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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Heroes: 15 Years of Changing the World. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 12, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HEROES HOST: Please welcome Tom Doll, the President and Chief Executive Officer of core Subaru of America.

TOM DOLL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SUBARU OF AMERICA: Happy holidays everyone. Dr. Jane Goodall once said, what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Well, like our heroes here tonight, she was also trying to make a difference to our annual share the love event. And by the end of this year, Subaru and our retailers will have given over $225 million to support both national and local charities all around the country.

So tonight, we're here to not only honor our heroes, but also make them continue to make a difference in the lives of others. And that, my dear friends, takes money. So please make a difference and join Subaru in donating to our CNN Heroes.

And if you do, Schumer will match your donations dollar for dollar up to a total of $500,000. We at Subaru know firsthand and making a difference creates kindness and kindness creates love. So please help us share the love by contributing to our celebrated heroes here tonight. Make a difference by donating right now at Thank you very much.


NAJAH BAZZY, CEO FOR ZAMAN INTERNATIONAL: No one signs up to be poor. No one wants to be born into poverty.

YOLANDA GARDENHIRE, RISING HOPE BAKERY, GRADUATE OF CULINARY ARTS PROGRAM: It's different when you're a single parent, it may look easy because we have to put on this brave face every day and say we're Superwoman. But it's extremely difficult. My son he comes first before everything. You don't expect your life to change overnight. You have to have the willpower and the determination to want it to change.

BAZZY: Zaman is a nonprofit organization that supports women and children who live in extreme poverty here at Southeast Michigan but also around the world. COVID ties us that people are extremely vulnerable. The scene and hero and Subaru grant gave us a sense of financial security from which we could build. And Subaru they really care about the family. Because when you have a single mom, if that mom false, two, three, four other people are falling right behind her.

CARYL WILLS, RISING HOPE BAKERY, FIRST EMPLOYEE: I was having a very hard time finding work during the pandemic. I am a mother of two. They've been through a lot with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rising Hope Bakery is where we're taking our clients who are getting trained in the vocational training and our culinary arts.

GARDENHIRE: I am a complete graduate student from the Zaman Culinary Program and I do plan to open my own restaurant eventually. I'm really appreciative because that one phone call changed everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kept thinking about what happens if we can train and then employ? What would happen to that family if we could hire them at a living wage. Not only do you break the cycle of poverty, but you actually break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

WILLS: It feels wonderful to be the first employee I feel like I'm part of something big, and that's so rewarding.


KELLY RIPA, CNN HEROES CO-HOST: Welcome back to CNN Heroes. Now you know that Subaru is matching all of your donations to all of our top 10 CNN Heroes, so go to Click on the donate button or scan the QR code on the screen. Do it now and please support our incredible honorees.

COOPER: Since COVID hit the virus has disproportionately affected communities of color, tackling a long history of medical abuse neglect, institutional racism by building trust. Our next hero has helped the city of Philadelphia achieve one of the highest vaccination rates in the country for people of color.

RIPA: Joining us to tell her extraordinary story is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Chief Medical Advisor to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDEN BIDEN: 40 years ago in a poor part of Philly, a young girl had a mighty dream. Ala Stanford would stand in front of a mirror and pretend that the extension cord dangling around her neck was a stethoscope and the bed sheet draped on her shoulders was a medical code. She'd say, Hi, my name is Dr. Ala Stanford. How are you today? In spite of many odds, her teenage parents taught her that the worst can't didn't exist and she became a top pediatric surgeon.


When COVID-19 started killing people in the black community, she refused to let those poor parts of Philly down. She started the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to test and eventually vaccinate people. They have tested and vaccinated more than 75,000 people.

The trust she built is why it all worked. Even when she herself got COVID she never stopped listening and leading because she always carries the community with her. She knows what her work and presence mean to the younger girls and boys standing in front of their mirrors. You can be a doctor caring for patients saving lives and bringing dignity and decency to all in the middle of a horrific pandemic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are extraordinary times a national emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 96 percent of people are now under stay at home orders.

COOOPER: If anyone out there believes it is not going to get worse. You're simply mistaken.

DR. ALA STANFORD, BLACK DOCTORS COVID-19 CONSORTIUM: After the pandemic started, African Americans were dying at a rate greater than any other group in Philadelphia, they were keeping the city in the country running. But wherever black people were, the one thing that was tough to come by was testing. Those who are most vulnerable, they need to have the support. So I jumped in.

I got all the PPE from my office. I got testing kits. My mom rented a van. And that was it. We were intentional from the very beginning about the mission.

The first day, we did a dozen tests. The second time we did about 150. And the third time, there were 500 people lined up before we started. The positivity rate was one in four but we had to earn the trust of the people.

I honestly thought that by July we would be out of business but there was no end in sight.

We are at Esperanza which means hope.

We went to community centers, to churches, to mosques, street corners.

Then, January, we started vaccinating.

I don't want to fit any vaccines back to the refrigerator. I want people to receive.

There was all this narrative black people don't want the vaccine but they were lined up.

This is Philly. There's no snow that's going to keep us away.

We vaccinated over 4,000 people in a 24-hour period.

Mom, I have the doctor here.

We started home vaccination. All I have to do is do a shot in your arm.



Honestly, the atmosphere when we vaccinate is joy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One and done. One and done.

STANFORD: We have vaccinated more than 50,000 people.

Yes, smiling.

82 percent people of color.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Sanford has done a great job looking out for the black community, especially looking out for community.

STANFORD: When I see people getting vaccinated, I can say job well done. You earned the trust.

I love Philadelphia and so I could not allow one additional life to be lost when I knew that I could do something about it.


FAUCI: It is my honor to present CNN Hero Dr. Ala Stanford.

STANFORD: 22 months ago, our organization did not exist. This was not my job. We need a national model with our health care, resources for mass vaccination, testing centers and basic preventive care must be consistent, not just during a public health crisis, but always. We have to bring care to people where they work and live and play. It shows them that we understand and live by the oath of first do no harm.

I am committed to equity to save lives and livelihood and welcome your support in this mission. COVID has taught us much, but when one person is healthy, we are all better for it. Thank you and God bless you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next on CNN Heroes, the legendary Linda Carter.

The 15th Annual CNN Heroes All Star Tribune is brought to you by Rocket Mortgage. Need to know what it takes for a home loan to fit your budget and family? Rocket can.



COOPER: Welcome back CNN Heroes. In the United States, there nearly 14 million people who've lost their husband, their wife or their partner. They struggle with the grief, the loss of identity and just getting through everyday tasks.

RIPA: To tell us about our next hero's organization that works to end their isolation is a wonder woman, who experienced the loss of her beloved husband of 37 years, Robert Altman. She's a proud supporter and on the advisory board of the future Smithsonian American Women's History Museum. We'll see her again in Wonder Woman three, please welcome Lynda Carter. LYNDA CARTER, AMERICAN ACTRESS: Thank you. Thank you very much. In 2005 Phil Hernandez and his 100 watts smile went out for a bike ride on a beautiful California afternoon. It was a sport that he and his wife, Michele Neff. Hernandez, love to do that day. Michele happened to be staying home. She kissed him goodbye. And he wrote off.

Soon after she received the call, he's been hit by a car. Come quick. She travelled in the ambulance with him and was there when they pronounced him dead. She was grief stricken, stunned. She didn't know what to do about his things. What to do about his car, what do you do, what's normal? She felt alone and the struggle to understand her new life.


So Michele began reaching out to other widows and in 2008, she started Soaring Spirits. She offers a connection to the disconnected through widow packets filled with valuable information and runs three-day weekends called Camp Widow, organizes support groups, one on one pen pals and COVID-19 with COVID-19 ongoing virtual programs.

She's brought together a community of more than 4 million. We now know that during these times how devastating the loss of a loved one is. And she found a community that understands just how difficult it really is to live without the love of your life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was like the glue and our family. If he was around, everything was going to be OK. This is our youngest boy at his wedding. March 24, 2020, my husband walked like a soldier into the hospital. The doctor called me and told me that my husband did have the COVI. Sometimes I just go sit in the parking lot just to be close to him, because they would not let me in.

You know, April 13th they told me he was gone.

Missing so badly. Brand kids miss their papa

I can't describe the devastation the loneliness. I needed someone to understand what it was like to be widowed.

MICHELE NEFF HERNANDEZ, SOARING SPIRITS: Initially, you imagine the worst day is the day they die. And the truth is that living without them is the hard part. But you have to make your way through.

My husband, Phil, died on August 31 of 2005. Every single thing about my life changed.

Thank you for being here and showing up for each other.

Once I found a community of widowed people and realize the power of it. I felt this calling to be able to offer it to other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you know who I am. I'll tell you, I'm lousy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't say I'm good because you're not.

HERNANDEZ: What we do is offer the opportunity for people to heal and community to rebuild your own space with people around you who make you feel like living through widowhood is possible.

Without you guys, I wouldn't be where I am today I was able to go back to work.

When COVID hit, they needed someone who would understand on a micro level the things that were difficult and unique about the COVID-19 death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't even want to think about what it would have been like without it. It saved my life. So I'm thankful for it.

HERNANDEZ: I don't even know what Phil would think about all of what I've created except to say that he always believed in me. It's been an incredible experience to build an organization that is in large part because he loved me so well.


CARTER: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Michele Neff Hernandez.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you. Grief support doesn't feel important until it's personal. We meet survivors where they are and help them make space for their grief in a society uncomfortable with mourning. When widowed people grieve at their own pace, integrate their person's love into their daily lives and gain the support of a community, they not only survive tragic circumstances, but thrive.

The work of Soaring Spirits shapes real life heroes every single day. And we're so proud of all them. Our whole world is grieving. We have to see it and embrace it in order to heal it. Thank you.

COOPER: In 2018, Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years in prison after more than 150 women and girls that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

RIPA: The impact statements before his sentencing lasted seven days as heroic and courageous women stepped forward. But that moment wasn't the last in the pursuit of justice.


COOPER: The first complaints about Dr. Nassar were filed at the FBI field office in Indianapolis in July 2015. Those complaints were buried that sat with the FBI for more than a year, allowing at least 70 other women and girls to be abused.

So on September 15 of this year, four champions raised their right hands to speak truth to power. Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols.

MAGGIE NICHOLS, GYMNASTIC CHAMPION: This did not happen to gymnast to or to athlete A, it happened to me, Maggie Nichols. COOPER: They shared their stories again. They lived it again detailing the abuse.

SIMONE BILES, GYMNASTIC CHAMPION: How much is a little girl worth?

COOPER: And they demanded the FBI be held accountable for their neglect, which caused so much pain. They spoke with courage, conviction, and were true role models for us all stating once again that enough is enough.


COOPER: Please join us in honoring all the gymnasts who shared their stories and push for justice.

RIPA: We're so grateful that one of the Maggie Nichols is here with us tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still to come, SNL's Ego Nwodim and Ming Na Wen from The Book of Boba Fett.

The 15th Annual CNN Heroes All Star Tribute is proudly sponsored by Humana, a more human way to healthcare.



COOPER: Welcome back to CNN Heroes. In the United States, one in five children has attention deficit disorder, other learning differences like dyslexia as I do, but many go undiagnosed and become frustrated. 50 percent of students with a learning difference wind up in the juvenile justice system.

RIPA: Some call it a learning difference or disability for my son Joaquin and for our family, we call his dyslexia and dysgraphia a blessing because through the remediation in his school, he's not only become an incredible student, but it's made all of his other skills that much stronger. But there's no one size fits all to learning so many of us need extra guidance or different tools to learn.

David Flink was one of those students. He acted out. He got kicked out of five schools. And when he and his desk were banished to an empty hallway, a janitor took notice. He played chess with David. And that simple human connection made all the difference.

COOPER: After David received the proper diagnosis, he thrived. He went all the way to an Ivy League University, where he co-founded Eye to Eye. It's a mentoring program that connects high school and college students who also have learning differences with middle school students.

There are 150 chapters now in schools in 23 states lifting thousands of kids up. And through the magic of art, they bond over pipe cleaners and construction paper and our ability to embrace our differences and see one another eye to eye. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID FLINK, EYE TO EYE: I remember fondly really loving school. And that feeling ended probably first or second grade. I didn't know that I have dyslexia but I had ADHD. And I could either be the dumb kid, or I could be the bad kid. Instead of sitting there and feeling dumb, I just started acting out.

My (INAUDIBLE) said Dave, we think it would be best for you, and all of us, if you went to the hallway to finish that assignment. At one point, literally my desk was moved to the hallway.

I had this message sent to me that I didn't belong in the classroom. But despite challenges, I made it. I felt like people had invested in me. And now I had a responsibility to give back. Every time I walk into a classroom, it fills me with jo.

Drawing, talk about me drawing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically it builds up my confidence.

FLINK: You just know that about yourself. That's great.

Eye to Eye provides a safe space. This constructed around what's right with kids, so they can talk about their experiences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People think about me, it's like, I'm dumb. No, I'm just unique. Everybody is unique in their own ways if you think about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's project is the utility belt. So we're going to be thinking of things that help us in the classroom and out of the classroom.

I definitely click more with the girls that are a little bit reserved and shy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could do it like this, and have the thing like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like that idea.

For me, I was definitely really like ashamed. And that kind of led to just me being super self-conscious and shy.

Do you get scared during tests are like nervous or no?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have anxiety. And like I shake a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that happens to me sometimes.

I want them to know that just because the accommodations they need, it shouldn't prevent them from pursuing something they're passionate about.

[21:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, like I'm not alone. They taught me to always ask if you need help. Don't be scared. They're not going to bite you. I put water. You should always stay hydrated.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm outgoing. I'm funny. I always fight every day, but I get to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People's hearts sing when they're seen. And our mentors are so good at just seeing their kids and sharing their stories selflessly.

My moments that I am wishing for is when the problem of stigmatizing kids because they learn differently goes away. I want them to know that their brains are beautiful. And then they can do it.

COOPER: It's my honor to present CNN Hero David Flink.


DAVID FLINK, CEO AND FOUNDER OF EYE TO EYE: Wow. To receive this honor, at this time, is momentous for students with learning disabilities. As you've heard, I am someone who's proudly dyslexic in ADHD. Whether you are part of the 20% that has an invisible disability like me, are the 80% who are allies. We need 100% of us to rethink our approach to supporting young people with learning disabilities.

Tonight, we further the fight to combat ableism. CNN, thank you for giving us a platform to share the story of what is right with people with learning disabilities.


FLINK: All brains are beautiful.

COOPER: For more than a decade now, Nigeria has been faced with conflicts primarily because of one of the world's deadliest terrorist organizations called Boko Haram. Since the violence erupted between them and the Nigerian government, millions of people have been displaced, tens of thousands of people murdered, and 1400 schools destroy.

To share our next heroes incredible work as the champion for the Black and Missing Foundation which focuses on finding missing persons of color. And one of the stars of Saturday Night Live and love life, (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Education promotes peace, especially the kind rooted in truth, where knowledge is shared as a path to better understanding and respect. This is the life's work of Zannah Mustapha. He grew up benefited by the bright light of a good education and became a lawyer. He worked hard and wanted to ensure that the orphans in his town had the same opportunities to grow and thrive.

In 2007, he opened the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, that first year, there were 36 orphans, learning to add and subtract and marvel at the wonders of science. As the fighting between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military escalated, Zannah opened his arms wider, welcoming all orphans no matter their families side in the conflict. Today, he educates more than 860 orphans. He provides boys and girls uniforms, books, health care, and manages acres of farmland to teach skills and feed them. In a region overcome with atrocities, he in his schools are the lampposts of hope, lighting the way for a new generation empowered with knowledge and respect, and the tools to promote peace.

ZANNAH MUSTAPHA (in foreign language): These are children who do not even know what's their second name, this tribe, children who are not even having this war. Most of them saw when their fathers were killed. You need to give them courage. You have to give them hope.

What is this? Oh, this is your sweet. OK. What are you?

We don't mind where you hail from what your religion, what's ethnicity. So, gender does not matter You find two thirds of the population in this school are girls. How do you heal the rivalry? How do we come in together? And that is when we accept the diversities of others.

I am a peach builder. They see themselves as being friends, brothers, sisters. There is much counseling. There is much play.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me being an orphan, I feel I have lost something from a normal girl child to an orphan. The first thing that Future Prowess Islamic did to give me the, like, the confidence to feel I can, like, have a say.

MUSTAPHA: If you can be the leaders of tomorrow you have to start showing leadership examples now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are kids from military background and then civilians, some of them are from the Boko Haram background. All of us have a different idea from what our parents have.

MUSTAPHA: What is it?


MUSTAPHA: It is unique. It brings a harmonious working relationship between all status of the society. By the time I have come to school and see the faces of these children and how these children are dreaming, it gives me the hope that still there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's mother culture view that a girl child is not supposed to be at school. I always disagree and say, there's a missing link in that. I want to be the first aeronautic engineer in my won town, my state and in my own country.

MUSTAPHA: Well, that's a very good idea. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I sometimes feel as if I have the rights to even speak with the president of Nigeria and tell him that I have a problem and he has to solve it.

MUSTAPHA: We are in a community where every segment of the society is being ravaged. What keeps me going is the resilience of these children. It keeps my dream alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero Zannah Mustapha.


MUSTAPHA: It is with the pride and abiding sense of humility that I wish to accept this award. To my nine wonderful co-honorees, I adore your courage, your work moves this world closer towards peace. This act of love and kindness, heal the whole humanity. Finally, I thank the students and staff of the future progress. May God bless and crown your effort. Thank you.

RIPA: Next, Ming-Na Wen, submit a hero saving women's lives. And later we'll reveal your choice for CNN Hero of the Year.



RIPA: We're back with CNN Heroes. One of the things so many people look forward to every year on this show is our young wonders like the two you met here tonight.

COOPER: So back in 2007, we honored a young wonder whose name was Ryan Hreljac, and his name still is Ryan Hreljac. Take a look.

RYAN HRELJAC: Hi, I'm Ryan Hreljac and I want to provide clean water for everyone in the world.

COOPER: When he was in first grade, Ryan Hreljac learned that far too many people around the world lack access to safe drinking water that many we're getting sick and die. He decided to raise money to build a well in Uganda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ryan's well, funded by Ryan H.

COOPER: Has started Ryan's Well Foundation. Ten years he helped build 260 wells in 12 countries reaching more than 435,000 people. Today the work goes on in Ryan's name with more than 1500 clean water and sanitation projects completed providing clean water access to more than 1.1 million people. Ryan reminds us that one person can truly make a difference. That age is no barrier to changing the world.


So, Ryan is here. He's now 30 years old and Executive Director of the Thriving Ryan's Well Foundation. Ryan, thanks so much.

RIPA: You really are an inspiration. Oh, my goodness.

All --

COOPER: I feel old.

RIPA: I mean -- Oh, so you are such an inspiration to so many of us here. And so, as our next hero, more than 350,000 women around the world die every year from cervical cancer, which is nearly 100% preventable with screening and early treatment.

COOPER: So, joining us to share how our next hero works to prevent women from unnecessarily dying from this disease is a champion for HollyRod Foundation, ASPCA and Make-A-Wish Foundation and one of the stars of the new Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, Ming-Na Wen.


MING-NA WEN: About 10 years ago, a team of doctors and nurses took a bus to a village outside of Dakar, Senegal. Dr. Patricia Gordon had spent 27 years as a radiation oncologist in Beverly Hills, California, and she was on this humanitarian trip to install a new machine. She had researched that there was an epidemic of cervical cancer in the region and brought along a simple kit to screen women just in case there were delays with the machine. There were.

And as fate would have it, eight women needed immediate care. But the equipment she needed to freeze away those pre cancer cells was nowhere to be found. Undeterred, Dr. Gordon guide (ph) the hell out of that moment. She searched for hours to find a cryo tank, a cryo gun and a local hardware store for a critical part. And then she saved those eight women.


Soon after, she started cure cervical cancer. Dr. Gordon trains local healthcare workers to screen and treat in their communities and provides the necessary equipment all contained in a suitcase. Her clinics are now in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Haiti. They have saved 1000s of lives. All because she felt that impulse to do more and acted on it with nothing short of her full heart and soul.

PATRICIA GORDON: My family is riddled with cancer. My mother, my mother's mother, my mother's sister, my cousin.

Can you locate the Cyto white lesions on the cervix? I was really drawn to oncology. So now you're ready to do it?


GORDON: I really wanted to be that person that could help others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Free cervical cancer screening. Screen and treat for free of charge. GORDON: I was shocked when I learned that women are dying an undignified, painful, bloody death all over the world. They call it the bleeding death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost an auntie who died of cervical cancer. Welcome, welcome.

I was found to be having pre-cancer cells. I was like, I don't want to die now. I don't want to leave my child. Dr. Gordon, she has helped me.

GORDON: In the day, we can literally save 20, 30 lives depending on the number of women we screen.

So, this is everything you need to screen and treat a patient.

We bring in these big suitcases. We teach local health care professionals the see and treat technique. And sure enough, there's the cervix. And now what we're going to do is spray the vinegar on the cervix.

At the end of the week of training, we pack up that suitcase and give it to the nurses that are going back to their clinics.

Most of the women that we treat live about an hour and a half to two- hour walk from the clinic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend died. For my kids, I just decided to come. And maybe have a test.

GORDON: I'm starting to see some dense, white, opaque, shocking lesions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I made the right decision because I was found positive.

GORDON: There are 8000 women who are alive and well and able to provide for their families is honestly the most rewarding thing that I could have ever imagined in my life.

So, she's been screened and she's negative. And she has a clean bill of health.

When I'm on program, I am right where my fear and I feel so rounded. It's an out of body experience. And I'm just doing the job that I'm supposed to do. I think I'm the luckiest doctor that ever lived.

WEN: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Dr. Patricia Gordon.


GORDON: Thank you, CNN for this honor. And thank you to those who have heard our story and want to help save the lives of women around the world. No woman should die from a painful and dignified death, that's nearly 100% preventable. Yet cervical cancer claimed the lives of hundreds of 1000s of women every year. That's a lot of mothers and sisters, most live in overlooked regions of the world. And this award is for them, the forgotten women.

We have so much work to do. So, join us. Let the women who have suffered and the women we will save know that we are there for them. Thank you.


RIPA: Now, please don't go away because we have more to come.


COOPER: Coming up next, powerful performance by music sensation Aloe Blacc celebrating our heroes.

RIPA: And the moment you've all been waiting for, we will announce our 2021 CNN Hero of the Year. So, stick around, you don't want to miss it.


RIPA: Amy Wright.

COOPER: Amy wright.

AMY WRIGHT: To this year's CNN Hero of the Year, get ready to buckle your seatbelt it is going to be a wild ride. It's fun. It's exhilarating. The best is yet to come. You think tonight is special, just wait until you see what rolls out in front of you.

RIPA: Hey, welcome back to the 15th Annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribune.

COOPER: So, we are moments away from announcing your choice for 2021 CNN Hero of the Year. But first our final guest he's here with his newly released song that truly honors the spirit and work of our heroes.

RIPA: Please join us in welcoming a champion for the campaigned and qualified immunity which works to reform our criminal justice system performing believe, Aloe Blacc.





COOPER: We want to bring back our top 10 Heroes back on stage, it's time for us to reveal our 2021 CNN Hero of the Year.

RIPA: Since we announced the top 10 Heroes, we gave you the opportunity to vote for the hero who inspires you. The hero who received the most votes will be awarded an additional $100,000 to continue their life changing work. (APPLAUSE)

COOPER: And before we announce the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year, let's give a round of applause to all our heroes who are on the stage.


COOPER: All right. Are you ready?

RIPA: Are you ready?

COOPER: All right. So now the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year is Shirley Raines.


COOPER: God bless you.

SHIRLEY RAINES: Thank you. Thank you so much. First and foremost, I want to thank the amazing nine honorees I have been with. This journey has not been easy. I stand before you today, a very broken woman. My life would never be the same since my son died. But it's important that you know that broken people are still very much useful. We are very much useful.


I want to thank my team once again. I want to thank Perry Mix Design for the fit. Because it's sparkling baby, a sparkling.

I want to thank my twin sister Sheila for her support. And my five amazing living children. Danielle, Rashad, Delvian, Mikisha and Micah (ph), you saved my life. And to my angel, baby boy, I would rather have him back then anything in the world, but I am a mother with a son. And there are a lot of people in the street that are without a mother. And I feel like it's a fair exchange. I'm here for them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


RIPA: Wow. What a night.

COOPER: You can support all our honorees right now by going to to donate, each donation will be matched dollar for dollar and if you know someone is amazing as tonight's honoree you can nominate them to be a CNN Hero in 2022.

RIPA: We hope that some of these stories have inspired you to get involved and you do your part because you too can be somebody's hero.

COOPER: Thanks so much for watching, good night.

RIPA: Thank you. Good night.

COOPER: Thank you.