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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Heroes: All Star Tribute
Aired December 13, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, this is CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host for the evening, Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much. Welcome to CNN HEROES, AN ALL STAR TRIBUTE.
We're coming to you tonight from the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, also known as the whale room, hence the enormous whale, in New York's American Museum of Natural History.
This has been one of those years that's been filled with troubling news and devastating events. But tonight we're recognizing some incredible acts of compassion and kindness. We're honoring 10 true heroes. Men and women doing extraordinary things for other people. They care for sick children. They help people living with disabilities. They're saving animals that are on the brink of extinction.
They're rebuilding impoverished neighborhoods across the United States and around the world and they're doing so much more.
It's nice to see so many familiar faces here, so many big names here tonight to help us honor these heroes.
I'm sorry, my buddy Wolf Blitzer could not be here. He told me he actually had to work, but right before I came out here, I actually was watching an internal CNN monitor from Washington. This is what Wolf Blitzer does in "THE SITUATION ROOM" when he thinks no one is listening. Look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass." Yes. There truly is no treble for Wolf Blitzer.
Throughout the night as you meet our CNN Heroes, I hope you'll be moved to get involved with their causes. You can go to CNNheroes.com at any time and you're going to see ways to interact and donate during this broadcast.
And while you're watching, you can also get involved on Facebook, on Twitter, you can visit our instagram account to see exclusive behind the scenes pictures from tonight's event.
Tonight, CNN has given each of our top 10 honorees $25,000, they can continue to do their important work. And of course later tonight, one of the honorees will be named the 2014 CNN Hero of the Year and they will receive an additional $100,000.
COOPER: So let's get started. Let's meet our first hero. And to introduce us to a soldier who found comfort in the midst of war and also a unique way to remain connected to the country where he fought, please welcome a proud supporter of the Give Up Clothes for Good campaign which raises money for cancer research and the star of the film, "The Imitation Game," Benedict Cumberbatch.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ACTOR, CNN HERO PRESENTER: While on patrol in Afghanistan, a British soldier and his platoon stumbled upon a dog fight. Pen Farthing stopped it and expected the dogs to run off. But one dog stayed behind. This dog had had its ears cut off, his body was riddled with scars.
He followed Pen back to the base and in time this dog and soldier bonded in the middle of that war torn place. Pen named his dog Nowzad after the town where their paths crossed. Nowzad means newborn, and that new companionship got Pen through the stresses of war.
He moved mountains to bring his dog home. And once more, this bond helped Pen serve again.
For the other soldiers around the world missing their spot, their whiskers or their cadence. And also for the Afghan people. See, Pen's work shows us that even in the darkest of places, decency, compassion and love can persevere.
PEN FARTHING, CNN HERO: On every single street corner in Kabul, you'll find stray dogs. Animals can be therapeutic and looking after a dog or cat does relieve stress. So it holds true for soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've deployed to Afghanistan three times. We head out and spend hours on guard. We've come back and the dogs will be so excited to see us. You forget that you're half way across the world in a desert with hostile things going on.
FARTHING: As a troop sergeant, I was there to motivate the guides, but no one was doing that for me. So my time sat with this dog was just a way of de-stressing. Put my head back in the game. When I actually returned from duty, getting Nowzad out of Afghanistan became its own little kind of military operation. I owed it to him to do whatever I could to get him to safety. Although I rescued the dog, I wanted to actually still do something for Afghanistan. I wanted to help the people and the dogs.
We found a little puppy. You're all on your own, aren't you? There's absolutely no way on this planet we can leave this little thing here. Hey, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
FARTHING: The mission of the Nowzad Dogs Charity is to prevent rabies by controlling the stray dog population. But one of the things we never realized would happened would be the amount of soldiers that actually come to us asking for our assistance to rescue a dog or a cat. When we get a call from a soldier, we have to get the dog from wherever the soldier is in Afghanistan to our shelter in Kabul. We'll neuter or spay the dog and we vaccinate it against a variety of diseases.
This is Rex. Little Rex should hopefully going off pretty soon. We're working out the flights and when actually the soldier will be back in the country to be able to pick the dog up.
Then the animal starts his journey from Kabul to the soldier's home country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They start to bring these crates out. I'm looking for Cadence and I finally see him, I pull her out and hugging her and kissing her. I was so excited. I was even more excited that she remembered me. I can't believe that they're here.
She offered so much companionship to me overseas and I just wanted to give her a better life. She's a huge part of the transition being easier for me.
FARTHING: We've now rescued over 650 dogs or cats, for seven soldiers around the world who have been in Afghanistan. My connect with Afghanistan stayed alive because of Nowzad the dog. For me, every time I look at him, just makes me smile because I could never dream we'd be doing something like this in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUMBERBATCH: May you rest in peace, Nowzad.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring CNN Hero Pen Farthing.
FARTHING: Wow. There is no stronger bond to a man and dog than that formed during war. Speaking from my own experience, I know that the dog I looked after was my saving grace from the stress of conflict. And because of that initial bond, now the work goes on reuniting soldiers with their companions, tackling rabies and training veterinarians in Kabul.
And I would really like to thank everybody for their amazing support. We are making a difference to the people of Afghan, to the soldiers and one dog and one cat, one time. So thank you so much.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Kelly Ripa honors a body builder with a huge heart. Then Questlove salutes an urban cowgirl.
COOPER: Welcome back to CNN HEROES.
With more than 56 million people in this country living with a disability, many struggle just to get through the day. Going to a gym to build their strength is a luxury that many cannot afford.
Our next hero is from Albany, New York, and believes that anyone who wants to get stronger, both physically and mentally stronger, should be able to.
Here to tell us his story, please welcome a proud supporter of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and one of the hosts of "Live with Kelly and Michael," a good friend, Kelly Rippa.
KELLY RIPPA, CNN HERO PRESENTER: So as you learn about our next hero, you're going to want to hug him. I'm not kidding. I'm serious. So get ready, and here's why.
Twenty-six years ago when Ned Norton was working in a gym training Olympic athletes and other weightlifters, a young man wheeled himself in and asked Ned to train him. A tragic accident left the young man paralyzed and he wanted to get stronger. Ned didn't know how he was going to do it. But he said, yes, and it worked.
Men and women struggling with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, down syndrome and other ailments found their place in Ned's gym. He calls it Warriors on Wheels. Most of his clients live on disability or Social Security. So Ned offers his services for free, if need be. But he's not charged more than $25 a month.
He's worked with hundreds of these warriors and created more than a gym. It's a place where friendships form, independence takes hold, and where the too often forgotten are embraced for who they are and what they can do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED NORTON, WARRIORS ON WHEELS, CNN HERO: I get up around 5:30. And I get a little bit to eat, pack my bags, I'm out the door by 6:00. In the mornings, I train the Albany Fire Department. Later I go to my second job. It's about a 14, 15-hour day.
I work those two jobs so I can do Warriors. My gym is located in public housing. Everybody's battling some type of struggle. That's why I think it's a good setting for our program. And they offered me the space here for free. This was originally four abandoned apartments. They were in really bad shape. But I always had the vision of what it could be.
The favorite part of my day is absolutely Warriors. From the minute I come here to the minute I leave, I love it.
Do some bench presses today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
NORTON: How are you?
Hey, DJ, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm good.
NORTON: I've never had any specialized training in dealing with people with disabilities. But I know the body.
OK, D.J., we're going to start with the stretching cords.
I know what to do to improve life outside the gym. You're doing really good, D.J. It's the best I've seen you in a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Ned. Thank you, Ned.
NORTON: You're welcome. Ready. Reach.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
NORTON: Reach. Reach. And we cooked up a program, and it seems to be working.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got it, Ned.
NORTON: Yes. You've got it. Beautiful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got it.
NORTON: They do specialized equipment for disabled people, but it's very expensive. So we designed our own. It works good. Everything they do here relates to being more independent. Living a life of purpose. It creates a sense of camaraderie community.
We're on a push-up contest. Oh, fancy guy. Fancy. What do you think, Dave? Up or down?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down.
NORTON: OK. Bring it back nice and slow. This is pretty much a one- man operation. What do you think? I spent years training for Olympic-level athletes, football players. Good form here, OK. The thing about Warriors, it's much more than an Olympic medal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six, seven.
NORTON: They're competing for the rest of their life against very tough obstacles. You really have to be strong not to quit.
All the way up, hold it. Rack. And the lift is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
NORTON: Good. Awesome job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it. You know why?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I come here to see you.
NORTON: Everybody who comes through the door, they become their own success story.
You wanted to do the treadmill right away, didn't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
NORTON: We tried it. And he's done real well. I barely graduated high school. I just wanted to lift weights.
Here we go. One big stretch.
I think I'm supposed to be doing this. I'm about to get snapped here. I don't consider it a job at all.
Look at that muscle, man.
I just love the feeling. You can't buy that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPPA: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to hug the weightlifter with the biggest heart ever and to present CNN Hero Ned Norton.
NORTON: Thanks. Thank you very much.
Our program promotes some of the key things and success in life. Whether you're disabled or not, you have to have the courage to attempt and embrace the difficult, endure the pain and hardship of setbacks with dignity, and determination. Never worry about what you can't do. Only worry about what you can do. And most importantly, absolutely never ever quit.
Thank you very much.
COOPER: A recent study labeled the "State of Connecticut" as the state with the largest economic divide between the rich and the poor. It's especially so in the capital city Hartford. More than half of Hartford's children live in poverty. The school struggled to provide safe after school programs, gang violence, drug use makes some streets dangerous places for young men and women.
To share our next story about a woman who's built an oasis in the middle of the city is a fellow board member of the Food Bank of New York City, he's a Grammy Award-winning drummer and co-founder of Roots, Questlove.
QUESTLOVE, GRAMMY-AWARD WINNING DRUMMER, ROOTS FOUNDER: How you doing?
Everybody needs a champion. Someone who says you matter to me. Every single day Pat Kelly sings this sweet song to more than 300 boys and girls at the Ebony Horsewomen Stables and Barn in Keney Park. These kids have seen too much. Too much violence, too much despair. And now they have a safe place to go.
After schools and on weekends where they can learn and they learn to ride and they care for the horses and study healing that happens in that barn.
Mentoring takes place for the girls where they do Dressage Team and Leadership Academy. And the boys and the young men cast society stereotypes and they discover their own self-worth as part of the Junior Mounted Patrol. They all ride and they're looked up to, and they're thinking and they're saying, I can, because Pat Kelly said you matter to me. You matter to this world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT KELLY, CNN HERO: There's an epidemic facing young men of color today in our society. They feel that they are targeted. That they are considered to be dangerous. This causes a depression. Once you kill the soul, it is hard to recover. These young men need experiences outside of what they already know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Miss Kelly.
When you're at the barn and you're working with horses, you don't get a judgment. You don't have to pretend. You just have to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Good morning, gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Mr. Vic (ph).
KELLY: Kids come here with a lot of stress and a lot of issues. They won't tell me, but they'll tell their horse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was walking around with a lot on my shoulders. I didn't care about life anymore. When I met Miss Kelly, everything changed.
KELLY: The Mounted Patrol Unit is a unit for just young men. The whole barn is up to them. Cleaning out the stalls, feeding the horses, feeding the other animals, shutting down the barn, and in the middle of all of that, they're taking their lessons.
Give a little bit more pressure with your legs. Not a kick, but little pressure.
They learn to respect authority.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I expect you, all of you, whether I'm here or not, to give them the same kind of respect that you give me.
KELLY: But more importantly than that, to understand themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I'm with the horses, I feel more confident. I can do anything, be anything, I will go anywhere.
KELLY: The history of the American cowboy is a legacy for our young men. Cowboys in the Wild West, one in three were black men. When they put their cowboy hats on, they are immediately transformed into America's greatest icon.
How you guys doing?
I do this because this is my calling. I'm a guide. I want them to know, they are not threats, they are bright, intelligent, wonderful human beings. With or without the hat. All we have to do is to get them to understand who they are and once that happens, they can and they will succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTLOVE: And here is to the best cowgirl on the planet. Please join in honoring CNN Hero Patricia Kelly.
KELLY: Those were my babies. This has been an amazing time. And I thank you for this honor. Thank you for the opportunity to give America and the world to see and give them a chance to see that our young African-American men are not to be feared, and they are not to be pitied, but to be seen as young men with hopes and aspirations serving their countries as American cowboys.
Thank you so much. I thank my God, my family and CNN for this tremendous gift. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN HEROES, Christina Hendricks honors a hero who works to save the lions in Africa.
Still to come, a performance by Trisha Yearwood.
COOPER: Thank you very much. Kathy Griffin, will you please stop texting me that my Spanx are
showing? I'm not wearing Spanx. For the record, I'm not wearing Spanx.
Welcome back. Tonight, while you're watching, if you want to help out one or more of our top 10 Heroes, your donations will be matched up dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $250,000, and you can do it now at CNNheroes.com.
A recent study by the World Wildlife Foundation, the London Zoological Society, and other organizations, concluded that since 1970, we've lost half of our wildlife populations. Think about that. Half of our wildlife populations, half of all birds, fish and mammals.
In Africa, the elephant is in trouble. So are hyenas, giraffes, hippos, and the big cats including lions. The trend at time seems unstoppable, but our next hero uses a unique approach to try to make a difference.
Here to tell her story is a supporter of the Rape Treatment Center of Los Angeles, star of the recently wrapped Emmy-winning series "Mad Men," Christina Hendricks.
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, CNN HERO PRESENTER: One night, a girl climbed up to the rooftop of a house in Egypt. She had heard stories of how the night was once filled with the sounds of roaring lions.
Leela Hazzah listened and listened for them. And when her father told her that they were long extinct in Egypt, in that silence, her life's work to save them began. She went to school, studied and traveled to Kenya where the lion population has rapidly declined. She spent a year listening to the Maasai warriors who live off the land and often killed the lions to protect their livelihood.
Leela realized that a possible path to conservation could be paved in the transformation of lion killers into lion protectors. In 2007, she started Lion Guardians, which employs the Maasai to save these majestic animals.
The benefits of the new relationship have so much potential because this remarkable woman listened to what was needed to keep the gorgeous sights and sounds of the African plains alive and loud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEELA HAZZAH, CNN HERO: It's important to save lions because they're the top of the food chain. And if you remove lions, then everything under them gets affected. From the wildlife to the grasses, to even the water.
I spent a year living in the Maasai community to understand why people are killing lions. I knew that they were killing lions in retaliation for livestock that were killed but there are reasons. There are cultural reasons. Killing a lion brings a huge amount of prestige to the warrior. That's when it clicked. If want to conserve wildlife, then we have to include the communities that are living with the wild life. I realized that Maasai warriors would be the best lion protectors. They have a huge amount of respect in their community, and they have an intense knowledge of their environment.
When we first hired lion guardians, they don't know how to read or write. They pick up the pen like it's spear. They wake up around 6:00 in the morning and they head out tracking for a lion. We were able to inform herders where those carnivores are so they can avoid those areas of potential conflict. Also, lions jump to people's livestock corrals, so lion guardians reinforce those corrals. One of the most important duties of a lion guardian is to stop lion hunters. They're able to talk down angry warriors from killing lions.
These lions may become individual. They name them, they even become part of their family and it's a lot more difficult to kill a lion that is known.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
HAZZAH: I met Kanunu (ph) in2006. He was so proud to be a lion killer. I remember thinking, could this guy actually change one day and become a lion guardian?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (speaking foreign language)
HAZZAH: Today we have more than 65 lion guardians across the East Africa, doing exactly what Kanunu (ph) had done. We never really even imagined that we could transform these killers to the point where they would risk their own lives to stop other people from killing lions.
My hope is that my children and my grandchildren will be able to hear lions roaring in the wild.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero Leela Hazzah.
HAZZAH: I have an important question to ask all of you. Can you imagine a world without lions? A world without these symbols of strength, courage and bravery? I cannot imagine that world. And I am not alone. I have looked into the eyes of notorious lion killers: and asked them, do you want your children and your children's children to see lions? And the resounding answer is yes. So, join our community of guardians, share our passion and help save the last remaining lions for all of our future generations. Thank you so, so much.
COOPER: And tonight we're bringing back CNN Hero's tradition, honoring young people who are making a difference. At CNN we call these inspiring kids young wonders. Like the others, our first young wonder tonight saw a problem, thought of a solution and didn't wait to grow up to actually act. To tell her amazing story is an actor who was the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. What did you do when you were nine years old? I didn't do much. She was nominated at the age of nine for "Beasts of the Southern Wild." She started the new film, "Annie." Quvenzhane Wallis.
QUVENZHANE WALLIS, ACTRESS: Hi, kids can do amazing things when they are just kids. Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was just eight. Aretha Franklin was singing for churches before she was ten. And Lily Born's pretty cool, too. She saw that her grandfather was having trouble drinking from a glass, his hands shook a lot because he had Parkinson's disease. So, Lily figured out a way to help him. It's just amazing what she created when she was only eight. That's right. Eight.
LILY BORN, CNN HERO: My grandfather has Parkinson's disease that causes him to shake. He spilled all the time. So, I decided to make the kangaroo cup. I came up with the idea when I was around eight or nine years old. I wanted to put legs on the cup because I figured that it wouldn't be as like - to spill. The original cup was made out of porcelain. We decided to make a plastic version, so it can be used by anybody. Like little kids, people with mobility issues. I have a design team and they really do help me so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colorwise?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blue?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lily has sold about 11,000 cups total. Many of her classmates and teachers don't even know what she's doing.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Let it be like the (INAUDIBLE).
BORN: I really do keep the kangaroo cup talk to a minimum.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I'm reading ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, the world is getting around school. Like, wait, Lily, she did what? She invented this cup? Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It's so cool.
BORN: Inventing this just makes me feel awesome that I'm helping people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Lily, how are you doing?
BORN (on camera): Good. BORN: My cup has changed my grandfather's life because that's the only cup he uses now. Like once the kangaroo cup came, the other cups that he used, they were just out of the picture.
One day I want to give money from the Kangaroo cup to Parkinson's research and hopefully we'll find the cure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's to you.
COOPER: Come back to CNN Heroes. For over a year now, a powerful story has been unfolding at the border between the United States and Mexico. As you probably know, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have made the long and often incredibly dangerous journey to the United States from Honduras, from El Salvador, and more than a third have come from Guatemala. Guatemala is a nation that's been torn apart by violence, has the fifth largest homicide rate in the world, and many people live in abject poverty. But in the middle of all of that despair, our next hero has built a safe haven for young people. To tell his inspiring story, please welcome a proud supporter of the East Harlem tutorial program, which offers free tutoring and reading, and writing, math, science, computers to young people, and he's star of the new film "Fugly," John Leguizamo.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO, ACTOR: Thank you, Anderson. How y'all doing? I'm really happy to be here tonight. I mean, to be part of this incredible event, even though it makes you feel like a loser.
LEGUIZAMO: I know. We all feel like we just haven't done enough in our lives, but I've got a hero and I'm very proud to introduce him tonight. Anderson Cooper just talked about the violence that's going on in Guatemala, and Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes has learned to fight it with love. Juan Pablo became a teacher in his Guatemalan town, and to me all good teachers are heroes in my eyes, but Juan Pablo wanted to do more. So he opened up his family's home and started tutoring children right in his garage. And the numbers grew and so did Pablo's goals and dreams. And he turned his family's home into a community center. And in his early 20s, Juan Pablo founded the non for profit group, Los Patojos, which in Spanish means "The Little Ones," and so the last eight years he's offered free meals, medical care, plus classes in art, breakdancing, photography and even juggling to more than 1,000 children in need. Thanks to this kind, loving man, the little ones can grow up to be the big ones. And maybe they'll lead Guatemala to a more peaceful and hopeful future.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY (speaking Spanish)
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL (speaking Spanish)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY (speaking Spanish)
JUAN PABLO ROMERO FUENTES, LOSPATOJOS.ORG: A lot of the kids in my country have been robbed of their innocence. In my childhood, I was exposed to violence pretty much every day. Eventually, my friends become drug dealers and the most dangerous people in my neighborhood. They didn't have the same opportunities I had to step away from violence and streets. I was a teacher in the same community that I grew up. My students were dealing with the same problems that I was dealing with 20 years ago. So I wanted to change that.
I'm the result of love between my parents. So I must give back love to the community. The best thing for me to do was open my house' doors and bring kids here. A school should be a home, not an institution. Education should be based on love, not on numbers.
(on camera): (SPEAKING SPANISH)
(voice over): We are a huge family.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
FUENTES: Children are powerful. They just don't know that yet. So, we created a safe place for them to realize that they are - truly can change a lot of bad thing and bad aspects in their lives and their community.
We give them a decent plate of food. For many of the kids, this is the only meal they will have during the day. We're giving them the best lesson in order to make a better future.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
FUENTES: In a violent country, the only weapon we can count, it's love. You don't abandon the problem. You stay here and you face the problem. You need resources, you need power, you need backup, and that's what we're giving.
(on camera) (SPEAKING SPANISH)
FUENTES: When I see a kid changed, I feel happy. I feel powerful. They are the ones in charge of writing the new history. I know that Guatemala will become sooner or later the most beautiful place on earth for kids to accomplish their dreams.
LEGUIZAMO: Please join me in honoring CNN hero Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes.
(APPLAUSE) FUENTES: Guatemala is a powerful country because of its children. When a young person is able to break the cycle of fear and negativity, beautiful things happen. We're creating the opportunities that are needed to create a more just, dignified and loving world. And we will succeed with love.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Rosie Perez. And still to come, Sheryl Crow performs with a special band of brothers. "CNN Heroes: an All- Star Tribute" is sponsored by Humana and also by Konica Minolta.
COOPER: Welcome back to CNN heroes. We're here in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. And throughout tonight's broadcast, I hope you go to cnnheroes.com to support our heroes and their important work. You can also connect on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, you can check it our behind the scenes pictures of tonight's event. In fact, I'm told Kathy Griffin just posted a picture a couple of minutes ago. To see what ...
COOPER: And it's Kathy Griffin stealing money out of my jacket. That is my jacket, isn't it? It is my jacket. Thank you, Kathy. Let's go back to honoring a remarkable hero, shall we? In the United States, approximately 35,000 kids are in treatment for cancer and thousands more are living and fighting other life threatening diseases. Dealing with the pain from needles and procedures can be overwhelming for these kids. But our next hero teaches a valuable technique that uses martial arts to empower them. Here to share his story is one of the board members of the urban arts partnerships which advances the artistic development of underserved public school students. She's an actress and activist, she's also a student of martial arts. She can kick my ass. And she's one of the co-hosts of "The View," Rosie Perez.
ROSIE PEREZ, TV HOST: Pain is a part of life. The kind that ravages the body, an illness, and wounds the mind and heartache. It will always be with us. And it is especially brutal on children. But because of the wisdom of Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, they have a way to power through it. Rabbi Goldberg has a black belt in taekwondo. After spending years offering counsel in hospitals and watching children cry during painful procedures, he found kids kicking cancer to put his martial arts skills to work and give a new purpose to kids fighting an illness. What started with a small class near Detroit, Michigan has reached thousands of children and their families and expanded across the country and the world. And when a child becomes terminal, Rabbi Goldberg has a black belt embroidered with their name and the inscription "master teaches." There are ceremonies, large and small for each child and everyone feels the power, peace and purpose from another life that's taught us something important. How to be brave while in pain. And the rabbi's first master teacher was his own smart, courageous young daughter.
RABBI ELIMELECH GOLDBERG, CNN HERO: Our daughter Sarah Basia (ph) was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the week before her first birthday. She was such an incredible little soul who taught me about the power that's inside of ourselves. After our daughter passed away, I was so privileged to extend that lesson to thousands of children across the globe.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: My name is Haley Walls, and I'm nine years old.
GOLDBERG: When children get a diagnosis like cancer or any major disease, they lose any sense of feeling that they're controlling their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: The shots, they really scared me a lot and they still scare me now.
GOLDBERG (on camera): It's OK.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Oh, god.
GOLDBERG: It's OK. It's OK. I don't like this.
(voice over): They're prodded and poked and touched, and they're often so afraid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at me.
GOLDBERG: The child looks at you for help. And then you end up having to hold them down.
(on camera): Are you ready?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (INAUDIBLE)
GOLDBERG: Okay. Begin!
(voice over): When children have the tools, they're able to really face down so much of the fear and the anger and the junk that accompanies pain.
GOLDBERG (on camera): Good. Every single type of martial arts uses the breath to take control.
Hold it and then release.
(voice over): Bringing that power in and pushing out all the bad stuff. We reassigned that sense of control to the child. Today, Hailey is going to take an MRI. We're going to help Hailey bring in that tremendous energy. Now, take your hands and put them like you're pushing your energy through Hailey. Feel all of this power that's coming through you. And that energy is going to allow you to feel so powerful today.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: When they bring in the sharp, can you tell me to close my eyes?
GOLDBERG (on camera): Sure. You just start your breathing. You're totally in control. Feel your power coming.
(voice over): When we are able to breathe through pain and picture the pain lowering --
GOLDBERG (on camera): And push it out. Amazing.
(voice over): The brain has the capacity to put us into a different place.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: The way I breathe in the light is I think of all the happy thoughts, and then I think of the bad thoughts and blow them away.
GOLDBERG: You did it! You were great.
(voice over): I am so humbled by these children. And you can see that light on their face.
(on camera): I'm so proud of you, sweetheart, you're the best.
(voice over): I feel like their souls are shining.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I do have the power to make the pain go away. And nothing's impossible. Nothing.
PEREZ: Ladies and gentlemen, breathe in the light and blow out the darkness for CNN hero Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg.
GOLDBERG: This is Hailey, the real martial artist, the real hero.
HAILEY: Power, peace, perfect.
GOLDBERG: Our goal is to lower the pain of all children like Hailey by empowering them to use their inner light to break through the darkness of disease, fear and anger, given the opportunity, these children can inspire the world. Please follow our kids, help our heroes circle grow and let them know that they're teaching you how to defeat the stress in your life. They will have less pain because you're giving them purpose. Help us, help them to teach the world. Together we can illuminate the whole planet. I thank god and thank you all for this amazing privilege.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Later tonight on "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE," Anderson Cooper will reveal the 2014 CNN Hero of the Year.
COOPER: Welcome back. Since 2001 more than 5 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. About half are now veterans and have resumed their lives and continue to serve this country in many different ways. But other post 9/11 veterans are still recovering in medical facilities around the country. Here to tell the story of how our next hero is bringing some of the healing power of music to these veterans is a person who pretty much torments me every New Year's Eve and sends me completely inappropriate texts throughout the rest of the year. She's a proud supporter of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America. My friend, Kathy Griffin.
KATHY GRIFFIN, TV PERSONALITY: Thank you, Jake Tapper. Hi, everybody. On a spring day, a classically trained Juilliard musician walked down the silent halls of Walter Reed Medical Center. He was there because a soldier had a dream, to play the drums again. Arthur Bloom didn't know how we was going to make this dream come true. Because while serving in Iraq, this soldier had lost his leg to an IED. But together, they worked until the rhythm and joy turned this soldier back into the musician he loved to be. In that basic bond, Arthur knew that if he could fill that hospital with music, then that would help them all heal. So in 2007, he started MusiCorps, has provided music training to hundreds of wounded warriors. These guys are so good. They formed a band and they have played at Madison Square Garden and the Kennedy Center. These soldiers are becoming whole again because Arthur has filled the silence with the notes and melodies that keep all of us alive and dreaming. Take a look.
ARTHUR BLOOM, MUSICORPS.NET: Music makes sense to me. It's how I'm wired. I just go from one musical experience to the next. That's been my life. I never decided to be a professional musician. It's just what I've always done.
When I first came to Walter Reed, I learned that injured troops were being saved due to incredible advances with battlefield medicine. But the injuries are extremely complex and in many cases catastrophic. Imagine you're this young, active, bright soldier. All of a sudden, your life is blown up in every sense of the word.
(on camera): You should play like an "A." And then every now and then go -- right.
(voice over): There's so much down time in a hospital. And that's what we fill up with music. What we didn't expect is that they get really, really good. So we formed a band. By bringing music to these wounded vets, our program exposes them to the healing power of music. I'm not a music therapist, I'm a musician. By injecting music into this space, we could inject life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was 25 years old when I was injured. What happens if you don't quite get killed and you don't quite survive. You're somewhere in the middle. I was a shell of a man. Who I was was gone.
BLOOM (on camera): Let's take it right before the melody comes in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being able to play again and getting that musical ability back in my life. Changed my outlook on what is possible.
BLOOM (voice over): They just kind of come alive.
(on camera): We're going to try to incorporate more metal. They start making jokes again, they start socializing, they wake up.
(voice over): These are your friends from high school, your neighbors, your children, your parents. However you feel about the war, they're the ones that go and fight it. And when they come back hurt, we all have an obligation to help them get back on their feet.
Music has no stigma. The folks who work with. When they do music, there's nothing injured about the way they do it. It's just good music.
Kg: Ladies and gentlemen, CNN Hero Arthur Bloom!
BLOOM: Thank you. Thank you so much for this honor. You know, working every day at Walter Reed, I'm reminded of who the true heroes are. On their behalf, on behalf of all of the great musicians working in MusiCorps and all the service members at Walter Reed and across the country, we hope to help, thank you.
COOPER: And now, ladies and gentlemen, CNN hero Arthur Bloom and special guest Sheryl Crow joining the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band. Will Cook, Josh Cawthorn, Nathan Kalwicki, Marta Stendria and Tim Donley to perform Levon Helm's "Wide River to Cross."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): There's a sorrow in the wind blowing down the road I've been. I can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun, but I cannot look back now. I've come too far to turn around because there's still a race ahead that I must run I'm only halfway home I've got to journey on, till I find, find the things that I have lost. I've come a long, long road. Still got some miles to go. I've got a wide, wide river to cross.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I have stumbled, I have strayed. You can trace the tracks back made all across the memories my heart recalls ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): But I'm still a refugee. Won't you say a prayer for me because sometimes even the strongest soldier falls. I'm only half way home. I've got to journey on until I find, find the things that I have lost. I've come a long, long, still got some miles to go. I've got a wide, wide river to cross.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I'm only halfway home, I've got to journey on. I've got a wide, wide river to cross. I've got a wide, wide river to cross.
[ applause ]
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Taye Diggs salutes a woman from Baltimore who's (INAUDIBLE) children to the process of grief. CNN Heroes. An all-star tribute is sponsored by GEICO, probably highlighting those people who are improving our world every day.
COOPER: Welcome back, our next hero does her work in the great city of Baltimore, Maryland. It has the fourth highest murder rate of the nation. Gangs, drugs, street violence torment too many neighborhoods. And its youngest residents are often left to deal with the overwhelming loss and the emptiness of their dads being gone or their best friends gunned down. To tell us about our next hero's life changing work is an actor who's one of the founders of the Broadway Foundation, which uses the arts to empower young girls in urban communities. It's the start of the new drama, "Murder in the First." Please welcome, Taye Diggs.
TAYE DIGGS, ACTOR: You're killing me, CNN. You got me sobbing all up (ph) for my chardonnay.
DIGGS: Fogging up my - I'm trying to look cool up in here. Let' hope I can keep it together. Grief has a lifesaving purpose. Annette March-Grier learned this at a young age. She grew up in a funeral home and would sit at the top of the stairs and watch her parents comfort mourners through the banister. What she saw, young mothers in tears, young men missing their friends, and children unable to process how the world had been shattered to pieces. Those sights and sounds made her want to do more than just follow in her family's footsteps. She opened Roberta's House to help low-income families cope with loss, she offers many programs for guardians and their children, like a five-year boy named Kyron (ph), you'll meet him in a moment. Troubled teens, adult survivors of homicide, mothers who've lost the child and workshops in public schools.
Since 2008, more than 2,300 people, half of them children have learned, that no one has to mourn alone, that grief when we embrace it, share it, and talk about it can transform us, show us how to live and even help a city heal.
ANNETTE MARCH-GRIER, ROBERTA'S HOUSE: I love my city. I have lived here all of my life. But I believe that the violence in this city and grief are directly connected. I saw how it was impacting children. And we weren't talking about how they cope with their losses.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Chicken nuggets, French fries, two honey mustard and a milkshake. My daddy ordered the same thing as me.
My dad is gone. He got killed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son's father, he was murdered. Their bond, it was just a bond that a lot of kids don't have with their father. That was his best friend, his everything.
MARCH-GRIER: A child's grief can be very different from adult's. They can easily lose their identity and their security in their grief. That shift can be very dangerous if there's no support systems there.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Dear dad. Since you have died ...
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: ... I have been sad and lonely ...
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: frustrated.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I miss you and I love you.
MARCH-GRIER: There you go. Write your feelings. How are you feeling today?
(voice over): We provide a safe place for children to recover after the death of someone close.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: You got here just in time.
MARCH-GRIER: Many families come here because of a homicide. They are contending with so much hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. How are doing? And what's your Daddy's name?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Showdy (ph).
MARCH-GRIER: Your emotions
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I was lonely sometimes and l was sad sometimes.
MARCH-GRIER: Our volunteers help the children explore their feelings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you choose red?
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I was angry when my dad passed away.
MARCH-GRIER: And talk about healthy ways of coping.
(on camera): Get that anger out!
(voice over): We teach our children that it's OK to cry.
(on camera): His brother died, so he's feeling really sad.
(voice over): We have to help take their pain and move it towards their passion.
There's a lot of richness here in Baltimore. Yes, we have a lot of ills, but Baltimore has a lot of rich history and culture in it. I feel responsible for my community.
(on camera): Continue to dream. If you don't have a dream right now, find one.
(voice over): Children like Kyron, they're able to move beyond their loss and gain a sense of hope.
Grief is not made to destroy us. It's made to transform us into new beings, stronger beings. We can help our young people be the beautiful people that they have been created to be.
DIGGS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present CNN hero Annette March-Grier.
MARCH-GRIER: Thank you, CNN. Unresolved tragedy and grief break too many souls. They lead to anger and violence within our cities. And it's time to heal that pain with remembrance and love, because of caring, nonjudgmental hearts and your support, Roberta's House can help even more children and their families find hope. Pick up those fragile pieces, and find love once again. God bless you all. Thank you very much.
COOPER: Across the United States and around the world, the number of books in a home has a direct correlation to how well a child does in school. For too many kids, the number of books in their home is zero. Our next young wondered steadfast in her effort to try to fill those empty shelves. Here to share her stories, a proud supporter of the Jet Foundation, which supports mental health, awareness, suicide prevention, it's one of the stars of "Dear White People" and "The Walking Dead," Tyler James Williams.
[ applause ]
TYLER JAMES-WILLIAMS: Just try and picture your life without your favorite story. That bedtime story that helped you imagine other worlds with spaceships and faraway planets, the one you read that made you dream of becoming a scientist or a singer. When Maria Keller learned how many kids were deprived of this life-shaping experience, she went to work to get books into the hands of kids who needed them the most. Her story, like all good ones show us that if you can imagine what is possible, then there are no limits to what you can do.
MARIA KELLER: I've always loved to read. It kind of takes you to a different place.
My mom told me when I was eight that some kids don't have books and that shocked me because everybody should have the option to read. So I started, by just doing a small book drive. And then told my parents that I want to collect and distribute 1 million books to kids in need by the time I turn 18.
So, welcome to the Read Indeed Warehouse. I was 13 when I reached my goal.
We have given books to about 16 countries and 40 states.
All the pink squares - my new goal is to distribute books to every state in the U.S. and every country in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Am a pre-schoolteacher with English language learners.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking for second through fifth grader.
KELLER: Me and the teachers, it's amazing. Because I hear all about the kids they serve.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sweetie.
KELLER (on camera): Thank you for coming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep up the good work.
(voice over): It's so much fun to see how Read Indeed is impacting the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, fifth grade! UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Good afternoon!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have about 1,280 students. Large homeless and highly mobile population. They are in great need.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Maria Keller came to my school, I was so excited and she just gave us books for free and it was amazing.
KELLER: Literacy is so important in education. I want kids to have a better life. I know that reading can do that.
COOPER: Here with us tonight, representing one of CNN Heroes' long time sponsors, please welcome, Tom Doll, the president and chief operating officer of Subaru of America.
TOM DOLL, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, SUBARU OF AMERICA: When Subaru began our show love event seven years ago, we also began a partnership with CNN Heroes. The two campaigns seemed have a lot in common. Everyday people doing a remarkable amount of good for our world. Like CNN, Subaru was trying to do something brand new and unique. We wanted to make our initiative all about giving back and making a positive impression on the lives of others. And what it impact - By the end of this year, the total donated by Subaru through the Share the Love event will reach $50 million.
DOLL: In the same spirit, we are happy to be back as a sponsor of CNN Heroes again this year. Subaru will match donations made to the top ten CNN Heroes up to a total amount of $250,000.
DOLL: We at Subaru want you to share with us the good feelings that are received when you give back to make the world and our local communities a better place. Donate right now, it's cnnheroes.com. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Morgan Spurlock honors a sports who's transforming lives and communities around the world: still to come, Nick Jonas, Duba and Trisha Yearwood. CNN heroes: an all-star tribute is proudly sponsored by Subaru. Love, it's what makes a Subaru a Subaru.
COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Heroes. In the United States, we call a certain sport where people run up and down a field, kicking a round ball to score a goal, we call it soccer. Most of the world, and that's billions and billions of people, call this sport football. So, in honor of our next hero, I'm going to call it football as well. Because he's done something remarkable to make a difference in the impoverished neighborhoods that stand in the shadows of those roaring football stadiums. To tell his inspiring story, is a strong supporter of the Utopia Foundation which supports 2012's CNN Hero of the year Pushba Basinet and the host of Morgan Spurlock "Inside Man," please welcome Morgan Spurlock.
MORGAN SPURLOCK: The potential for change surrounds us. You just have to be open and willing to play when that great idea hits. John Burns founded in a crowded football stadium in Lisbon, Portugal. He looked out at the rowdy fans with their faces painted shouting all kinds of obscenities. And he thought, yes, these are the people with a passion big enough to do some good in this world.
SPURLOCK: In 2006, John started Lionsraw, his organization harnesses that loyalty of football fans attending major tournaments to rebuild orphanages in South Africa, renovate a prison in Poland and construct an academic center in Brazil. More than 500 fans have traveled to these underserved places. They've formed lasting bonds with each other and the kids. This change happened because Jon was not only open to this crazy idea, but he was willing to play heart and soul to give these kids a chance to thrive.
JON BURNS, LIONSRAW.ORG: All over the world, football is the game. It's so simple, anybody can play it anywhere. A kid in the middle of nowhere, a competitive sport all over the world.
The atmosphere at World Cup is like nothing else. It's electric.
CROWD: Ole, ole, ole.
BURNS: The drama, the excitement.
BURNS: Captures people. In 2004, I was sitting in the full stadium, I suddenly saw all the fans around me, it was like (INAUDIBLE). And I started asking myself, what could I do if we could mobilize some of these people to do some good.
This building project is literally changing lives. In Brazil, we're building a new education center with local partners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be three classrooms to do this for us, for the children. This is a World Cup spirit.
BURNS: We've never (INAUDIBLE). We had about 300 volunteers here from about 12 countries. Within a couple of days part of a team full of coordinate working really hard. Doing something together for someone else is always a great bond. And the World Cup is just a launch pad.
Our first key volunteer project was in 2010 in South Africa. Epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. We met a great couple called (INAUDIBLE) Precious. The kids that had been orphaned. And a whole stack of kids living in this tiny, two-bed house. So, about 50 guys building a new four-bed home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I could move today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't expect that's the football fans can do this.
Our life is much better now. The children, they have their own rooms.
BURNS: There're 18 kids there. We help feed them, clothe them. We are long term committed today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are like our family.
BURNS: Of course, it's not just about the child that we help. If people go on a trip, it transforms them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before (INAUDIBLE), I've never done anything quite like this. When it happened four years ago, and we built an orphanage, this time, my sons come with me. He sort of saw the difference that (INAUDIBLE), and he wanted to try to make a difference to people, as well.
BURNS: I know you are not good every morning. You're tired out. Look how far we've come in a week. It's fantastic.
BURNS: I love football for what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Camaraderie.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Teamwork.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Friends.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: My life.
BURNS: But I particularly love football for the power it has, the power to create change.
COOPER: It's my honor to present CNN Hero Jon Burns.
BURNS: It's genuinely incredibly humbling to be recognized as a CNN hero, particularly in such company tonight. Thank you. But the real heroes of Lionsraw are the children in need all over the world that we get to serve. And the people who give their time and their money and their talents to help us create even more chances for change. We need a global army of heroes. So please come and join us. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, honors an extraordinary doctor helping children and families who live with autism. And Nick Jonas introduces us to a young wonder. "CNN Heroes: an all-star tribute" is proudly sponsored by Konica Minolta, and also by Humana.
COOPER: It's time to honor our final young wonder. This extraordinary young man found his calling in life at an age when most of us haven't even learned how to tie our own shoes. Here to tell us about his inspiring story is a multiplatinum Grammy nominated recording artist with a new album out now, as well as one of the founders of Change for the Children foundation, which supports and raises awareness for others living with type one diabetes. He's also the star of the new drama series "Kingdom," please welcome Nick Jonas.
NICK JONAS: It was a typical Sunday morning in Miami, Florida, and Joshua Williams was on his way to church. He was almost 5 and very excited because his grandmother had just given him a $20 bill. As they drove, Josh saw a homeless man and he wanted to give the man the money so he could eat. He did, and when Joshua learned that there were almost 50 million people who struggled to eat in this country, he found his calling and hasn't slowed down for a second.
JOSHUA WILLIAMS: I'm signing up people. Everybody here signed in?
When I was 4 1/2 years old, I found my purpose in life.
We're going to help around 100 families, we're going to give them food.
I looked for a foundation that would accept somebody my age. I didn't find any, so I came up with the idea for Joshua 's Foundation.
You guys ready?
Joshua's Foundation has no age limit, so as long as you're able to pick something up, just come out and help us make a difference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels really good to be here. (inaudible).
WILLIAMS: Since I started, I have given out over 650,000 pounds of food to over 30,000 individuals.
We're going to do one tuna.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One tuna?
WILLIAMS: One tuna. We need enough for everybody.
Right now, we have over 1,200 youth volunteers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm grateful to know there's still young people that care for other people.
WILLIAMS: Very important to develop connections and relationships with these people that we're helping.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God bless you. And thank you.
WILLIAMS: If you want to make a difference, I have three bits of advice for you. One, use your passion and purpose in life to help make a change in the community. Two, get your friends to help.
And three, never give up.
COOPER: How cool is he? Tonight, while you're watching, if you want to help out one or more of our top ten heroes, as I said before, please go to CNNheroes.com and you can donate now. You can also connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can check out some of our behind the scenes pictures. Let's take another look at a behind the scenes picture.
And there's -- oh -- Kathy Griffin, please -- really, Kathy. Please, leave those nice MusiCorps guys alone. They've been through enough, haven't they? Goodness.
COOPER: In the United States, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability. This year, the Centers for Disease Control said that 1 in 68 kids are somewhere on the autism spectrum scale. For millions of families, exposure to everyday life can be extraordinary difficult. Our next hero had made it her mission to open up new worlds for these kids and their families. Here to tell us her story is the Emmy award winning actor who proudly supports Opening Act, which brings the arts to underserved kids in New York City's public schools, one of the stars of "Orange is the New Black," Uzo Aduba.
UZO ADUBA, ACTRESS: Good evening. At some point in our lives, we have all been on a plane, in a grocery store, at a museum or some other public place and witnessed a child screaming, crying and in a complete meltdown. And while we're watching, what do we think? Most of the time it's, if that were my child, I'd do a better job. Oh, I'd never bring my child with a disability to a baseball game. Our rush to judge is poisonous stuff.
Bless Dr. Wendy Ross for facing it head on. As a developmental pediatrician, she was determined to do more than diagnose children with this disease. She started autism inclusion resources and provided free training and support to help hundreds of families learn to navigate the world. And after tonight, her work's going to do a little more, too. It's going to make us pause, make us remember. There but for the grace of God, go I. So we can leave our judgment on the floor and listen to these amazing parents and see these wonderful, wonderful children out and about in our world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just wait.
As a parent of an autistic child, you are on edge all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Long ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Evan was young, getting on the plane, he instantly had a meltdown. I couldn't handle the glaring eyes. Since then, we haven't been on a plane.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stay in sometimes because it's easier. I'm afraid.
DR. WENDY ROSS: I don't think that people realize how hard life can be for families with kids with autism. Lights, sounds, noise and chaos. People rushing and jostling. Kids with autism can be much more likely to have sensory overload.
Autism is a social disability. So it needs to be addressed in the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, how are you? Are you ready to go?
ROSS: I worked with the Phillies to train all 3,000 people that work at the ballpark. It's really important for families affected by autism to have everyday experiences. Because you can't turn down the world, you have to be able to increase your coping strategies.
You like the game so far? Good. Awesome.
We want to support families and get them used to a real park experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
ROSS: The more exposure families have to the community, the more likely their kids are to be independent one day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on autism airlines.
ROSS: With the airport program, we do educational sessions for employees, and then we host pretend flights. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say good-bye, luggage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good-bye, luggage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And welcome to the United flight 1307.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you excited?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to a scenario where you're not going to be judged. Where's our seats?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 36.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That just alleviates all the stress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a pretend takeoff and a snack.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are helping kids become functional fliers. It's really about how we experience life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Las Vegas first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vegas!
I'm proud of you.
Oh, I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The goal is that they're going to be able to come back on their own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we need to look for gate 22.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You take care, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, buddy. We're here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're clear for departure. Enjoy your flight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that?
If you start taking steps outside of your door, your world gets bigger and bigger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Orange County. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about opportunity.
We really see it as a steppingstone to a brighter future.
ROSS: I help kids with autism to fly.
[ applause ]
ADUBA: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present CNN hero Dr. Wendy Ross.
ROSS: Thank you. I believe there's not a mind or a minute to waste. It's time to have a conversation that goes beyond awareness and a cure for autism. It's time to take action that leads to life experiences and independence. Flying is about more than getting from one place to another, it's about opportunity. Let's create opportunity together. Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Trisha Yearwood salutes all our year's top ten heroes. Then, one of these extraordinary men and women will be named the 2014 CNN hero of the year.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. We're here with CNN Heroes in the American Museum of Natural History. Again tonight, while you're watching, if you'd like to help out one or more of our top ten heroes, your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $250,000. Go to CNNheroes.com and give whatever you can.
Our final performer is here tonight with a song that is about beating the odds, a song about winning and fighting no matter what. Seems like a fitting tribute to our heroes tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Grammy Award winner and a proud supporter of Habitat for Humanity, singing "Prize Fighter," Trisha Yearwood.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next, Anderson Cooper reveals the 2014 CNN hero of the year.
COOPER: Welcome back. Since we announced the top 10 heroes, we gave you the opportunity to go to CNNheroes.com and vote for the hero who inspires you the most. All of our heroes received a huge amount of support from all around the world. CNN has awarded each of our incredible honorees $25,000 to carry on their inspiring work, and in addition, the Anneberg Foundation, which is a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide, is again graciously providing all of our top ten heroes with free training and guidance to help them successfully grow their organizations as part of its alchemy program. The hero with the most votes will receive an additional $100,000 to continue their life- changing work. And that's what we are going to announce right now. It brings us to our final honor, the hero of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2014 CNN hero of the year is Pen Farthing.
PEN FARTHING, CNN 2014 HERO OF THE YEAR: Wow. This is -- I'm absolutely lost for words. This is absolutely amazing. I really would like to thank everybody who's voted for the charity and what we do in Afghanistan and believing us. And I'd also like to thank all the other heroes who are in this room for doing what they do to make this world an absolutely better place. So, thank you, guys, for doing what you do. Thank you.
COOPER: I want to invite all our honorees back on stage. All of our heroes remind us that no matter how tough and troubled the world may seem, there's always something we can do to make it a better place. So all our honorees, please come back on stage. Please continue to support their causes by donating at cnnheroes.com, and I hope some of our stories have inspired you to get involved and do your part, because you too can be somebody's hero. Thank you and good night.