three young people who refused to let challenges get in the way of solving problems and helping those in need. We call them our YOUNG WONDERS.

RIPA: But before we do that, I just want to show everyone your young wonder. There's Wyatt.

COOPER: Wyatt.


RIPA: He is the most beautiful baby ever.

COOPER: Wyatt.

RIPA: He is gorgeous and perfect. And I love watching you become a dad.


RIPA: It's been my favorite thing this year.

COOPER: Been amazing. So cute.

RIPA: He wants to come and play.

COOPER: I know. Very sweet.

RIPA: I'm going to go get him.

COOPER: OK. No. Let's not.

RIPA: Now here to introduce our first YOUNG WONDER is UNICEF's youngest goodwill ambassador and one of the stars of "Stranger Things" and "Enola Holmes," Millie Bobby Brown.

MILLIE BOBBY BROWN, ACTRESS: When this pandemic hit, I thought about my family right away. I'm so close to them all and I care about them all so much.

Cavanaugh Bell, who's 8, feels the same way, especially about his grandmother. He adores her. He didn't want her to go out, get food and get sick. So he enlisted his mom to go to the grocery store, buy essentials, and deliver them to his grandmother at her senior community. Kavanaugh saw that all of her friends needed help, too. So he took his entire savings, a little more than $600, and brought them food and supplies. And when word spread about his generosity, the donations and the love for all grandparents poured in.

Cavanaugh dreams big because that's the size of his wise, young heart.


CAVANAUGH BELL, COOLANDDOPE.COM: My grandma is my best friend. So when COVID happened, I wanted to help her, support her so that she's safe.

LLACEY SIMMONS, CAVANAUGH'S MOM: They're really, really close. And he befriended most of the senior citizens that lived in her facility. So he was aware of who had this problem and that problem. So for him, it was that sense of urgency that he really understood really early on.

BELL: So I used my life savings and made care packs for seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wonderful. Thank you, Cavanaugh.

BELL: I wanted to make sure that they know that they are loved. I have given out more than 600 care packs to senior citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep up the good work.

SIMMONS: We started getting people asking, well, can we drop off toiletry items? And we got donations coming in from all over the world.

BELL: And that's how I started my own community pantry.

Guys, look at what we got.

SIMMONS: We ended up getting space donated that was in a nice big parking lot.

BELL: So people would just pull up and they would just bring the bags to their cars. We helped 8,100 people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. BELL: Welcome to Pine Ridge.

SIMMONS: The summer of 2018, we ended up traveling through Pine Ridge Reservation.

BELL: Most of the houses don't even have electricity, running water. I don't think anyone should be living like that.

SIMMONS: One day at the pantry, he's like, remember that reservation? Well, I think now is the time we can help them.

BELL: Look, the trailer is here. This is everything that was going on the trailer. Look at this.


SIMMONS: Those are all the books we got donated.

BELL: They were really excited.

SIMMONS: I think he also gives people that sense that, you don't necessarily know who is out here rooting for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cavanaugh, it's good to see you.

SIMMONS: This is the beginning of the journey of Cavanaugh, and he still has many more decades to go. That's the scary part.

BELL: Anyone can have impact, no matter their age.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

BELL: With love, we can get through this together and we can make this world a better place.


COOPER: He is doing such great work. So nice --

RIPA: How about that?

COOPER: Yes. And Cavanaugh joins us now.

Hey, congratulations, Cavanaugh.

BELL: Thank you.

RIPA: That is so great. What an award, huh?

COOPER: Yes. So tell us about your grandma. What do you love most about her?

BELL: That she's a hard worker because when her knee hurts sometimes, and I need her to help me, she always finds a way to help me. And that's what I love about my grandma.

RIPA: And I hear that you're starting a new Big and Littles program?

BELL: Yes. So Big and Littles is where we match up kids with senior citizens so senior citizens don't feel lonely. And for the holidays, the littles are going to make 100 special care packs for 100 special senior citizens.


RIPA: What a great kid.

COOPER: What do you recommend? There's a lot of young people out there who would love to get involved and do stuff, but don't really know how to go about it? What would you recommend?

BELL: Well, what I usually say is, whatever you believe, you can achieve. And it's up to us kids to create the future that we deserve.

COOPER: Right. You're doing such amazing work. Thank you so much for being with us. We wish you the best.

BELL: Thank you.

COOPER: All right.

RIPA: Thanks, Cavanaugh. Wow.

COOPER: That's great.

RIPA: Wow.

COOPER: There are 50 million students in our education system.

RIPA: Here to talk about how we reimagine school and learning in the face of the pandemic is a champion for Alice's Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides short-term financial assistance to children with an immediate need and the star of the Netflix special and Grammy- nominated comedy album, "I Love Everything," here is Patton Oswalt.

PATTON OSWALT, ACTOR: We forget how it all started. (INAUDIBLE) High School in Washington state was the first to close down when a relative of an employee got sick. For two days, they wiped down the desks, the doors, and soon other schools began to close. And by March 11th, when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, more than one million students were adjusting to remote learning.

By March 25th, all the schools had shut down. And over 50 million bright, hopeful students were now at home. At first, it seemed like an early spring break. But as the virus took hold of the nation, it took the lives of star teachers, principals, janitors and beloved bus drivers. And it was clear that a new dawn for education was upon us with all the old inequities laid bare.

How do we feed the millions of kids who depend on breakfast and lunch as their only meal of the day? And what about kids who don't have computers or Wi-Fi, left to walk to a restaurant or a school and try to log on in the parking lot? How do we give these kids the things they need every single day? Could this be an ultimate educational moment that would teach kindness, sacrifice, creativity and caring?

Well, within minutes, teachers, educators and parents, heroes every single one of them, went to work for our kids. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike, what is that animal?


COOPER (voice-over): Distance learning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a virus going on. And no one could be at school.

COOPER: For most of us, it was a new idea. And for many, it inspired --

MICHAEL DEISESO, CHEMISTRY TEACHER: Panic. I just was real anxious about using the technology and how am I going to get it to work?

COOPER: For it all to work, everyone had to be flexible, not just teachers, but students.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know how to log in, we don't know how to find assignments.

COOPER: And parents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They couldn't get signed on the first day. He had to go up, what, three times?

COOPER: Everyone juggled. But too many struggled. Communities of schools scrambled to get students laptops. And the digital divide that already existed got deeper. Some students sat outside their school for the free Wi-Fi, while two determined sisters resorted to logging on at Taco Bell.

JUANA VALENCIA GARCIA, MOTHER (through translator): The girls went there because they didn't have internet. They wanted to study.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A (INAUDIBLE). A pack of raisins. An apple.


COOPER: Students in need also missed their free school lunches. So one teacher in the U.K. delivered them to 80 of his students every day. In four months, he provided more than 7500 meals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, everybody. Welcome to AWB.

COOPER: Many teachers went above and beyond to engage their students.

PEDRO DONES, MATH TEACHER: Just because the world stopped, doesn't mean I'm going to stop. And so they shouldn't stop.

COOPER: Math teacher Pedro Dones introduced his students to his alter ego, the Big Action.

DONES: Here he is, the big math man. The big action. He back for you, baby. Today, we're going to talk about the complimentary angles.

COOPER: Some teachers dropped by just to say hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss you. Were you confused? We wanted to surprise you.

COOPER: While others said --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Singing) I'll be here for you when you're learning at home. I'll be here for you, and you'll watch me on Chrome.

COOPER: And when school finally reopened, staffers rallied to navigate the new normal. One teacher raised money to buy a sink for her classroom so her students could wash their hands, while an Alabama principal put his safety guidance to music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better pull that mask up. It's the CDC, not me. Hey, go wash your hands.

COOPER: And even though our time honored traditions looked different --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Class of 2020 graduation.

COOPER: We kept going.

DAVID MAYES III, NORTH CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: It meant a lot. It made me feel loved and appreciated. And honestly I can't ask for more than that.

COOPER: Everyone learned lessons about hard work, creativity and resilience. And in a year like no other, that is worth celebrating.


RIPA: If you want to support our fantastic and heroic educators, go to and click on the donate button for There are way too many teachers and schools that don't have enough money to do the things that they want for their students. Adopting a classroom is a way to get them much needed resources.

COOPER: And in just a few moments, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will talk about communities responding to the need for food during the pandemic. Now let's take a look at another one of this year's most inspiring moments.


COOPER (voice-over): This summer, millions of people worldwide were willing to risk their lives amid the pandemic by stepping out and stepping up to protest systemic racism. They called for justice and equality everywhere. Inspiring a movement of all ages, races, religions and creeds. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first three words of the Constitution is "we

the people."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what color you are, what religion you are, whether you are old or young.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see people all races support, like support the Black Lives Matter movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Risking their health to fight for what is right and has always been right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gay rights, trans rights, woman's rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's happening all over the world, not only in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day we're going to get through this. One day we're going to live in harmony.


ANNOUNCER: Next, Angela Bassett celebrates the power of protest. And later Glenn Close, Orlando Bloom, Cynthia Erivo and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.



COOPER: We're back with CNN HEROES.

In many ways, this country was born out of protest. One of the more famous ones of course took place on a December night like this when a group of men boarded three ships in Boston Harbor in protest of taxation without representation. As you know, they emptied 342 chests of tea into the water. And at the time it was a very radical act. John Adams, by the way, was all for it. George Washington, not so much. Bu tother protests followed until independence from Britain became a reality.

RIPA: To talk about the power of protest during this year is the star and executive producer of the hit series "911," and a proud ambassador of Know Diabetes by Heart, Angela Bassett.

ANGELA BASSETT, ACTRESS: Back in 1918, there was a convention for the clothing workers in America. People were organizing and trying to create new labor laws. Laws like the 40-hour workweek, sick days, holidays, safety precautions, equal pay. Still working on that one. And not letting children work in dangerous coal mines. Extremely important labor laws that continue to protect our workforce today.

But one of the speakers, Nicholas Kline, made this point as they were being called radicals and other names, as they advocated for this change. He said, first they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. That's the flow of protest. Think about it.

The abolitionist, ridiculed at first, and now the abhorrent of slavery is forever. Think about the suffragettes, mocked, spit on, thrown in jail, force-fed, until the 19th Amendment, and even that didn't cut it for black women. Their fight was even longer and harder. And now, we are all walking on shattered glass thanks to our vice president-elect.

How about Rosa Parks? She had enough and refused to move from her seat. The Montgomery Busboy Boycott launched soon after. And when the world saw George Floyd on the ground with a knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes, the Black Lives Matter Movement was no longer considered on the radical fringe of protest.

The clarion call for equality was our moral compass. It finally put us and the heroes among us on the path to building our great and righteous monument to justice.


COOPER (voice-over): This is what change looks like. Massive protests, millions in the streets.



COOPER: Wanting to be heard.


COOPER: Even amid a threat of a global pandemic. But the outrage was about more than one man. The message was simply, Black Lives Matter.


PATRISSE CULLORS, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER GLOBAL NETWORK: It made me feel like finally for so long black people have challenged mainstream America to accept us, see us, love us. And this moment, it's been powerful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty.

COOPER: What started in 2013 as a hash tag protesting disregard for black lives catapulted into a global reckoning.

CULLORS: I definitely felt like the conversation was being forced to shift. We were no longer questioning if racism existed.

COOPER: George Floyd's brutal death brought people of all races, ages and backgrounds together as never before.

CULLORS: It was not George Floyd's case that was different. It's that we are living in a different time, under a global pandemic. And that people are tired. And we know that we deserve better.

COOPER: At the demonstrations, the vast majority of which were peaceful, many reached out to break down boundaries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you guys out here doing your job. I'm not mad at you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like, oh, my god, he is by himself. And we just formed that barricade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make this a parade, not a protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right. We are all here together. OK?

COOPER: These moments show the possibility of a new opening of hearts across the country.

In Washington, D.C., on the evening of June 1st, peaceful protesters were driven from the White House half an hour before a city-wide curfew took effect. Police blocked off streets. Eventually hundreds were corralled on to a street in northwest D.C. outside the home of a health care consultant, Rahul Dubey.

RAHUL DUBEY, OPENED DOOR TO PROTESTERS: What I saw were people confused. I saw fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting pushed back. They're coming around this car.

DUBEY: They were trapped on the street trying to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're basically like sardines in a box. Face to face with that many police officers like in riot gear. The hair on my arms was standing up.

DUBEY: And you hear this loud bang and I saw clubs coming out and pepper spray flying everywhere. All I could do was just fling open the door, I was like, get in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I looked over and he was the only person on the whole street letting people in.

DUBEY: People came flying in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was like 70 people you don't know are running into your house. There's a virus going on. He's just standing there, holding the door open.

DUBEY: They pepper sprayed into the house. It was chaos. People had milk and stuff, and water to pour in people's eyes.

COOPER: With police outside, Raul ended up sheltering 72 protesters, complete strangers, overnight.


DUBEY: Yes, you are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we were to sleep here, is that OK with you? DUBEY: Yes. As long as it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. God bless you.

DUBEY: And that was the beauty of what happened here that night. Everyone got home that morning.

COOPER: And while the night ended, their connection continued.

DUBEY: It's time to do the work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come over probably four times a week, talking business, politics. He didn't just open the door once. He opens doors for us every day.

DUBEY: For me, this was a tragically beautiful gift. Prior to June 1st, I put my head in the sand. But to see the atrocity show up on your front door, if people like me don't open the door, then really, who will?

COOPER: In Murray, Kentucky, tattoo artist Ryan King and Jeremiah Swift began covering hate tattoos for free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing people risking their lives for the Black Lives Matter movement on TV, that moved me greatly.

COOPER: Since June, their Cover the Hate campaign has gotten hundreds of responses from all over the world. They've covered up dozens, averaging two to three a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of these tattoos are pretty old, worn and outdated. Just like that ideology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Growing up, I was never raised to be racist. I just was around the wrong people. And I wanted to show everyone that I was above them. And I look back on it now and I'm ashamed of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and take a look at the design here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got two granddaughters. They're mixed. I love my grand babies. I don't want to explain that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I was happy drawing it so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always wanted someone to cover them up. But it'd be a big chunk of money. It's like a change in life. I mean, this is the last step. And this man is here to help you to fulfill it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's so cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You rock those out in the summertime, you know?

It's a really good feeling to get rid of that. Gone forever from the world. You know, one person at a time, one tattoo at a time. Wrapped up and ready for Christmas, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was speechless. I'm excited to show my grandkids. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is genuinely helping people move past their past.

COOPER: This is how change happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protest is actually at the center of how this country has been able to thrive.


And I believe that everybody has a lane when it comes to being a part of this movement. That's what it's going to take to actually live in a country that believes and proves that black lives matter.


COOPER: The Equal Justice Initiative is an organization that's committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in our justice system. You can support their efforts to challenge racial and economic injustice and fight to protect basic human rights by clicking on the donate button at

RIPA: And now, another of this year's most moving and inspiring moments.


COOPER: For nearly eight minutes, George Floyd pleaded for his life. His death sparked worldwide protest against police brutality and systemic racism. After a press conference, his daughter Gianna shared a hope for us all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In spite of the brutal killing of George Floyd, his daughter was able to rise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gianna is a light in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her daddy changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he really did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this was a wake-up call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's so much injustice that needs to be dealt with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If this hadn't happened to George Floyd, the world may be the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This generation will not tolerate hate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not sit back and just allow our lives not to matter ever again.


ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN HEROES, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, on communities coming together to address hunger in America and around the world.



RIPA: Welcome back. Before the pandemic hit, more than 37 million Americans experienced food insecurity. More than one-third of them were children. Today, those numbers have grown. Reported to be as high as 50 million people, including 18 million children.

COOPER: To share how communities have joined together to feed the hungry is the champion of World Central Kitchen and the co-founder of Arch Well, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

MEGHAN, THE DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: In a year that has been universally challenging for everyone, I'm inspired by the stories of compassion in our communities. Across the country, people have put their own needs aside to come together and support the collective well-being of those around them.

Back in March, the COVID-19 crisis hit hard and overnight everything seemed to change. For many families, the impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic. And far too many were faced with a heartbreaking question. How am I going to put food on the table for my family?

But in the face of this devastating reality, we also saw the power of the human spirit and the remarkable ways that communities respond in challenging times. We saw the good in people, in our neighbors and in entire communities coming together to say they would not stand by while our neighbors went hungry. We saw communities standing up and taking action.

When kids' lunch programs came to a halt, we saw our neighbors make sure that those children received the nutrition they need. And when those who were immunocompromised or most vulnerable couldn't leave their homes, we as a community showed up to deliver the food they needed to their doorsteps.

We know the value of food. As nourishment, as a life source. And in moments of crisis, the warmth of a meal can feel as comforting as a much needed hug. Especially in the absence of human contact due to the social distancing we're all experiencing. These moments reminded so many that they are cared for.

Tonight, we are celebrating these quiet heroes. Some of whom I know and others that we applaud from afar. These individuals stood up and made sure the most basic needs of our communities were met. They made sure that those around them did not have to suffer in isolation. They nourished their neighbors in more ways than one. And they showed us, all of us, that even in the darkest times, when we come together, we have the power to remind someone else that there is hope and that we will be OK.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, let's go, let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have always been able to keep food on the table until the pandemic.

COOPER (voice-over): With traditional resources stretched thin, restaurants, schools, veterans and neighbors all stepped up to feed their communities.

Michelle Brenner of Gig Harbor, Washington, was one of them.

MICHELLE BRENNER, GIG HARBOR, WASHINGTON: What I love most about cooking is the comfort that I can create for others.

COOPER: When the pandemic hit, Michelle lost her job. But she soon found a new calling. Homemade lasagna for anyone for free.

BRENNER: And off I went and been deliver delivering and making them since.

COOPER: She spent her entire stimulus check on the effort. Soon, others donated a commercial kitchen and supplies.

BRENNER: This cheese mixture, which seems to be the star of the show.

COOPER: Since April, she survived on unemployment, spending her days cooking for first responders, seniors, busy moms and those struggling to make ends meet.

BRENNER: And this is today's last lasagna. Now time to deliver lasagna love.

COOPER: All told, she's made and given away nearly 5,000 lasagnas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are so awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here to take care of one another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have almost nothing in my kitchen. So this is fantastic.

BRENNER: It's heavy.

I'm no longer Michelle. I'm the Lasagna Lady. And I am OK with them.

COOPER: In March, as people prepared for the shutdown --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started to see a rise in fear. People were struggling to fill up their fridge.

COOPER: Shelly Tygielski thought others could lend a hand. So she posted two forms online, connecting people that needed help with strangers able to give help. And by the next morning --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were over 400 individuals who filled out the form to get help and over 500 people who filled out the form to give help.

COOPER: Her effort, known as Pandemic of Love, went viral. Within days, Susie Israel received help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just blown away. Someone just messaged me and said, I can help you. And tell me how I can help you.


COOPER: Now as a volunteer, Susie digitally matches donors with those in need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more free meals from school. No more free lunch at daycare. No more free shift meals at work. I started to really worry that we were going to actually starve to death at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You won't believe what I have today.


COOPER: While most donors fill needs virtually.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Susie also delivers donated food to local families every week.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job. Bread and vegetables and fruits and cereal. She's my food angel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel lucky to have been able to be a conduit to help her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye. See you next time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me feel like I'm not by myself.

COOPER: Through Pandemic of Love, more than 460,000 people have received nearly $50 million of help with food, bills and rent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what the pandemic has taught us is that we may not all be in the same boat, but we're certainly in the same storm. We need each other.


RIPA: I just love what they are all doing. And to support one of the most active organizations in this effort, go to and click on the donate button for World Central Kitchen.

COOPER: Here to tell us about the work that they're doing to fight hunger, one of the founders, Chef Jose Andres.

Jose, thanks for joining us. Talk about what you've been able to do during the pandemic. You've been doing work on this really from the beginning.

JOSE ANDRES, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: I mean, Anderson, we saw this coming very early. In February, we were already in Japan feeding people in Yokohama. And before we knew the same thing was happening in Oakland, California. We saw that this pandemic was going to be a problem.

COOPER: And you've been working around the country in the United States during this time. You're seeing people who have not been in food lines before.

ANDRES: We have many people, everyday Americans, some of them, many generations, that they are having a hard time because they lost their job. They never got the unemployment. And all of a sudden, for the first time in their lives, they have to be in line for food bank or for a soup kitchen. This is wrong. Shouldn't be. The American way. We can do better. We must do better.

COOPER: How can somebody watching tonight help feed the hungry? How can somebody get involved?

ANDRES: You know, one way to feed the hungry is making sure that we make the political will. We the people. We need to remember that America is really in a crisis. It's actually Mitch McConnell's Kentucky where 13 percent of the people say they don't have enough to eat as well as Nancy Pelosi's California where you see 11 percent.

This is a problem that shouldn't be happening. Why FEMA is absent in a moment that millions of Americans are hungry in the 50 states, those are questions that quite frankly, I would love to get answers. That's why World Central Kitchen, and with many great organizations, we've been stepping out. We need to redefine what it means to take care of Americans. We can do this at the same time that we empower the economy.

World Central Kitchen, as you know, we were able to put 3,000 restaurants up on work, empower the restaurants to feed the local communities, helping the mayors and the government. Every dollar you spend to feed somebody, you are putting the economy back at work. This is the smart way to do it.

COOPER: Who are your heroes during this last year?

ANDRES: I see young people ready to jump in, not caring about who you are, your religion, the color of your skin, what is the accent you have in speaking English, that they are only with one goal in mind, to make sure that they can provide aid and relief and hope with a smile. In our case, we hope that through one plate of food at a time, it's that way to show empathy and hope and the beginning of a better tomorrow.

COOPER: Chef Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen, appreciate it. Thanks so much, Chef.

Since 2008, that's 13 lucky years, no organization has been a greater supporter of CNN HEROES than Subaru. Their ongoing philanthropic efforts have helped so many during this pandemic.

Please welcome Tom Doll, the president and chief executive officer for Subaru of America.

TOM DOLL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SUBARU OF AMERICA: Thank you, Anderson. And welcome, everybody. Being honest, 2020 is a year that probably a lot of us would like to forget. But I believe it's been given to us to help us understand what's truly important. And that's our families and the fellow citizens of our great country who need help. Each of the charity organizations highlighted tonight are demonstrating how they are helping. And Subaru is doing our part in helping others by investing in our annual Share the Love event.

By the end of 2020, Subaru and our retailers will have given over $200 million to both national and local charities all around the country.

Tonight, we are here --