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Sanjay Gupta Introduces 2017 Champions for Change. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 17, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:00] SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- were given that opportunity, and asked to share the stories of the people and the causes that are close to our hearts. Tonight, you're going to meet them. This is Champions for Change.


GUPTA: Good evening. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Over the next hour, we'd like to introduce you to some remarkable people. They saw a need, they stepped up, and are truly making a difference. Eleven CNN and HLN anchors fanned out across the United States to meet them, and to spend some time with those whose lives they've changed.

I'm also going to take you to a place that has special meaning to me, to meet someone I consider a true champion for change. Let's start though with my colleague and friend, Anderson Cooper. You've probably never heard of Spike's K9 Fund. It's a very small organization with a very big goal, to protect the lives of police dogs nationwide, buying them custom-made bullet-proof vests.

Anderson's going to join me in just a moment, but first, he'd like you to meet his champion for change, a man named Jimmy Hatch.



JIMMY HATCH, FOUNDER, SPIKE'S K9 FUND: She's an athlete, man.

COOPER: I first met Jimmy two years ago when I interviewed him for a story. He served in the Navy for almost 26 years, most of it as part of a special missions unit, with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Jimmy doesn't like to make a big deal of it, but he's seen a lot of combat in his life, and he's done some remarkable things to help protect us.

On his last mission in Afghanistan in 2009, Jimmy was critically wounded, shot in the leg by a Taliban fighter, while searching for army private Bowe Bergdahl. Jimmy's life was saved partly because of a military dog in his unit named Remco (ph), who was the first to spot the Taliban fighter, and the first to come under fire.

HATCH: I watched Remco, I watched his body language, and as it changed, I knew we were getting close to something. And then, before I realized what was there, he took a couple rounds to the head, with an AK-47 at about six inches.

COOPER: Remco was killed, Jimmy nearly lost his leg. He was so badly wounded he had to retire from the Navy. But that didn't mean that Jimmy Hatch retired from serving. He found a new mission, by founding Spike's K9 Fund, a charity named for the first dog he handled in the military, Spike, who was killed on a mission in Iraq in 2006.

HATCH: For me, as a person who handled the dog, it was, it was my duty I felt to make sure that he was protected. And when the dog gets hurt, or you know, killed, we failed.

COOPER: Jimmy is now dedicating his life to helping train and protect police and military dogs. Jimmy helps police department canine units around the country, often posing as a bad guy, a decoy to help train the dogs to get them used to wearing these vests.

In some situations, police dogs are sent in when it's too risky for a police officer. The dogs find the suspect and grab onto him, giving police officers valuable time to apprehend them. Volunteering as a decoy is not glamorous work. Jimmy spends a lot of his time getting bitten by dogs over and over again.

This dog is wearing a custom-made bullet-proof vest that Spike's K9 Fund got for him. It's lightweight so it doesn't slow the dog down, but it will protect him. It can save his life as well as the life of his human handler.

These vests aren't cheap. They cost about $2,500 apiece. All this training helps the dogs and their police handlers get better. Though the dogs look scary, they can actually save a suspect's life, stopping him before he gets shot or tasered. The better trained the dogs are, the safer everyone is.

HATCH: Training is how,just like when I was in the military, it was the same thing, you trained, train, train, train, train, and your odds of success go up.

COOPER: Spike's K9 Fund is a small charity. Jimmy runs it along with his director of operations, Emily Soccino.

EMILY SOCCINO, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, SPIKE'S K9 FUND: Currently we've helped dogs in 26 different states, and I would like the whole map to be lit up with dogs that we've helped.

COOPER: Their office is Jimmy's kitchen table, and they keep overhead low. Jimmy says more than 80 percent of the money donated goes to dogs' vests and medical expenses, which sometimes aren't covered by local police departments.

He's gotten vests for at least 288 police dogs so far. By the end of the year, he'd like to be able to say he's outfitted at least 500 police dogs. Last month, I met up with Jimmy when he was working with the Norfolk Police Canine Unit.

HATCH: Anderson, come on in here. Listen tot his dog, man. See how he keeps biting to get deeper? COOPER: One of their police dogs, Krijger, was shot to death in 2016, and through Spike's K9 Fund, I was able to get bullet-proof vests for a number of police dogs in the area. Officer Ryan McNiff was Krijger's partner.

RYAN MCNIFF, OFFICER, NORFOLK POLICE DEPARTMENT: So this guy right here was named in honor of Anderson Cooper. That's AC.

COOPER: Thanks to Spike's K9 Fund, Officer McNiff's new canine partner has the vest that Krijger does not.

MCNIFF: What's cool is that he's wearing the vest that you provided for the dogs, so that's a bullet-proof vest, and he wears it to work every day.

COOPER: Jimmy somehow convinced me to suit up, so I could experience the power and discipline of these dogs.

HATCH: I got him.

COOPER: You got him? OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, let's get up.

HATCH: Feel how intimate that is?


HATCH: He's talking to you.


GUPTA: And Anderson joins me now. Intimate, that's what he said.

COOPER: Yes, I know. Yes. It's just so surreal to, you know -- this dog was just nice one moment, and the dog is looking right at you. It's really intense.

GUPTA: The dog named after you.

COOPER: Yes, AC, yes.

GUPTA: AC. You -- you -- in all the years I've known you, you take reporter involvement in these stories to a whole different level, including in this particular piece, which people will get to see, Jimmy was very persuasive in terms of getting you to do something you'd never done before.

COOPER: Yes, that's right. Jimmy skydives pretty much every weekend, so he -- for a while he's been talking about getting me out. I've never done it before. I hate -- I'm afraid of heights, so but you know, he has a way of convincing people.

So yes, I ended up doing a tandem jump with -- with somebody else, and Jimmy was actually videotaping the whole thing, and it's -- it's -- I mean it's terrifying, it's really -- for someone who doesn't like heights.

I was fine until the -- the door of the back of the plane opened, and you're 13,000 feet up, and you have no control over -- you're like in a giant Baby Bjorn, and somebody's like waddling you to the edge, and then they turn around, and then they -- they decide when they're going to jump, they don't tell you, and they do a somersault, so you're completely --

GUPTA: Really?

COOPER: -- discombobulated. Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: We get to see you in a Baby Bjorn, that's -- that's worth the price of --

COOPER: I'm not sure that's the technical term.

GUPTA: You -- you -- you've traveled all over the world, you've -- you've seen a lot of charities at work. This is the one that you chose.


GUPTA: You obviously had a connection with Jimmy, but why this one in particular?

COOPER: You know, I mean I think -- there's a lot of different charities I've done stuff with over the years, but it's, you know, large ones and -- and small ones, and it just, you know -- there was something about Jimmy that it's -- he's, you know, he's an American hero.

He had some really difficult times when he got back trying to kind of figure out his life, and that's how I -- the auspices under which I initially met him and interviewed him. And I just think that police dogs are -- look, I have a lot of respect for police officers, police dogs are sort of the unsung heroes --


COOPER: -- of police departments. In the budgets they often, you know -- they don't get -- some dogs don't have bullet-proof vests, and I started -- I was doing a speech down in Norfolk, Virginia, and Jimmy called me about a week before, and said that a police dog had been shot to death there, named Krijger. And so that's how I started getting involved.

GUPTA: And that unequivocal loyalty that they show.

COOPER: It's incredible, yes.

GUPTA: It's incredible.

COOPER: And you know, I mean the -- for the -- the human partners, for the police officers who work with canines, I mean they are -- it's their partner. And when -- when a canine is killed in the line of duty, it's -- it's like losing a partner.

GUPTA: Amazing piece as always, Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks. Thank you so much. You can watch the full segment about Spike's K9 Fund at along with all the other stories in the series, including --


FREDERICKA WHITFIELD: How are we feeling?

CROWD: Good!



FREDERICKA WHITFIELD: Who runs the world?

CROWD: Girls!


GUPTA: Fredericka Whitfield sure is passionate about girls' sports. She heads to Washington D.C. to see how one group uses athletics to help young girls boost their confidence, and to empower them for the future. But next, HLN's Robin Meade explores childhood hunger, with a group that ensures they get and receive the nourishment they need.


GUPTA: Welcome back. Here in the United States, 13 million households with children often go without adequate food. It's a number that boggles my mind, and consider this, one in five schoolchildren depend on a free or reduced price lunch every school day.

But after classes wrap up on Friday, many of them will go without a decent meal until Monday. HLN's Morning Express host Robin Meade wants to introduce you to a charity that's doing what it can to fill in that food gap on the weekends.


ROBIN MEADE, NEWS ANCHOR, HLN: I think it's important to realize that not everybody who is hungry is necessarily homeless. Sometimes families just really need help to get by.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It happened when Anthony (ph) was very little, my husband and I were having a hard time. He didn't have a job, we couldn't even afford to buy meals for Anthony. Those were really hard times for us.

MEADE: So what is everybody thinking, oh my gosh, when am bigger, I want to be? I heard you're going to be a reporter, or actress. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I like movies, and I like being on TV. They live in big houses, and look so amazing. I like, like wearing the latest like, clothes, but I can't wear the latest clothes.

MEADE: How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I still don't know what I want to be.

MEADE: Yes, that's OK. OK, how about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be a manager of building homes and make them perfect --

MEADE: Aw, that's beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for the people, so people can live.

MEADE: Why that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they won't have to struggle and live in a really tiny apartment.

MEADE: So haven't you always wondered what might become of a person's life if only they had a little bit of help? What might they become as a young person here, if only they're not distracted by hunger for example? And Blessings in a Backpack I think could be that if only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's 40, we must have one extra.

MEADE: How did it first get started?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first person was a schoolteacher. She was really concerned, she could not believe the children were coming back to school this tired, this hungry. And she realized that the last meal they were having was Friday at lunch, until they came back to school on Monday for breakfast. The $100 feeds a child for the entire school year. That's 38 weekends, It really just gets the kids through the weekend, and gets them back to school Monday ready to learn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To some people it might not be that much, but for people that have needs, for me, it's a lot, because with that I can make a big special meal for the kids, and the kids are very happy.

MEADE: This cause meant a lot to me, because I know that my dad grew up in dire poverty, the 14th kid of 14, in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Now he says because they farmed, they always had food to eat. When he talks about how he would pack lunch for school, it was this, he would take stale cornbread, put it in a mason jar, fill it up with milk, tie a rope around it, put it in the stream, and that's how he kept it cold at school.

So knowing what my dad went through, even though he says he always had something to eat, it makes me feel empathy for what these kids may be going through, and how Blessings in a Backpack could help them. I visited Esther Jackson Elementary School in Roswell, Georgia. Despite a brand new school building in a suburb most people would consider relatively affluent, 73 percent of the kids here qualify for free or reduced school meals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we noticed (inaudible) performing in class, they were falling asleep, their attendance was poor. So that was the main red flag. Since we started a program with most of the kids, their attendance improved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it all (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids, they're focused, they look forward to, you know, getting into classrooms, and working hard. They feel that this could happen to any of us, and that there's nothing to be ashamed of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We get together every Wednesday, and we pack all the bags, and then take them on to the schools. The hardest part is knowing that there are other children in the school, and we -- we don't have the funding to include them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's just absurd that in the United States of America, people are experiencing poverty to the level that a child will look forward to going to school because that's where they're going to get something to eat.

MEADE: Is there a misconception about who's hungry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think so. I was surprised that it was so close to home, you know, I didn't think it was in kind of those suburbs and I thought it was somewhere else.

MEADE: In suburbia America, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I just want to thank the families, because they are a big help. There are times when parents are left without a job, that's when they help us, so our kids won't be left without food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can she meet them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a wonderful son you have, you must be proud.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mom's a hero because she supports me. One thing that my did always taught me is to never give up.

MEADE: It's amazing to think that just a little bit of food can fuel such a bright future.


GUPTA: Helping hungry kids, one backpack at a time. Still ahead, John Berman introduces you to his champion for change, a group that John was able to help by knowing the right question to an answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the celebrity jeopardy check for $50,000 that you won for Friends of Karen.



GUPTA: Welcome back to Champions for Change. Every child deserves an equal shot at success. That's what makes CNN Newsroom anchor Poppy Harlow so passionate about her local Boys' and Girls' Club, just a short walk from her home in Brooklyn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the carrot (inaudible) here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This is the carrot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the carrot right here.

GUPTA: To thousands of children, it's a second home, a place where a kid can be a kid, and also get on track for college, with help from a great staff and mentors, including Poppy. Her co-anchor, John Berman, also has a personal connection to his cause. It's a group that gives one-on-one support to families when the unthinkable happens.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No one is prepared to have a critically ill child. I mean I think people avoid thinking about it.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean that's the number one thing families always say we never thought this was going to happen to us. And nobody does, no one's prepared for it, you're not prepared financially for it, you're not prepared emotionally for it. And that's where Friends of Karen can come in.

SARAH COAKLEY, SOCIAL WORKER, FRIENDS OF KAREN: It's always hard as she's getting treatment, right.

GUPTA: Sarah Coakley helps families face the unfaceable. She is one of a dozen social workers that Friends of Karen, an organization which supports the families of critically children.

BERMAN: How many families are you working with right now?

COAKLEY: I have a case load of about 40, yes.

BERMAN: Four zero?

COAKLEY: Four zero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the process. Her hair started -- she started losing her hair, this is her twin sister, Zoe (ph). BERMAN: Take the case of 14-year-old Zoriah Giddy (ph) and her family. Their world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with sarcoma in her leg. What's it like to hear that your child has cancer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- I'm sorry, getting emotional. It's the worst thing possible to hear. It's really heartbreaking, it really is.

COAKLEY: Hello, how are you? It's always a fine balance talking about the finances and the emotional piece. But you want a parent to know that we are going to pay their bills, so that they can sit by their child's bed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They helped me along the way so that I was able to maintain my sanity, and not have to worry about one aspect of my life while I'm worrying about the health of my child.

JUDITH FACTOR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRIENDS OF KAREN: So come on, I'll show you something in my office, this is what I spend some of my day doing. Part of what Friends of Karen does is we pay family bills, so this is for cell phone, hospital expenses, medicines, these are the things that keep a family afloat when their child is sick.

BERMAN: Do you ever get to the bottom of the pile?

FACTOR: There's always a new pile.

BERMAN: This really is a house, isn't it?

FACTOR: It is a house.

BERMAN: Judith Factor is executive director of Friends of Karen.

FACTOR: We can't prevent the pain, but we can certainly lessen that pain for a family. There's not a person at Friends of Karen that doesn't feel the mission in their heart, and work their hardest because they really care about the kids and their families.

BERMAN: What are the darkest moments?

FACTOR: Well we all get an e-mail when a child dies. While most, maybe 80 percent of children are cured, it's always -- one is too many.

BERMAN: Friends of Karen is named after the first child helped nearly 40 years ago. It's based out of a 150-year-old house, a genuine home for the organization.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need 15 of these, please.

BERMAN: Home to the volunteers, a home to the 15,000 children they have helped, a home for so many memories.

FACTOR: I remember this family, we love you Eric James Baron, we miss you buddy. Look at this, this is the Celebrity Jeopardy check for $50,000 that you won for Friends of Karen, and --

BERMAN: So yes, I once played Jeopardy on behalf of Friends of Karen. So beforehand, I wrote Judy a note thinking she would say oh, don't worry, just do the best you can, it will be OK. But no, essentially she wrote me back and said quit whining.

Think of all the remarkable Friends of Karen children who will benefit from the donation that we'll receive from Jeopardy. Think of all the horrible treatment they go through every day, and the strength that they have to endure it. Being on Jeopardy will be a piece of cake compared to that.

FACTOR: I can't tell you how grateful we are to you for -- for being so smart, and for playing.

BERMAN: I was thrilled, I was thrilled that it worked out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the winner of $42,900 --

BERMAN: How did I do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like a backpack.


BERMAN: Friends of Karen isn't just money and medicine. Their sibling services, As simple as an project, can make brothers, sisters, twins, feel included, safe remembered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still cry, I really hated when she got sick.

BERMAN: Most of us even hate to think about these situations. At Friends of Karen they joke that they ruin all kinds of dinner parties by bringing up what they do. And I have to confess that my mind often drifts towards the pain and the tragedy. But they don't, you know, not the social workers, not the families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kissing her, always kissing her forehead, yes.

BERMAN: Look at these pictures here.


COAKLEY: I often saw Zoriah (ph) laying down in a hospital bed or in a wheelchair, and a couple weeks ago I went to visit them, and it was the first time I saw her standing and walking, and the smile on her face was huge.

BERMAN: The smiles must make all the difference.

COAKLEY: It does. That's what you get through, knowing what it can look like at the end, and what you're hopeful for for each family.


GUPTA: And we're happy to report that Zoriah (ph) continues on her road to recovery. For CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon, inspiration comes from helping a Florida charity raise money to support kids with cancer, and also live every moment to the fullest.

While Erin Burnett visits a 94-year-old woman named Connie (ph) to see how delivery of a hot meal includes an extra helping of conversation and compassion. You can find both of their stories, along with extra videos, photo galleries, and ways that you can get involved on our website. Next, Kate Bolduan (sic) treks to the hills of Appalachia to see how one group is making a difference down on the farm.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You think farming is easy, I dare you to try this.



SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're watching Brooke Baldwin's champion for change. His name is Tim Medvetz, and through the Heroes Project, he challenges wounded vets to literally climb their way back to confidence, scaling some of the highest peaks in the world. And yes, Brooke took the challenge as well.


BROOKE BALDWIN: I'm a little nervous. Oh.


GUPTA: You can watch all of it at When you hear the words farm aid, a concert is probably the first thing that comes to your mind. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, all of them raising millions of dollars to help family farmers save their land and their heritage. No stranger to farm country herself, Kate Bolduan is about to show you how they do it, and what it means to one family whose farm goes back generations.


KATE BOLDUAN: This is rural small-town Virginia. I feel like I'm my best self when I'm back in a place like this. I grew up in rural small-town Indiana. The house that I grew up in and the house that my parents still live in backs up to an apple orchard. It's a family- owned and operated farm. It was perfect, it was simple.

We all have a personal connection to farming. Farmers are part of the backbone of America. I've also watched the rise and decline of the American farming tradition. Very soon there's likely to be less than 2 million farms in the United States.

When I saw that, it raised a really big question in my mind, is the American farming tradition a thing of the past? I hope not, but that's what Farm Aid is here for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Farm Aid, the concert for America.

BOLDUAN: Farm Aid was born out of a concert, in reaction to the farm crisis in the '80s, where tens of thousands of farmers were pushed into debt, and Willie Nelson wanted to do something about it, so he called up his friends, and they threw together a concert.

ROBIN ROBBINS, FARMER: Farm Aid has been a revolution for farmers. They could sustain on the farm with --

BOLDUAN: Meet Robin Robbins.

ROBIN ROBBINS: - (inaudible) six grandchildren.

BOLDUAN: Raised on a tobacco farm, today Robin is the matriarch of a multi-generational farm family. And she's putting me to work. We started in the greenhouse.

ROBIN ROBBINS: These you can water higher like rainwater, so. Farming has always been to me something that is in my heritage, and my love and my passion for my grannie and my papaw, and it's honoring the land, honoring your heritage.

BOLDUAN: That's no easy feat here at Appalachia, a region gutted by the demise of the tobacco and coal industries. To save their land, the Robbins family transformed their tobacco farm into an organic produce farm.

ROBIN ROBBINS: We refinanced our house to build the greenhouses, and that was a little scary. But you know, we have to take that leap of faith.

BOLDUAN: And Farm Aid helps farmers like Robin make that leap, supporting Food Hubs which certify farmers and distribute their produce to bigger supermarkets. Robin has grown her organic produce farm to 24 acres now.

She runs it with her husband. No offense to Dave, but I think Robin runs the show. I got on a tractor for the first time, learned from Dave how to do it, because we were plowing the field. What's it like knowing this is your family's land, your grand-daddy made his living off this?

DAVE ROBBINS, FARMER: It's that connection that really keeps you here. I mean I've been a lot of different places, but I always come back here.

BOLDUAN: I warned your mom that every plant I've ever touched I've killed so. It brought Robin's daughter Logan (ph) back too. She just left her office job. Farming kind of drew you back.

LOGAN (PH) ROBBINS, FARMER: Yes, because I mean I miss it, plus I just like the whole purpose of it, I mean for feeding people. I think that's something to be proud of.

BOLDUAN: From Logan (ph) I learned how to get the plants ready to ship off to market. Next, probably my most challenging job on the farm, taking zucchini transplants and planting them in the field. I am so nervous.

We're moving and the tractor is punching holes along the way. You think farming is easy, I dare you to try this. The perfect image in my head is the scene from I Love Lucy, when she's at the chocolate factory. We were probably going two to three miles an hour, and it felt like we were going 50 miles an hour, and get it right or else you're not going to have zucchini plants for 45 days.How much of it is science, and how much of it is luck and prayer?

ROBIN ROBBINS: Your agriculture is just controlled by Mother Nature, I mean she's the trump card.

BOLDUAN: I think one of the things that surprised me most since meeting the Robbins family is all of the intricacies that go into getting anything from farm to table. They're constantly juggling.

ROBIN ROBBINS: Because you're going to have a lot of humidity -

BOLDUAN: My biggest question coming here was is the American farming tradition a thing of the past? Are farmers facing crisis again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are, yes. You have a very small number of very large companies or farmers producing the majority. But we really are focused on new farmers, young farmers, to make sure that they continue to diversify agriculture.

BOLDUAN: Like Robin Robbins, who no matter what, is on a mission to keep her farm in the family. Together with the big guns of Farm Aid, I have no doubt the tradition will live on.

ROBIN ROBBINS: This generation is kind of shaming my generation. I could turn all three of my girls loose on our farm right now, and actually take a vacation.

BOLDUAN: This continues with them.

ROBIN ROBBINS: This continues with them, and they pay it forward.


GUPTA: And after all that work, Kate says she'll never look at a salad the same way again. Well still ahead, Alisyn Camerota introduces us to her champions for change, inspiring students in the poorest congressional district in the country. And I'll introduce you to mine, a man who proves that even in a place forgotten, the work of one person can change everything.


GUPTA: Welcome back. The people who inspire CNN's New Day anchor, Alisyn Camerota, provide a pathway to the future for kids who need it the most. As you'll see, sometimes all it takes is the stroke of a brush or the click of a camera to help a child discover herself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This is DreamYard, a non-profit that brings music, dance, theater, poetry, and fine arts into public schools in the Bronx, New York, the poorest congressional district in the country. More than two decades ago, two 20-something-year-old guys, Tim Lord and Jason Duchin, had a dream.

They believed that arts programs could keep kids engaged in school, keep them from dropping out, help them get better grades, and maybe even go to college.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wrote a play called DreamYard, which was about a place that kids could go to and their parents had forgotten how to get there. That's all it was in the beginning, was just us creating art with young people. And what was powerful about it was the way that it changed their connections to learning, to education.

SONE KEITH, PHOTOGRAPHER: I'm a spontaneous photographer. I don't like to stop and have someone say cheese. If I like it I'll take a picture.

LEANNE TORRES, PAINTER: I love to paint, just because paint is the type of thing where sometimes making a mistake actually ends up being part of what makes the painting beautiful.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to DreamYard, Sone Keith and Leanne Torres blossomed as artists, but they worried about what would come next.

TORRES: I feel like I've always known that college was my next steps. When I started getting accepted into colleges, I couldn't pay for them, because even though I was getting good help, there was still a lot of money out-of-pocket that I couldn't afford, and my mom couldn't even dream of affording.

CAMEROTA: I relied, growing up, on the generosity of a lot of people. I was able to go to a school where there was a lot of arts and theater and music, through a scholarship, and I'm so grateful that I got to have that experience, and I always thought, even when I was 11, someday if I can, I'm going to pay that back.

It's so inspiring going to this DreamYard event, because you see all of the kids. They knock your socks off, it gives you goosebumps when you're in the audience. About a year ago, my husband said maybe we should do more than just go to the annual fundraiser, maybe we could do just a little bit more than that for the kids.

My husband and I have chosen to support DreamYard by creating a four- year scholarship. We are honored and excited to present the first two Charles P. Lord DreamYard scholarships, we'd like to invite up Sone Keith and Leanne Torres.

KEITH: My mother told me that when she was younger, she wasn't allowed to do so many things. She said the reason why she allows me to do DreamYard and do other things is so I can express myself, so I can become the person I want to be.

TORRES: My mom was in her early twenties when she first came to the United States. We've made the best out of her sacrifice. We're going to become professional one day. We're going to, we're going to do great things, and I think that that's something that she's proud of.


GUPTA: And Alisyn joins me now, welcome.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

GUPTA: You made that happen, those two girls, I mean those scholarships are because of you. I mean how does that - how does that feel?

CAMEROTA: Well, let me give you a little more context. You know, these young women, these girls are so talented and had so much promise, that they had already gotten some financial aid and some other scholarships.

But because college is so prohibitively expensive, even with that there was still a gap and they weren't going to be able to sort of fulfill their dreams. So my husband and I closed that gap. So I feel really great that we were able to do that, but you know, it takes a village, because of the expense of college now.

GUPTA: So much of the funding for arts type programs have been cut. I mean people say look, we have to make these decisions, and those are often the first things to go. Why is it - why is it so important to you?

CAMEROTA: Well my mom was a high school drama teacher, so from the time truly I was born, she was always sort of - I was tagging along to her directing school plays, my first performance ever I was 3-years- old, and she put me in one of the high school plays and I was a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. And it was so thrilling to me. I was always just in the chorus, I had no talent to speak of, but it was thrilling.

And I just don't think that anybody every bounds out of bed for an algebra test, you know. I think that that's what keeps kids in school, and I've always felt that and always believed that. So you know, programs like DreamYard just try to make that happen.

GUPTA: You did a good thing.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks. My pleasure.

GUPTA: Thanks for being here. You can see much more of Alisyn's story online. Also while you're there, HLN's Michaela Pereira wants to introduce you to the cause that she's been championing for more than a decade now. It supports at-risk teens, and it gets results.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting my bachelor's degree next May, and -



GUPTA: When we come back, you can also meet my champion for change.


GUPTA: Over the years, I've traveled so many places, covered so many of the world's greatest humanitarian crises, and often been fortunate enough to pitch in as a first responder. But probably nothing hit me quite as hard as my experiences in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010.

Recently I went back to see how the country's doing, and also to check in with one organization that's doing some incredible work, and the man who is my champion for change.


GUPTA: There is a saying, "deye mon, gen mon", beyond mountains there are mountains. As soon as you overcome one obstacle, there is another, and then another. Haiti, our neighbor, is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

It was already one of the toughest places in the world to live, and then January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hits. Within an instant, hundreds of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands more injured. Sudden and utter human destruction almost unimaginable. My chest still tightens just thinking about Haiti.

It was day five, Kimberley (ph), 12-years-old, a piece of shrapnel in her brain. The U.S. Navy asked me to fly out to the U.S.S. Carl Vinson to operate. She recovered well, but she had still lost her family, lost her life as she knew it. Even survival here seemed a living hell. I kept thinking this is a place that will never recover, a place forgotten. Does it come back to how much we really care?

PAUL FARMER, FOUNDER, PARTNERS IN HEALTH: It's a reflection -- the absence of money is a reflection of differential valuation of human life.

GUPTA: For seven years now, the question I kept asking, can someone, anyone, really make a difference in a place like this? My bet is on this guy. Champion for Change Paul Farmer, and the organization he founded, Partners in Health.

They have been in Haiti for 30 years now, and they were there January, 2010. The images of Port-au-Prince's tent cities had given way to the park we are sitting in today. How is Haiti doing, how is this area doing seven years later?

FARMER: There's been patchy improvement, some places rubble's all cleared, some houses are rebuilt, buildings going up. There have been all of these other problems since then, food insecurity, more floods, Hurricane Matthew, so it's a mixed bag.

GUPTA: When you were pretty young, you decided to come here, and to do work. What was motivating you at that time to come here?

FARMER: You know, motivations are - are difficult to decipher, but I think it was a desire to help people, and especially people living in poverty.

GUPTA: And with that I realize, Paul Farmer, an infectious disease doctor from Harvard, makes the case that one man, one organization, can make a difference even in a place like this. When we were here in 2010, and former President Clinton came down at that time, (inaudible) one of the things I remember him saying to me was, you know, sometimes something good can come from something bad?

FARMER: The university hospital came out of something bad, it came out of the earthquake. It's 300 beds, it's the largest solar-powered hospital in the developing world. It has six operating rooms. It has 2,000 patients a day.

GUPTA: In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird continually reborn from its ashes, just like this. University Hospital in Mirebalais, the crown jewel in Partners' Haiti portfolio, a world-class hospital effectively in the middle of nowhere. Did you ever imagine that a place like this could exist?


GUPTA: Marc Julmisse is chief nursing officer here at the hospital. You've lived in New York, you've lived in Michigan, you've lived in Florida, how does this hospital stack up to what you've seen over there?

JULMISSE: I think it's equivalent to what I see.

GUPTA: That's kind of an amazing statement.


GUPTA: There's a lot of people that say that that just shouldn't have ever been possible.

JULMISSE: I love it, I love when people say that, because it's - there's one thing I would tell my staff, is there's a radical and there's a ridiculous. When we proposed it, a lot of people called it ridiculous, but when it happens, it's radical.

GUPTA: So you go from ridiculous, to radical, to real.

JULMISSE: Yes, absolutely, to real.

GUPTA: Just to give you an idea of how busy things can get here in the middle of Haiti, a 3-year-old boy over here who was in a motorcycle accident, he has a fracture in his skull, that's going to need surgery, and also over here a 61-year-old man who has a large hemorrhage in his brain, he's also going to need surgery. Both those operations need to happen within the next hour or so.

Before this hospital was built, Alexandre Sylvestre (ph) would have surely died out here in the Haitian countryside. Sixty-three is the average life expectancy here. He's 61. Instead, today, I'm getting ready to operate on him. Here's the midline here. Brain surgery, in the poorest area of the poorest country in this hemisphere of the world.

FARMER: (Inaudible) patients come in there that I thought no way this person's going to make it, and they do, you know. That's something good that came out of something bad.

GUPTA: It's the house that Paul Farmer helped build. At one time, even his supporters thought what you are witnessing simply wasn't possible, asking how can this possibly be done?

FARMER: Can, that's a philosophical question, right. You know, I didn't spend a lot of time on it, because I knew that the answer was of course. The real question to ask is how do we do it? You know, if they've been saying can we do this, you know, at NASA, there would have never been someone on the moon. So I think the more we ask how, and the less we ask can we do it, the safer we are as a species, right?

GUPTA: And the more likely we are to travel, mountains beyond mountains. The title of the book profiling Dr. Paul Farmer and his quest to cure the world.

FARMER: And as proof that it was the right thing to do, please observe a rainbow just appeared over your left shoulder, clearly a sign from God -

GUPTA: Somebody is listening, somebody is listening.

FARMER: I've always said that to you.

GUPTA: From Harvard to Haiti to heaven.

FARMER: Believe me, I'm probably not headed to the third destination.

GUPTA: I think you've done enough good in your life to.

FARMER: Well, I keep trying.


GUPTA: To learn more about Paul Farmer's work, to see all of these amazing stories and more, our series lives on, on your laptop, your tablet, your smart phone, at You'll also find links to all the organizations we featured tonight, where you can donate, you can volunteer, maybe be inspired to become a change-maker in your own community as well. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Good night.