CNN has officially become my trusted source for television news. I began watching them pretty regularly during the 2008 presidential election campaign, but tonight, Thanksgiving night, when their aired their 2nd annual CNN Heroes special, they have me as a full fledged convert.
I recorded the show thinking that it would be an hour of biography, speeches, and a few musical performances all around folks in the world that are doing good things.
Well, it was that and a whole lot more.
This years top 10 list of honorees, in alphabetical order, is:
Tad Agoglia, Houston, Texas: Agoglia's First Response Team provides immediate help to areas hit by natural disasters. In a little more than a year, he and his crew have helped thousands of victims at more than 15 sites across the United States, free of charge.
Yohannes Gebregeorgis, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Moved by the lack of children's books and literacy in his native Ethiopia, Gebregeorgis established Ethiopia Reads, bringing free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of Ethiopian children.
Carolyn LeCroy, Norfolk, Virginia: After serving time in prison, LeCroy started the Messages Project to help children stay connected with their incarcerated parents. She and volunteer camera crews have taped roughly 3,000 messages from inmates to their children.
Anne Mahlum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: On her daily morning jogs, Mahlum used to run past homeless men. Today, she's helping to transform lives by running with them, and others as part of her Back On My Feet program.
Liz McCartney, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana: McCartney moved to New Orleans to dedicate herself to helping Hurricane Katrina survivors move back into their homes. Her nonprofit, St. Bernard Project, has rebuilt the homes of more than 120 families for free.
Phymean Noun, Toronto, Ontario: Growing up in Cambodia, Noun struggled to complete high school. Today, she offers hundreds of Cambodian children who work in Phnom Penh's trash dump a way out through free schooling and job training.
David Puckett, Savannah, Georgia: Puckett started PIPO Missions to bring ongoing prosthetic and orthotic care to those in need. Since November 2000, he has helped more than 420 people in southeastern Mexico, free of charge.
Maria Ruiz, El Paso, Texas: Several times a week, Ruiz crosses the border into Juarez, Mexico, bringing food, clothing and toys to hundreds of impoverished children and their families.
Marie Da Silva, Los Angeles, California: Having lost 14 family members to AIDS, the nanny funds a school in her native Malawi, where half a million children have been orphaned by the disease.
Viola Vaughn, Kaolack, Senegal: The Detroit, Michigan, native moved to Senegal to retire. Instead, a group of failing schoolchildren asked her to help them pass their classes. Today, her 10,000 Girls program is helping hundreds of girls succeed in school and run their own businesses.
At the end of the night it was Liz McCartney of the St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana who received the distinction of Hero of the Year through over 1 million online votes.
Here is a behind the scene video of the creation process of the actual award itself.
I have been touched and inspired by the actions of these individuals and challenge everyone to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to make the life of those struggling in the world, just a little bit better.
In the words of John Legend's song If You're Out There (which he performed during the show):
If you hear this message, wherever you stand
I'm calling every woman, calling every man
We're the generation
We can't afford to wait
The future started yesterday and we're already late…