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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Special Presentation: "Champions for Change". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 24, 2022 - 20:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: But Fletcher will most be remembered as the authoritarian, controlling nurse opposite Jack Nicholson in the comedy drama film about a mental institute.

The movie won all five major Academy Awards and is considered one of the greatest films ever made.

Well, thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Pamela Brown. And I'll see you again tomorrow night starting at 5:00 Eastern.

"CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN special presentation.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There are lots of tough issues in the headlines these days. But there are also plenty of stories of hope and inspiration, people crushing barriers, innovating and lifting humanity up.

Twelve of us CNN journalists sought out some of these change makers who are tackling problems that are close to our own hearts. And tonight, you will hear their stories.



GUPTA: Welcome to "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE." I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

This hour, we are going to spotlight people who are changing the way things are done. They're not celebrities. They're not politicians. But they are re-shaping the world with creativity, passion and heart.

Later in the show, you're going to meet my champion for change.

But first, CNN anchor and former track star, Ana Cabrera, catches up with a coach and mentor for some determined girls who are lacing up their running shoes and chasing down dreams.



MAYA GOMES, RUNNER, JEUNESS TRACK CLUB: I wouldn't be the person I am today without her.

BELL: Excellent, baby girl.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Jean Bell wears a lot of hats. She's a coach, a judge, a friend. To me, she's a dream maker.

BELL: I've been coaching my own team, Jeuness, for 37 years.

CABRERA: What does Jeuness mean?

BELL: It's a French word for young ladies.

I wanted to coach girls as they became young women. I can let them know that education is the key to their success.

CABRERA: What Coach Jean does on the track is all volunteer work. Her day job is an administrative judge hearing worker's comp cases every day.

BELL: I leave and drive to have breakfast.

These are the goals for today's practice.

Most of the girls come from Brooklyn and those areas that are under served. They face teen pregnancy, drug use. You don't have to go looking for the trouble. It's out there waiting for you.

CABRERA: This is where you grew up?

BELL: Yes. Right here at Brevoort Houses in Brooklyn. I had two brothers and two sisters and we were cramped in a small apartment the seven of us.

CABRERA: What do you remember about living here?

BELL: I remember it was a dangerous place. There was a lot of crime, a lot of gangs and a lot of drugs. I wanted to escape the poverty and wanted something better for myself.

CABRERA: It was your own experience that has inspired you to want more for others?

BELL: We knew that education was our way out.

Up and down with your arms. That's good.

CABRERA: I am one of five kids in my family and we grew up without a lot of money. My dad is a runner and I enjoyed running.

I remember that determination my dad saw as a runner himself and he really helped nurture that. I was able to get a college scholarship, which took me to Washington State University.

BELL: The main focus of my team is to assist the girls in getting athletic scholarships to go to college, to build successful lives.

CABRERA: How many of you, show of hands, plan to go to college?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My goal is to get a full scholarship to college from running track.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My goal is to get a scholarship and start my own business.

CABRERA: Who here thinks Jean is tough?

Keep your hand up if you think you're better, because Jean is tough.

GOMES: She shows you tough love, but at the end, you know it's all coming from a good place because she knows what we're capable of.

CABRERA: Maya joined Jeuness when she was 7 years old and she's now 16. She has big dreams. She wants to become a pediatric surgeon.

GOMES: When I first started running on the team, my self-confidence was definitely low.

You don't always win everything. It has to motivate you more to strive to do your best going forward. She definitely has high expectations for all of us.

CABRERA: Why track and field?

BELL: You're out there on that track, in that lane, facing only the starter's gun --


BELL: -- and yourself. Running makes you tough, strong in mind, strong in spirit, going after what you want.


Don't be afraid to run out there.

AJA POWELL, ALUMNA, JEUNESS TRACK CLUB: The work ethic that I got from running, it follows me throughout my life and career.

CABRERA: You were a long-distance runner.

POWELL: I got a scholarship to St. John's University. I'm a comptroller at a nonprofit organization. I would love to be V.P. finance one day.

And when it's hard for me, I can hear her, she used to scream across the track, come on, come on, and I can hear her in my head.

CABRERA: If you were able to talk to Jean, what would you tell her?

POWELL: I would say that I love you and thank you for everything. I would say I don't think I could live like this life without you. That's what I would say.

BELL: I don't see myself as a champion, but I like to think that I make champions.



GUPTA: While Ana went the distance with those runners, CNN's Poppy Harlow crossed the finish line earning her masters of studies in law from Yale.

One of her unassuming teachers there turn out to be a courtroom fire brand for some of the most desperate people in the justice system.


TONY AMADEO, FORMER DEATH ROW INMATE: When you're on death row, that's when the clock really starts ticking. He just said, I'm going to do my best. And, yes, he saved my life.

SHANNA SHACKELFORD, FORMER ARSON DEFENDANT: I was like, I'm not going to make it through this. I can't do 25 years in prison.

STEPHEN BRIGHT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: The people that we've represent have been the most desperate, the most despised, unfortunately, and the poorest and powerless people in the -- in the country.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Stephen Bright is a lawyer, but for his clients he is their last hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katharine Julia Harlow.

HARLOW: I met him the day that I walked into his class at Yale Law School.

BRIGHT: Thanks to them and thanks to their work, both in Atlanta and here, there's one less person facing execution in Georgia today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listening to him talk is like listening to justice.

BRIGHT: If we don't do better, we're going to have to sand blast equal justice under law off the Supreme Court building.

HARLOW: What does the Southern Center for Human Rights stand for?

BRIGHT: Representing people facing the death penalty and represent people in prisons and jails with regard to unconstitutional conditions and practices.

I wanted to go where the problems were and where I could be helpful.

HARLOW (voice-over): He has argued four capital punishment cases before the Supreme Court and he won them all. (on camera): You've often said, people are always much more than the

worse thing that they've ever done.

BRIGHT: Well, of course. Tony Amadeo is a perfect example.

AMADEO: I get up in the morning, make me a cup of coffee. I think about my blessings, what brought me here.

HARLOW (voice-over): Tony Amadeo served 38 years in prison for his involvement in two murders.

AMADEO: I'm responsible for their grief, my family's grief. I'm deeply, deeply sorry.

HARLOW (on camera): How close was Tony Amadeo to being put to death?

BRIGHT: Well, he came pretty close. But we basically threw sort of a Hail Mary pass by asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

HARLOW: He won in a unanimous decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence discloses an intentional program of rigging the jury by the prosecutors' office.

HARLOW: Why do you represent people that you know have committed murder?

BRIGHT: Everyone has to be represented if the legal system's going to work.

AMADEO: If you talk about a "Champion for Change," you're talking about somebody that makes an individual commitment for the betterment of other people. I'm getting emotional.

BRYAN STEVENSON, FOUNDER, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: I certainly wouldn't have been the kind of lawyer I became without his model.

HARLOW: Civil rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson, started working with Bright right out of law school. He would go on to found the Equal Justice Initiative.

STEVENSON: In a lot of ways, it does become like ministry. I think you can't actually appreciate the burdens of the condemned, of the poor, of the marginalized if you haven't tried to carry some of those burdens.

HARLOW: You have to let your heart be broken.

STEVENSON: Yes, that's right. Steve made it safe to love the people you represent.

HARLOW (voice-over): Someone like Shanna Shackelford.

HARLOW (on camera): What happened in 2009?

SHACKELFORD: My house burned down. I ended up getting blamed. We lose everything, end up homeless. And I was charged with first-degree arson. They offered me 25 years at first.

HARLOW: Twenty-five years in prison?

SHACKELFORD: Yes. And then --

HARLOW: For a fire you didn't set?


HARLOW: And then you wrote a letter to someone.

BRIGHT: I received a letter just two weeks ago.

SHACKELFORD: Oh, my God, I have not seen this letter in forever.

I've lost my job. I've lost my home. I've lost my dogs. Now I sleep in my car.

BRIGHT: I'm tired and I'm beaten and I don't understand how to fight this. It's been days now since I've eaten.

HARLOW: So Bright took on her case for free.

What happened to the charges?

SHACKELFORD: They were dropped.

HARLOW: Dropped, because he had done a few weeks of investigation.

SHACKELFORD: And it was determined that it was actually an electrical fire.


HARLOW: How long has it been since you saw him?

SHACKELFORD: About a decade now.

HARLOW: What would you say to him if you got to see him?

SHACKELFORD: Thank you for saving my life.

HARLOW: We thought it would be nice if you could tell him yourself.


STEVENSON: Because of his teaching and influence, he is doing more than most people to make sure that that legacy is carried on by new generations of lawyers and advocates.

But nothing's ever quite as good as the original.


GUPTA: The O.G. Now from an idealistic lawyer to a lawman on a mission. Up next, we will ride along with a beloved police chief who set a new tone for law enforcement.


GUPTA: Welcome back to "Champions for Change."

With all of the scrutiny law enforcement now faces, you might be surprised to hear that one of the most admired people in Westport, Connecticut, is the police chief.

CNN's Alisyn Camerota rode along with this innovative top cop and found out why he's so revered.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: All right, so we're going to get in the car and you're going to take me for a drive.


I moved to the U.S. from Greece at the age of 11, not knowing a word of English. I started as a police officer in 1996.

CAMEROTA: What I found is that Chief Foti has managed to successfully straddle the line between being pro cop and pro community.

HAROLD BAILEY, COMMUNITY LEADER: Foti started looking into these issues years before George Floyd.

And we saw out of him a commitment to look at what was going on in the police force and establish a set of standards.


KOSKINAS: The day of the George Floyd incident we were not backpedaling and backtracking or making excuses or even fighting the changes. We had already made the changes.

So chokeholds, duty to intervene, they're all common sense. Every police department who be doing this.

DAN WOOG, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: I think he takes so seriously the idea that he's the police chief of everyone, whether it's the LGBTQ rally, Black Lives Matter. Foti was in the middle of it showing that he was there.

KOSKINAS: I stand here with you, I marched with you.

I specifically said to the group that I will kneel with you, but I will kneel with you for a moment of silence. I will kneel with you for a moment of prayer. And I will kneel with you against police brutality.

I will absolutely not kneel with you against police. And I will not kneel with you against the flag.

I have challenged the status quo at times. I've gotten in trouble for challenging the status quo. If I didn't, I wouldn't be where I am today.


GUPTA: Always challenge the status quo.

Now on to another community, this one scattered by the war in Ukraine.

Erin Burnett met three siblings who built great lives for themselves in the United States. Today, they're providing crucial help for fellow Ukrainians who are fleeing for their lives.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST (voice-over): Mariupol, Ukraine, last Christmas.


BURNETT: Mariupol, Ukraine, now.


BURNETT: Since the start of the war, more than seven million people have been forced to flee Ukraine.

Alex Velychko and his siblings, Nick and Angela, came to the United States from Ukraine over the past two decades. And they started a small and now thriving business operating car dealerships.


BURNETT: When Putin invaded Ukraine --


BURNETT: -- their lives changed, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start calling our relatives, friends, asking how they are there and people were panicking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. The condition was really bad.

BURNETT: So, Alex, tell me about the first family that you helped to save.

ALEX VELYCHKO, REFUGEE SUPPORTER (through translation): He's my childhood friend. We met when we were about five or six years old.

BURNETT: I met the Urazovs in a park in Brooklyn, New York. Their daughter was about to celebrate her seventh birthday. It was just months after they left Ukraine. And at times, it is still so hard for them to even tell their story. (EXPLOSIONS)

OLEKSANDR URAZOV, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translation): An explosion wave took out our front door and looters came in and took whatever they liked.

The shell fragments remain in my back and there is a hole in my head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We decided that we have to help them, get them out from there somehow.

BURNETT: The Litskos (ph) had 19 days to get from Mariupol to the Ukraine border. They have three young children. They have an 8-month- old baby.

In the early days of the war, when I left Ukraine, along with hundreds of thousands of refugees, it took 19 hours and it was a grueling experience.

And in the context, you think, wow, the suffering of what they endured and what they went through, the trauma, is really unimaginable.

The Litskos (ph) reached out to their local Jewish organization. It's the Edith and Karl Marx Jewish Community House.

And they worked with them and the United Jewish Appeal (ph) to help the Urazovs and so many other families who have been desperately fleeing Ukraine and trying to come to the United States to start a new life.


BURNETT: They first lived in Alex's one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.


One bedroom, one bathroom. And in that space, he and his wife have hosted as many as 12 refugees at once.

VELYCHKO (through translation): Of course, we have our challenges. But at the end of it all, I understand that they don't have anything else. They have nowhere to go.


O. URAZOV (through translation): They are doing a noble thing. They help people get out of the country where the war is underway.

BURNETT: Oleksandr uses the word noble, and that's what Alex, Angela and Nick are, sacrificing their time and their hard-earned success just to help others have a chance to build new dreams.


[20:19:16] GUPTA: From fleeing violence abroad to preventing it right here in the United States. A pastor's bold plan to disrupt gun violence. That's next.


GUPTA: Wolf Blitzer grew up in Buffalo, New York, and he's always supported his home team.

Dion Dawkins is a star lineman for the Buffalo Bills. He wasn't born there, but he embraced the community, starting a youth mentorship program called Dion's Dreamers.

This past May, a gunman killed shoppers at a local Top's supermarket. What Dawkins did next for that wounded Buffalo neighborhood made him Wolf's champion for change.


DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS TACKLE: My focus just changed in that direction from being the bigger brother to actually feeding people and giving them the supplies that they would go to Tops to get.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D-BUFFALO, NY): Dion held a number of special events after the massacre to raise money for some of the funds that have been set up for the families.

DAWKINS: Food drive let's do it. If it's a block party, let's do it. If it's a concert, backpack, school day, whatever it might be to help that community at that moment, let's get it done.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): My parents were outsiders who came here, could barely speak English, had very little money. The city of good neighbors, Buffalo, New York, welcomed them, gave them opportunities.

It makes me proud to know that people like Dion are doing what they're doing.

DAWKINS: The secret is literally the people here. The people make Buffalo everything.


GUPTA: People are always the most important. Mass shootings like the one in Buffalo's Tops supermarket often steal the headlines, but far more deaths occur as part of a result of vicious cycles of murders and revenge.

Jim Sciutto's champion is disrupting that pattern with help from folks who have been there.


PASTOR MIKE MCBRIDE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LIVE FREE: The people are the most important part of any city. People in the land have a story around violence that is systemic. And

the trauma related to that story is often not told and even sometimes trivialized.

I am committed to ensuring that we can live in communities that are free from gun violence.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Gun violence is almost a daily story.

I am here in El Paso.

I remember covering the El Paso shooting in 2019 and then quickly moving from El Paso to Dayton.

Together, 31 people were killed in these two American communities.


It's impossible not to feel how pervasive it is. The fact of gun violence in this country is that most gun deaths don't take place in mass shootings.

MCBRIDE: By and large, gun violence in this country is overrepresented with suicides.

About 30-something percent of gun deaths in this country are a result of interpersonal conflicts that are associated with groups or "cliques," quote, unquote, in communities.

This has to be seen as a public health issue. It has to be seen as an extension of social/political conditions.

SCIUTTO: It is truly a vicious, deadly cycle. If someone gets killed in a shooting or wounded, and there's an act of revenge. And that's what Pastor Mike and his group, and others working with him are trying to stop.

Tell me why this place is so important to you.

MCBRIDE: One of my young people, his name was Larry, he got killed right here. I told him, if you can just graduate, bro, like, everything in your life will be better.

SCIUTTO: And he did it.

MCBRIDE: And he did everything I told him to do, and we still ended up having to bury him.

I did a funeral for Larry. And I asked the young people, how many of you have been to more than one funeral? There was 500 young people in there. All of them lifted their hand. And I just felt like, I'm not doing enough.

Live Free is a part of a broad ecosystem and we connect directly with the outreach workers or the families who have been shot or at highest risk of being engaged in shootings.

SCIUTTO: You've just been shot, or someone you love or someone you're close to has just been shot, it's emotional, it's fearful. How do you convince people not to shoot back?

MCBRIDE: Find that person at their point of despair and help them pause. What you decide today could actually create another cycle where we'll be at the hospital tomorrow or the next night.

The key is to have individuals who can have multiple conversations, credible messengers, people who have relationships in the streets. And those individuals do lots of groundwork to ease the tensions.

SCIUTTO: What was your first experience of gun violence yourself?

LONDELL "TACO" PORTER, COMMUNITY LIFE COACH: Standing right here, drive-by, two inches -- I've still got the scar right here, bro. It's like two inches away from death as a kid.

SCIUTTO: How old were you?


We've given false promises in this environment for a long time. I'm going to tell the kids the truth. This is how you're all going to come up if you're going to live this way or you can just follow my path.

It ain't always good. It ain't squeaky clean. But just follow my lead. I'm telling you it's going to work for you.

With Live Free backing us and supporting us in other ways, it's like, they see it now. At first it was like, oh, you want peace, you want -- you want to be the good guy. No, I want to live.

SCIUTTO: Can you describe an example where your approach worked? You got there in time and you prevented the next shooting?

MCBRIDE: It's hard to count shootings that don't happen. But over time, we can say that at the height of our five-year reduction, we were under 65 homicides when our height was around 120-something homicides.

There is no hero or silver bullet. We have to have community members. We have to have public health. We have to have mental health, behavioral health, employment and opportunities in order to actually impact and affect. And that is our ultimate goal.


GUPTA: A pastor literally saving lives.

My champion for change is a lifesaver, too. She's a stem cell researcher developing a potential game changer for thousands of people who need heart transplants. You'll get to meet her, next.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. Now it's time for my champion for change. She's a fierce scientist doing what everyone said was impossible. Right this minute, thousands of people are in need of a heart transplant with an agonizing wait for a donor and a lifetime of anti-rejection meds. But my champion may have found a way around that, custom building new hearts with the patient's own stem cells.


DORIS TAYLOR, STEM CELL BIOLOGIST: So much of what we believe about life is about heart. It's about love. It's about fundamental form, it's about connection. It's alive.

GUPTA: This idea that you could start to construct that.

TAYLOR: Right.

GUPTA: You know, in some ways, the biological sort of challenge of that. It's extraordinary.

Doris Taylor is an innovator. She's trying to do something that everyone said was impossible, grow new human hearts, individualized, personalized, waiting for people, thousands of people who need heart transplants and simply can't get them.

TAYLOR: So we use a pig heart. We basically used the equivalent of baby shampoo, put it through all the blood vessels in the heart. And what was left was a scaffold that looked like a heart what we call our ghost heart.

GUPTA: This is the ghost heart. This is this is where it begins.

TAYLOR: Ghost heart. This is where it begins.

GUPTA: If I were somebody who you are doing this for building this heart, would it be my heart, ultimately?

TAYLOR: I will build you a personalized heart, if you need a heart. I would take cells from your blood or your skin. I would make them into stem cells. I would then grow the billions of cells we need. I put your cells on that pig scaffold. We cover every surface of that scaffold with your cells. And then we teach it how to grow up and become a heart that match with your body.

GUPTA: This whole idea of teaching cells, it's hard to get your head around.

TAYLOR: When you go out and dock, it's teaching the cells in your leg to get stronger, that's basically what I'm doing too. I'm just using an artificial stimulator and an artificial blood pressure.

GUPTA: Do you remember the first time you saw it actually work.

TAYLOR: Yes. Yes. You know, it's one of those yes moments in life. You can invent this though.

GUPTA: Right.


TAYLOR: Although we kind of did.

I'm going to tell you about a 20-year journey that many people told me couldn't be done.

MICAELA POWELL, HEART TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I always just check the news on my phone. And I was like, oh, my goodness ghost heart like, what could that be?

GUPTA: 26-year-old, Makayla Powell, had her heart transplant herself. Now it saved her life. But it's not the personalized heart Doris is describing. Makayla is on a daily regimen of anti-rejection drugs, worried that her body might one day reject her donated organs.

POWELL: I was just insanely inspired by that video. It touched me so much that I just I had to message her. Thank you for giving me hope.

TAYLOR: She said, to think that I could one day have a normal life. Oh, my gosh.

GUPTA: Oftentimes, we don't hear the story behind the story. To really understand the people who make these developments happen.

TAYLOR: Can I say one other thing?


GUPTA: That story that's not often told.

TAYLOR: There's an LGBTQ girl who grew up in Mississippi who got kicked out of college actually for being gay.


TAYLOR: I would have never thought I'd be standing on this stage doing something like this.

GUPTA: Can you imagine that? She was told, not only can you not pursue your scientific dreams, it might even could give you a degree. A solution to one of the biggest problems in the world almost didn't happen because of who she is.

TAYLOR: For all the people who still say no, they, you know, we'll do it first and picks. Then we'll go to people. Every day we don't get there, somebody else does. It's going to work.

GUPTA: I got to touch a heart today that was created by Doris. If there is such a place where science and spirituality really intersect, I think it's probably at a place like this.

TAYLOR: Someone else said to me, you're not building organ, you're building hope.


GUPTA: From one kind of heart to another, with a retired Marine who helps fellow wounded vets. Adam Kisielewski lost an arm and a leg fighting in Iraq. A group called Homes For Our Troops provided him with a specially adapted house, mortgage free. Now, he's a Homes For Our Troops board member, a full-time supporter of veterans, and also Jake Tapper's Champion for Change.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Adam was grievously wounded while serving for this nation. Nobody would begrudge him leading whatever kind of life you led after these wounds, but he's an inspiration.

I know you're in the Veterans advisory group for Homes For Our Troops.

ADAM KISIELEWSKI, RETIRED MARINE: I actually helped stand that program up. So Homes For Our Troops has a tagline of building homes and rebuilding lives, but always argues that the rebuilding lives element is the more important part of what they do.

It's a real honor to be here. Excited to welcome you as part of our family, Homes For Our Troops.


TAPPER: I think he's more active than most people I know. He is more charitable than most people I know.

KISIELEWSKI: My life's goal now is just to try to provide some of these opportunities for other veterans and help them out wherever I can, frankly, I get more out of it than I ever put into it.


GUPTA: I think most people really do.

Still ahead on champions for change. A mother and father grapple with tragedy, and then use it as a warning to help save lives.



GUPTA: You probably know Kate Bolduan as a CNN anchor, but she's also, more importantly, a mom. Her champions for change are parents fighting a dangerous trend. Young people getting prescription drugs online without doctor's orders. Too often, those pills are not just counterfeit, they are poisonous.


ED TERNAN, CO-FOUNDER, SONG FOR CHARLIE: Charlie, can you look at me and say Merry Christmas daddy? CHARLIE TERNAN, SON OF ED AND MARY TERNAN: Merry Christmas, Daddy.

E. TERNAN: You know, for me being a father was the most important thing in my life, was to be a good dad.

Hi. We have a snow.

MARY TERNAN, CO-FOUNDER, SONG FOR CHARLIE: I always remember when I was a little girl that I was -- couldn't wait to have kids and we're very blessed to have these children.

Happy Halloween 2000.

Charlie was a very easy baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to be for Halloween, Charlie?

C. TERNAN: Batman.


M. TERNAN: He was happy. He had a great laugh.

E. TERNAN: Charlie's about to graduate and he was in love. And it was like we were almost ready to high-five and say, well done. We did it. We raised great young people and sent them off into the world.

And three weeks before he's supposed to graduate, it just exploded.

M. TERNAN: We'll go to his room.

Even though he's gone, we talk about him.


M. TERNAN: We still have his close in here, that I smell.

BOLDUAN: What happened?

M. TERNAN: In 2018, Charlie was 20 when he hurt his back.

E. TERNAN: He was prescribed Percocet at the time of his surgery. Yes, took it well -- leave the prescription last year then stopped.

BOLDUAN: Then in 2020, he heads back to school.

M. TERNAN: He called us and told us his back was hurting. We said, call your doctor.

E. TERNAN: Well, somebody knows somebody on Snapchat that he's got some pills from before. So they look at the menu. And Charlie says, oh, look, he's got Percs too. What we've put together is that he took what he thought was a Percocet but turned out to be a counterfeit.


BOLDUAN: Is it the belief that he died within 30 minutes of taking that pill?

M. TERNAN: Probably less than that.

E. TERNAN: The doctors concluded from that, he did not have a tolerance to opioids at the time of his death, so he wasn't addicted or dependent.

M. TERNAN: It was a poisoning.

E. TERNAN: It was a poisoning because of the deception. A counterfeit prescription pill were the only active ingredient is fentanyl. There's certain dangers that we have in the back of our minds that we want to protect our kids from, but a counterfeit prescription pill wasn't on that list.

BOLDUAN: I have two young kids and I, like every parent, worry about keeping them safe every day. But fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine. The size of just a few grains of salt can be enough to kill an average adult man. So a lethal dose of fentanyl could be in any counterfeit pill.

And that's why Ed and Mary Ternan decided to tackle this problem in a new way after they lost their son. They established Song for Charlie with the sole purpose of warning young people and their parents that one pill can kill.

If it's not from a doctor or a pharmacist, it's not legit.

E. TERNAN: We started our first campaign about a year ago, social media campaign. And in just a year, we have reached 52 million unique viewers. And that's really where we're laser focused is to reach them where they are and to warn them.

Hi, guys.

We have made dozens of presentations to school assemblies and in school classrooms. And in community groups. We have a monthly awareness meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick and I lost our son, Logan, last year.

E. TERNAN: We are at Times Square.

I can tell you, there's a lot more awareness now.

Where we co-sponsored a billboard.

Two years after Charlie's death, then there was when we started.

BOLDUAN: What are some of your favorite memories with Charlie here?

E. TERNAN: He even try to figure out how to body surf.

BOLDUAN: The fact that your story, Charlie's story, through you, is now saving lives. What do you think Charlie would think about all of this, about these beautiful agents of change that you've become? M. TERNAN: I think he'd be very proud. And he'd be hugging us. And he is hugging us. He knows that we're doing a good work on his behalf.


GUPTA: They really are. Now, making something positive from tragedy is something Anderson Cooper's Champion for Change does all the time. We first introduce you to Jimmy Hatch five years ago. The ex-Navy SEAL survived career-ending wounds and Afghanistan and then founded a nonprofit to protect police dogs.

Today, Hatch is one of Yale University's oldest undergrads. He's helping shape future American foreign policy nowadays and he continues to be a Champion for Change.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Last year, during the United States' chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, I asked Jimmy to come on CNN, someone who fought and lost so much there.

JIMMY HATCH, FORMER UNITED STATES NAVY SEAL: I just think we did a lot of wrong things in Afghanistan. And I think the solution is to figure out how not to do it again.

COOPER: It turns out Yale University, like Jimmy's idea, in a matter of weeks, they designed a year-long class to investigate what went wrong in Afghanistan, and produce a report of their findings. They invited Jimmy, the undergraduate, to not only take the graduate level class, but to be an unofficial co-professor with retired U.S. ambassador, Anne Patterson.

ANNE PATTERSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: Jimmy was basically the founder or the brainchild behind the course.

COOPER: The class spent months speaking to a number of generals, ambassadors, members of the Afghan Special Forces, and even a spokesman for the Taliban. Jimmy Hatch hopes the report will inspire Americans of all walks of life to hold the country's leaders accountable in America's future conflicts.


GUPTA: Up next on Champions for Change. Musicians tap the healing power of music to set a tone of racial understanding.



GUPTA: CNNs Don Lemon is really passionate about art. His Champion for Change is an artist, named Rashid Johnson, who uses pen, sculpture, and paint to express what many African-Americans are feeling. And he's lifting other artists of color up along the way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Rashid Johnson's art is in major museums all over the world. It's always engaging. It always pulls you in, beautiful, stirring, infuriating. Rashid and I have become friends over the last couple of years. And this journey that we have gone on as a country over politics and the state of the world, we sort of ridden that together.

RASHID JOHNSON, AMERICAN ARTIST: I think what your job is, right, is to tell us what's happening. My job is to listen and translate over the next few years.

The big part of what my work speaks about is anxiety and fear and the stresses of occupying space in the world that we currently live in. I started making these kind of broken men.

LEMON: It's very personal for me. Some of the mirrors, you can fully see yourself. Others are cracked and broken. Others have scarred when I look at it, it makes me think about all the slings and arrows that come at me. And it makes me very proud that I've survived those so many people, especially people of color, were locked out of the arena for so long. Rashid is doing what our ancestors told us to do as descendants of slaves, each one teach one.

JOHNSON: One of the things that I'm interested in outside of kind of helping younger artists which is something that I tried to put a real emphasis on is how institutions function who are the gatekeepers and who let's who in, what artworks are invited into the conversation?


NAOMI BECKWITH, CHIEF CURATOR, GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM: Right here at the Guggenheim, he has worked to diversify the board and make sure that we are creating a much broader story around American art history, including BIPOC artists, including trans artists, including much more women. He created a paid internship program, supporting it financially, and making sure that everyone, across any sort of class and education spectrum, has the ability to take on an entry level job at this institution.

LEMON: Why is it so important for you to lift people up?

JOHNSON: It's the right way to be. Generosity is something that I think lives in most artists. And I think it's the natural way of kind of giving back after you've been rewarded for your vision.


GUPTA: From the visual arts, now to the performing arts. CNN's Victor Blackwell meets two songwriters who are striking a chord in racial dialogue.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Music is so powerful. If you ever want to understand people, a place, a time, listen to their music.

TODD MACK, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, MUSIC IN COMMON: Music is a universal language is just a fantastic force to bring people together.

BLACKWELL: Todd has been doing this for more than a decade now. His organization music in common is evolved into creating these conversations through music.


Going city to city to bring different races and different religions together.


MACK: I started in response to the murder of my friend, Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter and he and I were band mates and good friends. That was just sort of a call to action for me to harness that power of music to combat the heat that drove his murder.

BLACKWELL: How did you meet Trey?

MACK: Trey was one of our program participants about six years ago,.

TREY CARLISLE, PROGRAM COORDINATOR, MUSIC IN COMMON: They will be great for a roundtable discussion.

MACK: It's been fantastic to see him rise of the organization. Trey, in my opinion, is the poster child for Gen-Z. He is simultaneously young at heart and wise beyond his years. And I learned from this guy every day.

BLACKWELL: For someone so young to live along sweet Auburn in Atlanta and to absorb and appreciate the history around him to try to ease some of the suffering across this country. It's admirable.

So to be able to share the home of King, the home of Congressman John Lewis, it really gives us inspiration and direction for us to build a world where we embody more equity and belonging.


BLACKWELL: They, in 2020 saw the problem that the entire world saw and said, what can we do with our talents, with our love, with our passion of music and this problem that we need to face?

CARLISLE: So we thought, how can we bring what Music in Common does to engage in this context? There are songs that have been written by black and white folks alike throughout the 400-year history of race relations in the U.S.


CARLISLE: Yes, they still ring true today. And that became the grounds for the Black Legacy Project. We will travel to communities, read word about the roundtables, engage in this healing dialogue, they can recognize your shared humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The willingness for people to share. CARLISLE: Using these historic songs as the talking point to do so.

And then from that, those conversations have local black and white artists create present day interpretations of those songs.


CARLISLE: And then co-writing original about how we can move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about more, we're just not doing the walk down.

CARLISLE: And then the project culminates with a showcase of the songs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Black Legacy Project.

CARLISLE: And that is something that we promote to the entire local community so people of all backgrounds can come and see.


BLACKWELL: This is a really innovative way to approach topics difficult to talk about and through those conversations bring about change.


BLACKWELL: But you are musicians, you used what you have to try to change and improve race relations in this country. What's the message for them?

We have a five-word motto, music can change the world, and I think that's the answer.


GUPTA: Whether on center stage or in the background, these are just some of the people who work every day to shake up all the ideas and lift us all up. I hope they inspire you in ways big and small to be a champion for change as well.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching.