10 inspiring stories of everyday heroes

Story highlights

The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2013 each receive $50,000 for their efforts to help change the world

They were honored during a special awards show, "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute"

The Hero of the Year, chosen by CNN's global audience, received an additional $250,000

CNN  — 

They clean up rivers, build homes for disabled veterans and bring health care to some of the darkest parts of the world.

They help children who are fighting cancer, poverty and a lack of opportunity.

These are the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2013.

For their extraordinary efforts to change the world, each of these everyday people will receive $50,000. They were also recognized at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” an annual show broadcast globally on CNN.

“I’ve long admired the CNN Heroes tribute, but even more, the heroes themselves,” said Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide. “We are proud to share the stories of these 10 exceptional individuals and to continue one of CNN’s most important traditions.”

The tribute show, hosted by Anderson Cooper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, included celebrity presenters and performers. This year’s presenters included Grammy Award-winning musician Ne-Yo; comedians Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman; television hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan; and actors Jason Biggs, Alan Cumming, Josh Lucas, Mariska Hargitay, Shay Mitchell, Allison Williams and Jeffrey Wright.

Three-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles performed her hit single “Brave.”

This was the seventh year CNN has conducted its annual search for CNN Heroes. In those years, the campaign has profiled more than 200 people on CNN and CNN.com.

This year’s top 10 were nominated by CNN’s global audience and profiled earlier this year on CNN.

At the end of the show, one of the top 10, Chad Pregracke, was named CNN Hero of the Year. He will receive an additional $250,000 for his cause, which is cleaning up the Mississippi River and other American waterways. Pregracke was chosen as Hero of the Year through a five-week public vote on CNN.com.

Here are the top 10 Heroes of 2013, in alphabetical order:

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Dale Beatty: Making life easier for disabled veterans
After Dale Beatty lost his legs in the Iraq war, his community thanked him for his service by helping him build a home. To pay it forward, Beatty co-founded Purple Heart Homes, which has helped build or modify homes for dozens of disabled U.S. veterans. “We wouldn’t leave someone behind on the battlefield,” Beatty said. “Why would we do it at home?”
Read Beatty’s story

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Georges Bwelle: Bringing health care to the jungle
For decades, Georges Bwelle watched his father suffer, unable to get the medical attention he needed. Now a doctor, Bwelle travels into the jungles of his native Cameroon nearly every weekend, providing free medical care for those who don’t have access to good health care. “To make people laugh, to reduce the pain, that’s why I’m doing this,” he said.
Read Bwelle’s story

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Robin Emmons: Creating an oasis in a ‘food desert’
More than 72,000 people in Charlotte, North Carolina, lack access to fresh produce. When Robin Emmons discovered this problem, she took action. “I decided to rip up my whole backyard and make it all a garden for people in need,” she said. Since 2008, Emmons has grown more than 26,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables for area residents.
Read Emmons’ story

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Danielle Gletow: Granting wishes for foster kids
Foster children don’t often get the things other children do, but Danielle Gletow is trying to help change that. She posts their wishes online so the public can help grant them. “I’m here to be the mom to all these kids who might not feel like they have one,” she said. Since 2008, her group has helped grant more than 6,500 wishes in 42 states.
Read Gletow’s story

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Tawanda Jones: Giving kids a way off deadly streets
Tawanda Jones is using dance to empower the youth of Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in the country. Through Jones’ drill team program, at least 4,000 children have learned discipline, respect and community service – and all of them have graduated high school. “We need to take back our city and, most importantly, take back our youth,” Jones said.
Read Jones’ story

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Richard Nares: Helping sick kids get to chemo
For many children fighting cancer, it can be extremely tough to make it to their chemotherapy appointments. But Richard Nares started a group that gives them transportation and support. “No child should miss their cancer treatment due to lack of transportation,” said Nares, who lost his son to leukemia in 2000.
Read Nares’ story

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Kakenya Ntaiya: Educating girls for the first time
Kakenya Ntaiya is inspiring change in her native Kenyan village. After becoming the first woman in the village to attend college in the United States, she returned to open the village’s first primary school for girls. “Our work is about empowering the girls,” Ntaiya said. “They are dreaming of becoming lawyers, teachers, doctors.”
Read Ntaiya’s story

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Chad Pregracke: Cleaning up America’s rivers
Chad Pregracke has made it his life’s work to clean up the Mississippi River and other American waterways. Since 1998, about 70,000 volunteers have helped Pregracke remove more than 7 million pounds of garbage from 23 rivers across the country. “Picking up garbage, it’s tough, miserable and hot,” Pregracke said. “We try to make it fun.”
Read Pregracke’s story

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Estella Pyfrom: Bringing computers to kids in need
Estella Pyfrom used her life savings to create “Estella’s Brilliant Bus,” a mobile computer lab that provides tutoring for thousands of low-income students in Palm Beach County, Florida. “It’s not just a bus, it’s a movement,” Pyfrom said. “And we’re going to keep making a difference.”
Read Pyfrom’s story

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Laura Stachel: Lighting the way for safe childbirths
Laura Stachel created a special “solar suitcase” to help health-care workers deliver babies in more than 20 developing countries. “I really want a world where women can deliver babies safely and with dignity,” Stachel said.
Read Stachel’s story

As part of their award package, each top 10 Hero will also receive free organizational training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide. The Heroes will participate in a customized version of the Annenberg Alchemy program, which offers practical guidance to help strengthen organizations for long-term success.

Check out all of this year’s CNN Heroes