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CNN Heroes - Anderson Cooper will host. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 17, 2017 - 21:00   ET


KELLY RIPA, HOST, CNN HEROES: Please welcome Brooklynn Prince.


BROOKLYNN PRINCE, ACTRESS, THE FLORIDA PROJECT: Grown-ups, we may be young, but we have good ideas when it comes to taking care of the environment. So listen to us.


PRINCE: We want you to do what Ryan Hickman does, recycle. See, we only have one Earth, just one. It has beautiful oceans, amazing animals, and wonderful flowers and trees. So let's make the world a better place for kids like me. And we can do that by listening to a wise old soul like Ryan.



RYAN HICKMAN, CEO, RYAN'S RECYCLING COMPANY: That's definitely not water.

RYAN HICKMAN (voice-over): Recycling helps the Earth, people, plants, animals, and other living things. I was three-and-a-half, and my dad and me took a bag of cans to the recycling center and we got about $5 and liked doing it. So I've been doing it ever since.

Ooh, I love these!

DAMION HICKMAN, FATHER OF RYAN HICKMAN: It was his idea to enlist all of our neighbors and to get more people recycling for him. And the longer it went, the bigger it got.

RYAN HICKMAN (voice-over): So I'll teach you some facts.

UNKNOWN: It's a pleasure to meet you, sir.

RYAN HICKMAN (voice-over): And there!

ANDREA HICKMAN, MOTHER OF RYAN HICKMAN: Perfect. Do you want to take the trash can back to dad?

RYAN HICKMAN (voice-over): My mom and dad and grandma on Tuesday help me sort.

UNKNOWN: You're going too fast.

RYAN HICKMAN (voice-over): And then once we have a full bag, we load it up in the truck, drive it to the recycling center, usually we're close to the line.

DAMION HICKMAN (voice-over): We estimate that Ryan has recycled about 270,000 cans and bottles. And I think that's about 60,000 pounds.

RYAN HICKMAN: And probably one of our bottles is processing right on that conveyor belt.

UNKNOWN: Good job, Ryan.

RYAN HICKMAN: Thank you.

UNKNOWN: He's helping the environment, and for every 2,000 pounds that he recycles, he saves at least 40 barrels of oil. So he is doing his part.

RYAN HICKMAN: Thank you.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I would probably not be doing this if it wasn't for Ryan. He's opened my eyes to making a difference, for sure.

UNKNOWN: Anything else you want to add?





ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN HEROES: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ryan. Thanks so much for being here. Congratulations.

RYAN HICKMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: So it's a little heavy for you. Are you all right with that?


COOPER: Okay. Do you have a license to drive that truck? I hate to ask, but...

RYAN HICKMAN: No, I do not have a license.

COOPER: Do you have a fact you can share with us tonight?

RYAN HICKMAN: Okay. It takes almost 600 years for a plastic water bottle to break down, so that's why we recycle.

COOPER: Okay. It's a good fact. I did not know that. The...

[LAUGHTER] COOPER: I also understand you're saving for something special.

RYAN HICKMAN: Yeah, I'm saving for a garbage truck.

COOPER: Yeah? You want to get a garbage truck?


COOPER: A big one?


COOPER: All right, cool. Well, good luck with that. Thanks so much. You're amazing. Thank you.

Ryan, everybody.

Let's go to Kelly.

RIPA: Wow! Our next guest is a good friend of CNN Heroes. He's a very funny guy. He's a proud supporter of the Bob Woodruff Foundation that helps wounded veterans and their families. Grammy-nominated actor and comedian, Jim Gaffigan.

JIM GAFFIGAN, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: Thank you. Thank you. Wow! What a night, right? I mean, can we take a breath? I mean, this is emotionally taxing. These...


GAFFIGAN: I mean, it's - this is my second event here at Heroes, and every five minutes, you're just so impressed by these incredible people that really inspire, but mostly point out how selfish and horrible the rest of us are.


GAFFIGAN: There is a kid, a child, who just did a recycling program, and I'm too afraid to criticize Trump on Twitter.


GAFFIGAN: These are heroes. They're - you know, we can - we can be better. Right?


GAFFIGAN: I mean, we obviously can be better. But -- I also would like to selfishly point out that this year, I realized that my personal hero is my wife. She was - in April, it was discovered she had a brain tumor. I'm not making this up. The brain tumor was removed. Everything's great. She's good. But she is amazing. And the tumor is gone along with my ability to ever win another argument with her.



GAFFIGAN: Anyhow I -- and luckily, she's not the type to bring it up. But - well, once she did. She was like, "You know, I did have brain surgery." And I was like, "That was a couple months ago."


GAFFIGAN: You know, it's time to move on.


GAFFIGAN: I joke around, but it was scary. We have five children, and there were moments when I was like, oh, my gosh, if anything happens to my wife, those five kids are going to be put up for adoption.


GAFFIGAN: Some of these jokes are just for the fathers.


GAFFIGAN: But back to the show. I - I'm really honored to introduce our next hero, Andy Manzi. He did two tours in Iraq. He patrolled the borders looking for improvised explosive devices on foot. He dodged suicide bombers, saw a lot of firefights, and watched his friends die.

When he came home, he struggled with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. But he just wasn't the type of guy who could heal or get healed in an office with white-painted walls and soul-sucking fluorescent lights. He needed to find his own path, and he did so under the sunny skies with a sandy beach and the healing power of waves.


ANDREW MANZI, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WARRIOR SURF FOUNDATION (voice-over): Two weeks before I got home, we were engaged with the enemy. And then just to go home and have to turn that off. It's crazy how uncomfortable I was lying in my bed. It felt so alien to me.

I remember staring at this red dot on my TV that I had in my room. I could not keep my eyes off that light. I felt like I had no control over myself and I was afraid of myself. I really didn't have any urge to be around any veteran. I pushed myself so far away from it. And then I started surfing --

We're going to talk about some technical stuff.

And teaching how to surf.

We're going to arch our back, extend our arms out. You want to try to be center on your board.

And I started meeting veterans in the water.

Let's do it!

There's just something about the ocean. You just feel cleansed.

UNKNOWN: In my mind, I wanted to come back to what I was. And that never could happen. You come to Warrior Surf, and it gets all the bad stuff, the nightmares, and it just pushes them away. All that you're focused on is just being lifted up on that wave.

UNKNOWN: You've talked about ways that you started to feel more valuable again.

UNKNOWN: Yep. Absolutely. One of the shocking things to me was finding out that Warrior Surf, had a counselor. How many times do you know they're going to be willing to set with you on the beach and let us empty our souls. Part of the thing that was so devastating to me was the lack of the brotherhood. I needed my tribe, and I found it again.

UNKNOWN: You take that energy of everyone else around you. It's not going to end when you get out of the water. You're going to keep on going.

MANZI: Two, three, waves (ph) up.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): It's a such phenomenal feeling that we're going to be okay.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): We're going to be okay because Andy ain't going to give up on us. So --



GAFFIGAN: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me and stand for CNN Hero, Andy Manzi.


MANZI: Thank you. Hi. The reason I do what I do is because I feel an energy. It's looking over my shoulder, making sure that I'm doing good in the world when I can. I do because I love my country and those that have sacrificed so much. I do because I love people, and people just need help sometimes. Anyone can throw around solutions. But those words are empty without action. Let's spend more time doing.

Thank you to anyone in my life who gave me a chance to mentor me. I hope I honor you and your time by doing what I do, and thank you very much.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] UNKNOWN (voice-over): Next on CNN Heroes, rapper and humanitarian Common honors a woman who is providing a safe haven for kids in the City of Chicago.

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is proudly sponsored by Consumer Cellular, where low rates and award-winning service are just the beginning.



COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Heroes. In Chicago, Illinois, gun violence has taken far too many lives. 3,000 people have been shot this year with nearly 600 killed.

RIPA: Here to tell us about one woman who refuses to give up hope is the Founder of the Common Ground Foundation, which works to provide opportunities for young people in Chicago, Grammy and Academy-award winning artist, Common.


COMMON, FOUNDER, COMMON GROUND FOUNDATION: Thank you. There's a place called Parkway Garden Homes. It's in a neighborhood on the South Side, where Jennifer Maddox grew up. When she was young, the music from the streets used to be filled with these loving notes, kids playing, balls bouncing. The poetry of a fierce round of double Dutch and the chorus of parents and neighbors saying, "You be good, I got my eyes on you."

Now, it's the pop of guns and screams of sirens. As a police officer and a part-time security guard, she found an empty room and turned it into Future Ties, an after-school and summer program for 100 kids who now have a safe place to go. And inside those walls, the music of opportunity, love and hope take hold in a city that can be consumed with grief.



JENNIFER MADDOX, FOUNDER FUTURE TIES (voice-over): The biggest challenge facing our children is just survival. They hear the gunshots every night. They are fearful to even come outside. We are in a state of emergency here in the City of Chicago. Five, six, seven-year-olds, they're using people that they love.

UNKNOWN: My godfather.

UNKNOWN: My cousin.

UNKNOWN: My uncle.

UNKNOWN: My brother.

MADDOX: They're trying to be strong, but you robbed them of their childhood.

MADDOX (voice-over): I'm a law enforcement officer, but I'm also a mother and a member of this community. We can't arrest our way out of this. I don't think that any child should grow up feeling like "this could be it."

Patrolling the streets, I just saw lack of opportunity. Once I saw that there was another side to policing, I thought that I could do more. Our center offers an escape for the young people. They know once they walk through those doors that they're safe.

UNKNOWN: How are you doing today?


MADDOX (voice-over): I believe that some of the violence stems from social issues. If we could solve some of those problems, it would make policing a little easier.

MADDOX: What do we have to do? That's right.

MADDOX (voice-over): We want to make sure that they make better choices when it comes to violence.

MADDOX: So who got homework? Let me see. 11. So what do you do with the one?

MADDOX (voice-over): I am very proud to be one of the bridges to connect police and community.

UNKNOWN: Thank you so much. Continue on blessing the community.

MADDOX (voice-over): When we talk about solutions, we should talk more about working together. I want the children to make the best out of their lives. I look at their faces every day, and that's hope.



COMMON: I wish more - I wish more police officers care for our children the way she does. Please join me in honoring from - I'm proud to be a Chicagoan with this beautiful woman. Please join me in honoring CNN's Hero, Jennifer Maddox.


MADDOX: Let me tell you about community policing. It works.


MADDOX: In and out of uniform, I'm always being me and reaching back to my upbringing of a Texas (ph) village. I experience trauma and take it with me every day, but still remain hopeful to those brighter days.

Our youth are intelligent, smart, bright; never disposable or unworthy. They want the same normal as any other youth, to play, to live, to grow up, to have fun, to eventually finish school and have plans for their future. So I say, less marching and more getting involved with hugging them, helping them, and asking ourselves, and how are the children?

Thank you.


COOPER: Our next Young Wonder lives on the Island of Tasmania in Australia, here to tell us how he is spreading love and kindness all over the world, is a proud supporter of Only Make Believe, which sends actors into hospitals to perform for sick kids; one of the stars of Big Little Lies and the star of Young Sheldon, Iain Armitage.

IAIN ARMITAGE, CHILD ACTOR: I want to tell you about a kind boy named Campbell Remess. One Christmas Eve, he was worried about the kids in the hospital. He wanted to make sure they had presents. Since it cost him too much money to buy them all gifts, he taught himself how to make teddy bears.

Throughout the year, he makes at least one bear every day. He does this for kids he'll never even meet. He does this because he wants them to have something good and to feel better. That's the power of kindness, and as a matter of fact, Campbell's work is magical.


REMESS: The mission of my project is to make - to make people happy.


UNKNOWN: Hi. It does get very lonely in hospital.

REMESS: I give them a bear and try to cheer them up a bit.

UNKNOWN: Thank you, Campbell. Thank you...

REMESS: That's okay. I hope you enjoy playing with him and cuddling him.

UNKNOWN: When Campbell takes the bears to the hospital, he sees these very sick children perk straight up. You feel the energy in the room.

REMESS: I got this bear for you.

UNKNOWN: Thank you.

UNKNOWN: Getting a teddy from Campbell just feels great and it's a relief that I've got a friend there.

UNKNOWN: Do you want this bear?

REMESS: I think the magic in the bears is the hope. It's the hope that the bears give the people. I've been making bears over four years now. UNKNOWN: Campbell is just empathetic to a maximum level.

REMESS: This is just my thing, my hobby. This is what I love doing.

The top of the shelf is full for all hospital beds. Come to the hospital at Christmastime. So this is Marvin (ph) and this is Melby (ph). This is Alex (ph). When I start doing their faces and saving them putting their eyes on (inaudible), it's really cool to see their personality come together. I reckon I've made over 12 to 1,400 bears. It's a lot.

UNKNOWN: So it started with a little idea. I just want kids to have presents at Christmastime. Now it's bears going in every direction, all over the world, for every reason possible.

REMESS: I've sent them to lots of different people that have been hurt in lots of different ways.

UNKNOWN: I think he's -- in a way, he's just trying to hug the whole world better, to make it okay. It's just love.

REMESS: If everybody was kind and not mean, it would change the world. It would change the world a lot.



RIPA: Campbell, Don -- Don Lemon just stole the tissue box, again.

Campbell, where did you learn to make those incredible bears?

REMESS: From a patent that I had sitting in my bedroom.

RIPA: A patent you just had sitting in your bedroom?

REMESS: Yeah, that's right.

RIPA: As every kid does.


RIPA: So where -- when you auction these off, where does the money go?

REMESS: It goes to my charity that I call (inaudible) Cruises -- Kindness Cruises.

RIPA: Kindness Cruises. What's a Kindness Cruise?

REMESS: That's for people that are going through cancer -- that have gone through cancer treatment or have had a hard time with cancer. I raise enough money, book them on a cruise, and they get to go on a cruise ship anywhere around the world to relax with their family and have fun and make new memories.

RIPA: You're an extraordinary person. Learn more about Campbell's amazing work and other Young Wonders at

Thank you, Campbell.

Thanks, Don.


UNKNOWN: Coming up, Emmy Award-winning actress, Alfre Woodard, and from The Handmaid's Tale, Samira Wiley. CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is proudly sponsored by Novartis.



RIPA: Hey, welcome back to CNN Heroes. Now, have you donated yet? Come on. Let's help all of tonight's heroes raise $50,000 with every dollar matched by Subaru. If you do it now at, give generously because they all deserve your support.

COOPER: Like our next hero. Her work is extraordinary. According to the Amputee Coalition, more than 2 million Americans live with an amputation and more than 185,000 surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

RIPA: Many people struggle financially and emotionally before and after surgery. And our next hero is working to help them. To share her amazing story is a proud supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and the Covenant Full Potential Development Center, which empowers at-risk residents in Washington, D.C.; one of the stars of The Handmaid's Tale. Please welcome, Samira Wiley.


SAMIRA WILEY, ACTRESS: On a spring day in 1990, a 17-year-old college student was walking to class when a drunk driver hit her. Mona Patel went 12 feet into the air and then was pinned between the car and the guardrail.

Now, for seven years, she tried to save her right leg, but in the end, she and her doctors made the decision to amputate below the knee. Before the surgery, Mona searched for answers to some hard questions.

Can I be a mom? Can I care for my babies? Soon after the surgery, Mona started a support group so other amputees could find answers to their most personal questions, too.

It's now grown into the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, which offers peer support to as many as 60 people a month, helps pay for prosthetics, home and car modifications and even offers athletic and recreational experiences that transform their lives.

Now, Mona shows young and old how to conquer both big and personal mountains and that anyone, anyone can walk among the clouds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MONA PATEL: Day one is going to be about four miles. We had nine amputees on the team.

MALE: I'd be all right.

PATEL: I bit off a big project.

FEMALE: I didn't roar (ph).

MALE: My shoulders are burning so bad, y'all are going to have to roll me back down the hill.

PATEL: It will test you to your core.

MALE: Set your crutch, and step.

PATEL: We summited morning of day six.

MALE: It's so beautiful.

PATEL: We show others that we physically climbed this mountain and, you, too, can climb any mountain in your life.

BENNELINA: My name is Bennelina. I live in San Antonio, Texas. Cheering, I started at three. It makes me feel really good. I love it.

When I was seven, I noticed that my leg started hurting a lot. So we got some tests done. We got a lot of tests done. I didn't know it was cancer until they told me that I had to get my foot amputated. And then I started crying, a lot.

PATEL: When you stand and put pressure on it, is that easy for you?

BENNELINA: I met Miss Mona the day before my surgery.

PATEL: Benn was very reluctant, because she was scared. There you go. What's next?

BENNELINA: She was like telling me what I'm going to be able to do when I'm done and how she climbs mountains and stuff like that.

PATEL: She looked at my leg, and she said, "Is my leg going to have to look like that? Or will it look real?" And I said, "Well that's completely up to you." And she asked me, "Did you decide to uncover your leg so you can tell people that it's OK to have a prosthesis?" And I looked at her, I said, "You are absolutely right."

BENNELINA: When I met her, I was like, I want to be twins like her.

PATEL: She said, "Miss Mona, I decided that I want it to look sparkly and beautiful, just like yours." We can never ever lose hope with where we're going in life. Again, we're twins.

BENNELINA: She has such a good attitude and she climbs mountains with one leg. She is like a super hero. In the future, I want to go back to cheer. PATEL: You're awesome.

BENNELINA: Thank you.

PATEL: Benn, come up here. She has something new she wants to share with us. She is walking.

Nobody can escape the inevitable challenges in life, but we can either lay down and let our circumstance overtake us, or we can stand up and take charge.


SAMIRA WILEY: It's my honor to present CNN Hero, Mona Patel.


PATEL: We are all about love, hope, inspiration, and empowerment. But if I can ask you for a moment to look past the stories of inspiration and to perceive the depths of the struggles and the eventual triumphs of simply being able to walk across the room on a prosthetic leg or to embrace your child without arms or climb a mountain, triumph's possible, because somebody took the time to believe in you.

To my limb loss family across the globe, this is for you. You all are the true heroes. To my beautiful babies, Ania (ph) and Ariana (ph), as you each go through the journeys of your own beautiful lives, may you always remember the wise words of Cinderella's mommy. "Have courage and always be kind." Thank you.


KELLY RIPA, ACTRESS: Our next hero comes from Khayelitsha, one of the poorest townships in Cape Town, South Africa where the AIDS crisis has created generations of orphans.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: To share (ph) our hero is caring for them, is a Founder of Artists For a New South Africa, a non-profit that work to combat the African AIDS pandemic and advanced democracy inequality in South Africa.

She's also a now a proud supporter of the Children's Defense Fund, one of the stars of Luke Cage, Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning actress, Alfre Woodard.

ALFRE WOODARD, ACTRESS: Thank you. Thank you, good evening, good morning, lots of love wherever everybody is in the world. Nelson Mandela said, "When we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

Because Rosie Mashale is here, this world, this room is brighter than the sun. She had been a schoolteacher for years and was getting ready to retire, but the universe had other plans for her.

One day, an HIV AIDS baby was left on her doorstep. She picked him up. She loved him as her own. And the thousands of orphans who've come into her care ever since at her center, Baphumelele.

Rosie didn't stop with care for orphans. She did more, because her neighborhood needed more. She started a day care center, created a home for abandoned young people. She built health care clinics, offers hospice care, and even opened a bakery.

Her organization started in her home and is now so large it takes up an entire block. One woman, one woman, shining her light and bringing much-needed hope and change to her people.


ROSIE MASHALE: When I moved here, nearby was a dumping place. Every morning I would hear the children trying to find something to eat. I called them in and we sang rhymes and I gave them bread.

And that was the first of the day care center. In the year 2000, found a boy on my doorstep. And I took him in. That was the first (ph) of the orphanage.

Wakey wakey!

The police were bringing the children, social workers were bringing children. I've never turned any child away.

Good girl.

We've got the children's home for 126 children. I feel like a mama for everyone here.


We feed them. We clothe them. We send them to school. Then we do counseling for them. Most of them are abandoned children. They are orphans. More pink (ph).

The basic things that we're giving them is love. And when they see me, they always feel happy. (INAUDIBLE).

We have children. They came here a day old, and now they are young adults.

We provide them with job opportunities and letting them to finish their education.

My hope for the children is that they can be leaders of tomorrow. Everybody has got a dream and my wish is for that dream to be fulfilled.


ALFRE WOODARD: Ladies and gentlemen, what a beautiful smile? Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Mama Rosie Mashale.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] ROSIE MASHALE: My job is not 9:00 to 5:00. I did not have a choice. This is a calling. I'm trying to help as many kids as I can. And the need is so great, so endless. My wish for them is to be educated, so that they can be advocates of change to help other orphans.

This is why we always say, "It takes a village to raise a child." Please join us to raise more orphans. Thank you to CNN for their inclusion. Thank you.


FEMALE: Next, we'll meet our final Young Wonder of the Night, and Academy Award Winner Christian Bale honors the hero from Southern California who keeps kids on the straight and narrow by teaching them to build custom cars.

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is proudly sponsored by Servpro, helping make fire and water damage like it never even happened.


ANDERSON COOPER: Welcome back. It's now time to honor our final Young Wonder of the Night, Haile Thomas.

KELLY RIPA: When she was eight years old, her family experienced a health scare when her father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Haile and her family's journey to better health inspired her to start the HAPPY Organization, which brings cooking lessons and nutritional education to kids in underserved communities.



HAILE THOMAS: I love that you get to be super creative with cooking. It's really cool to see a bunch of ingredients that may not have matched so classically come together and really create something unique and super flavorful. I love that aspect of just being able to kind of play around with it like a science experiment and see what happens.

Wow, this is so pretty!

We were completely able to reverse my dad's Type 2 diabetes within about a year of just really pushing the healthy eating and changing our lifestyle habits.

HUGH THOMAS: This is really good.

HAILE THOMAS: That's when I was super inspired to share that with my peers.

We really just want to make sure that kids everywhere know how to make a healthy choice and how they can incorporate that into their every day.

It's super important to know what's in our food. Dextrose is another form of sugar, and we already heard sugar before, right?

So we go over reading food labels, researching ingredients.

You guys know what's in gelatin? Pig skin. Yeah. You're right.

You guys are going to make your own cereal.

Super important for us to share a healthy alternative that's fun to make, easy, and of course, delicious.

We have our coconut sugar and we have our maple syrup. There's no refined sugar in here.

Guys, it smells amazing!

These workshops definitely inspire and empower kids to make healthier choices.

I'm proud of you guys. It was so easy to make, right?

FEMALE: Can I get a little bit more?


It's just that one moment where a kid realizes that they can do better for themselves and their families. That is so important to me. That's exactly what helped my dad get better. We are teaching kids how to fuel their bodies the best and they will ultimately have the energy and vitality to be their best.


KELLY RIPA: How about (ph) Haile everybody. Just -- so you all know, Haile is turning 17 next week, so congratulations. Now, is there a vegetable that you don't like?

HAILE THOMAS: Oh, gosh, I mean, I'm a major foodie. I eat pretty much everything. So I love vegetables. I honestly can't pick out one, but I hate boiled dumplings, which is a Jamaican thing, so I don't want to offend any Jamaicans, but I -- I can't stand that. But I love all my veggies.

KELLY RIPA: We are proud of you and all the work you're doing. Let's hear it for Haile, everybody, and happy birthday to you. Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER: Our -- our final hero of the night lives in Lancaster, California. It's a city just an hour north of Los Angeles where too many kids live in poverty and spend their lives in foster care.

To share how he's doing his part to teach kids new skills and give them a reason to avoid the lure of (ph) gangs, he's a proud supporter of SOS villages which builds loving families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable kids in 135 countries, please welcome Christian Bale. CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: Good evening (ph). No one is perfect. We make mistakes. We mess up. We do hurtful things. And then sometimes, we need someone to give us a second chance.

Aaron Valencia got his in a California courtroom. He had a hard life. He made some bad choices. And they sent him down the wrong path. But one night, he curled up on a park bench with a blanket and promised himself to stay sober this time around.

When he did, he took responsibility for his past actions. He stepped in front of a judge who sentenced him to a long-term treatment facility instead of sending him back to jail.

Aaron took his second chance and he ran with it. He built a new life and discovered a love for fixing up old cars and now he's paying it forward. He's making sure that other kids have the chance to strive, to trust one another and know that during the good times, and the tough times, someone always has their backs.


AARON VALENCIA: When I look back in my life, a lot of it is about stability. Not having stability took me down. I was a smart kid, I had a good heart. Did not have any outlets.

Started smoking meth at about 14. By 15, the first time I ever shot heroin. Robbing and stealing. Bouncing in and out of jail. I had nowhere left to turn. I walked into rehab 1999 and never looked back. My life completely changed.

Custom cars set me and my life in a whole different direction. Before long, I opened up a small shop.

You came here to work? That's what I like to hear.

Kids were kind of gravitating toward the shop to see what was going on.

What's up bro? How we doing?

It felt like they (ph) come here, and they can actually learn a trade, learn a lesson, learn something to better their life.

We got to take the bumper brackets off, we got to paint the brackets, clean the bumpers. We got a lot to do.

If there's not a positive place for them to go that's something cool, and fun, and different they're going to end up getting into trouble as I did.

We got to pull this thing out, nice and slow, OK?

This year we're working on a 1958 Chevy Apache pickup truck. And the kids have started from ground zero. They've been here doing all the bodywork.

Going down.

The wiring, the fuel system, carburetor.

I'm digging on the color. It looks great.

The whole time they're working, we're dropping little bits of knowledge on how to make the right decisions in life.

We're not looking for perfection. We're just looking for better than yesterday.

Talking about peer pressure, drugs, life experience and stuff that they're going through.

Every Labor Day, we have our Car Show Give-Away.

FEMALE: Chance to win a free car.

MALE: Good luck, good luck, good luck, good luck, good luck.

AARON VALENCIA: One of the highlights is actually being at the show.

Are you guys ready to roll?

MALE: Let's go.

AARON VALENCIA: Better do roll (ph).

They're getting the accolades that they deserve for the time and effort that they've put in.

That's it.

I, like a lot of my kids, had to grow up fast.

It's good to see you again. I'm glad you're back.

Just trying to be someone positive who sees where they're at right now and what they're going through and offer a bit of stability.


CHRISTIAN BALE: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Aaron Valencia.


AARON VALENCIA: Oh wow (ph). Stability, opportunity, and time, three major factors to a child's success. Stability in knowing you can always count on someone to be there. Opportunity to learn, to grow, and to create a life of your own. And the most valuable of all is time; time to talk and time to listen.

When you give a child your time, you're letting them know they matter. This may seem like a no-brainer for a standard household, but for a kid growing up in foster or a low-income environment, it's really tough to find even one. I want to thank you to CNN and everyone involved for shining a light on these incredible kids who are showing up and putting in the time to better their own futures.

And to the kids of Los Angeles back home, this is for you. You're not alone. We got you. Thank you.


KELLY RIPA: Do not go away. We have more to come.

ANDERSON COOPER: That's right. Coming up next, a powerful performance by Andra Day and Common, celebrating our heroes with the Grammy, Critics' Choice Award nominated Song "Stand Up For Something."

KELLY RIPA: And we will announce our 2017 CNN Hero of the year.


FEMALE: CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is proudly sponsored by Subaru. The love, it what makes a Subaru a Subaru.


KELLY RIPA: Welcome back to CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute. Now here to perform a song that salutes all our heroes and the work they do every day is a proud supporter of Unlikely Heroes, which works to stop human trafficking, and the Founder of The Common Ground Foundation which works to provide opportunities for young people in Chicago.

ANDERSON COOPER: Performing the Grammy and Critics' Choice nominated song from the film, "Marshall" written by Diane Warren and Common, "Stand Up For Something," Andra Day and Common.

ANDRA DAY, SINGER: You can have all the money in your hands. All the possessions anyone can ever have. But it's all worthless treasure, true worth is only measured, Not by what you got, but what you got in your heart. You can have, you can have everything, What does it, what does it mean?

It all means nothing, If you don't stand up for something. You can't just talk the talk, You got to walk that walk, yes you do. It all means nothing, If you don't stand up for something. And I stand up for you, And I stand up for you, yes I will, yes I will.

You do the best that, do the best that you can do, Then you can look in the mirror, Proud of who's looking back at you. Define the life you're living, Not by what you take or what you're givin'. And if you bet on love there's no way you'll ever lose, Take a stand ...