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CNN Live Event/Special

16th Annual CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 11, 2022 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: There's so much of our conversation with Tony, as well as our sit-downs with Dionne Warwick and Dr. Anthony Fauci. You can catch the full interviews anytime you want on HBO Max.

Thank you for watching, and please join us here on CNN every Sunday night to find out "WHO'S TALKING" next.

DIONNE WARWICK, SINGER: Hi, I'm Dionne Warwick. Tonight is a very special one. In the middle of struggling times we get together and honor the greatest kinds of people.


ANNOUNCER: From the American Museum of Natural History in New York City this is the 16th Annual CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE.

Please welcome your host for the evening, Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa.

ANDERSON COOPER, CO-HOST: Thanks so much. Welcome to the 16th ANNUAL CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE. We are coming to you live from the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. And welcome to our viewers watching around the world.

KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST: It's always so good to be back here to celebrate the best humanity has to offer.

COOPER: And the people you're going to meet tonight are going to inspire you and instill hope. CNN has given each of our Top 10 hero a global platform to share their work and $10,000. Later tonight one of our honorees will be named the 2022 CNN Hero of the Year. They'll receive an additional $100,000.


RIPA: It's such a great way to end the year. And speaking of years, you've had another good year. You had another baby. A baby boy.

COOPER: I did, yes. I have a little boy Sebastian. Yes. He's very excited about HEROES. Got those in this morning. And you had a baby, too. Congratulations.

RIPA: Did I?

COOPER: Yes. It's in your book.

RIPA: Yes. Yes. Thank you very much.

COOPER: "Live Wire." It's excellent. Congratulations.

RIPA: Not quite as cute as yours but I did do it all without an epidural so.



RIPA: That counts for something.

COOPER: Good to know. Thanks for sharing.

RIPA: Thank you. We are in fact in our house empty nesters. The kids have flown.

COOPER: Wow. Wow.

RIPA: We're handling it. As you see this is the cooking show we're workshopping for CNN, called "Whisk It, Whisk It Real Good."


COOPER: Whisk it?

RIPA: I don't know. It's just a title.


RIPA: We're struggling a little bit. But, kids, be a hero and call your mom. I miss you.

COOPER: We are so grateful to all the artists who are giving their time to help us honor our heroes' work. We want to thank the legendary Dionne Warwick for opening the show. Her documentary premieres on CNN on New Year's Day. One of our presenters, Justin Theroux, is going to be joining us with his beloved rescue dog Kuma.

RIPA: Yes, he rescued Kuma a few years ago and she's a star on Instagram, and we're so excited she's going to be joining us.

COOPER: Now let's meet our first hero.

In the United States more than 40 million people are food insecure yet at the same time we waste 100 billion pounds of food, 20 billion from farms alone. Our next hero found a way to tackle both of these problems.

RIPA: To tell us his story is the star of the film "Emily the Criminal" and this season's "White Lotus," please welcome, Aubrey Plaza.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) AUBREY PLAZA, PRESENTER: It takes a special kind of person to see that mounds of food meant for a landfill could be turned into a beautiful meal for a family. That's what Aidan Reilly did during the pandemic. He was home from college scared like the rest of us and decided to channel his uneasiness to solve a problem. The reason that so many people go hungry and so much food goes to waste is a logistics problem.

There's no easy way to connect farmers with the food banks and no ability to transport the food, so from his pandemic couch Aidan and his friends cofounded the Farmlink Project. In just two years he and a mobilized force of students and young people from around the country have moved more than 70 million pounds of food, prevented nearly 41 million pounds of CO2 going into the air. And just think of all those people who can now make a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner because Aidan saw nourishment instead of waste.


AIDAN REILLY, FARMLINK PROJECT: When the pandemic happened like everybody else we're stuck inside our houses watching the news and just seeing the next piece of terrible news come in. My friend was like this is one of the most significant things that might ever happen in our lives, how do you want to look back on it? And I told him shut up, man, I just want to watch TV and I just want to play video games.


But it got us thinking. And it got us, you know, looking around. We ended up seeing an article about farmers having to throw out their food like mountains of potatoes in someone's backyard or milk just being dumped into the dirt. At the same time food banks were suddenly getting overwhelmed, running out of food. We would see lines of people miles and miles long, thousands of cars lining up to get a bag or a box of groceries.

We were calling farms that has surplus produce to get it to a local food bank. We got on the phone with someone who said I have 13,000 eggs, I just don't have a way to get it to you. It was me swerving around on the 405 Freeway getting honked at with eggs bouncing around in the bank just trying to get them to the food bank. And we realized this is just a drop in the bucket. We have to do more and more.

And we said everyone, come on, it doesn't matter who you are, we need your help. We started getting this influx of e-mails and calls from friends and friends of friends and other people around the country who had a lot of time on their hands. We quickly put together what was a fully functioning organization with young people, mostly students average age of 21, volunteering their time when they can to help feed people that they might never meet.

Seventy million pounds of food moved has come from the efforts of this group. We've sent boxes to communities around the United States at a rate of 1.5 million pounds per week. This project and its success is 100 percent based on the volunteers, the 600 people who have come in and helped over the last two years. This is Poblano and this one's Anaheim. This isn't a pandemic project.

This is a huge problem that needs to be solved. Food prices are higher than they have been for the last four decades, so we're not out of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

REILLY: Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate you.

REILLY: There are everyday Americans, people who live next to you and me who don't know how they're going to feed their kids by the end of the week, and that's exactly who we're doing this for at the end of the day.


PLAZA: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Aidan Reilly.


REILLY: This is the first time in human history where hunger is actually a solvable problem, and that possibility is being fought for every single day by thousands of unseen heroes. So I'm talking about farm workers who show up to the fields at sunrise and leave after dark, you know, mothers who run community food banks out of their backyards, students feeding others between classes and part-time work.

I'm here tonight to represent those people, to represent our mission, and our refusal to accept hunger in this world. Thank you very much.


COOPER: Tonight not only are we honoring our Top 10 Heroes -- Kelly is funny backstage -- but we'll also be celebrating two young people who show us you can make a difference at any age. We call them Young Wonders.

RIPA: And our first is only 15, and addressing a need most of us don't even think about. There are more than 1.5 million seniors in nursing homes across the country. The cost of care is high, and most only have a small personal spending allowance as low as $30 a month.

COOPER: Here to share how this Young Wonder is helping them is a champion of the Aga Khan Development Network and the star of "Miss Marvel," Iman Vellani.

IMAN VELLANI, ACTRESS, "MISS MARVEL": We all want to find that place where we belong, where we feel safe, confident, and can be useful. For Ruby Chitsey it's being with the seniors where her mother works at a nursing home in Harrison, Arkansas. Ruby often shy at school came to life there. One day a patient had to say good-bye to their dog because they can no longer afford to care for it. This gave Ruby an idea. She started asking seniors in the facility what they wished for but couldn't buy because they didn't have the extra money. So she started Three Wishes for Ruby's Residents to help them get

comfy new shoes, the latest novel or a fresh pint of strawberries. Ruby and dozens of young volunteers have helped grant more than 25,000 wishes nationwide. Each one reminding us that when we find our place we can be more than just useful. Kindness can run free.



RUBY CHITSEY, RUBY'S THREE WISHES: Hi. I brought Elvis today.

I enjoy hanging out with seniors. They're just like us. They're just 60 years older. I just see them as my friend and I enjoy being around them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruby has periods where she was pretty sad. My job brought her into a nursing home, it was just the perfect landscape for her to help someone. And she thrived on it, and it gave her energy.


CHITSEY: I love you, too.

Ruby's Three Wishes grants nursing home seniors gifts or wishes, just little things that most of the time cost under $10.

I brought you a gift today.


CHITSEY: Yes. Circus peanuts like you asked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, peanuts, thank you.

CHITSEY: I constantly see them so thankful and just so overwhelmed with happiness. I think it's more about that someone cared about them.

I bought you cat food.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Howdy. How are you?

CHITSEY: Three Wishes brings kids up to the nursing home and shows them how important seniors are and how caring and friendly they are.

Casey helped decorate that sack and put some of the things in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you're talented.


CHITSEY: It allows kids and seniors to connect. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my other bear I got Saturday for my


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. Happy late birthday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Recently she was elected to the homecoming court. And my husband looked at me and he said just think she didn't have a friend two years ago, but she did have friends. They all had gray hair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, beautiful.

CHITSEY: This is my first homecoming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruby is so much more confident, and she believes in herself. She gained that through changing their lives, and in doing so she changed her own life.

CHITSEY: I've always just known that kindness is my hobby. I was almost embarrassed when I first knew that, but I think now that I've done it, I'm not embarrassed to say that I love helping people.



RIPA: Fabulous. Young Wonder Ruby Chitsey, everybody. Congratulations.


RIPA: You deserve it. To learn more about Ruby's story and both of our young wonders please go to

COOPER: And don't forget to tell us what you think about her work and all of our honorees by using our #CNNheroes.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Naomi Campbell, Adam Scott, Kristin Davis, Sofia Carson, Diane Warren and more.



COOPER: And we're back with CNN Heroes.

RIPA: Throughout the night as you meet our Top 10 honorees you can donate to any of them by going to and clicking on the donate button, or you can scan the QR code on your screen right now. There are so many ways to give and we're so grateful that GoFundMe is working with all of our heroes.

COOPER: Our next hero grew up in a remote village called Mogotio in Kenya where the child poverty rate is 52 percent. To share how she persevered to bring life changing opportunities to a new generation in her home country is the global ambassador of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, the founder of global charitable initiative Emerge, Naomi Campbell.


NAOMI CAMPBELL, PRESENTER: The pain a child experiences when poverty lingers, the hunger, the hopelessness, the lack of possibilities. For 18 years Nelly Cheboi lived with her three siblings and her mother in a shack with a dirt floor and a tin roof. Every time it rained, it would come through. And even though Nelly's mother could barely read, she made education a priority. And Nelly got a full scholarship to a college in Illinois.

She worked during the week in a cafeteria and on the weekends as a janitor and sent all her money back home to her family. It was there where she fell in love with computer science. She became an engineer and found her calling. In 2018 she launched TechLit Africa. She refurbishes discarded computers and opens schools based, labs across rural Kenya. To date she has reached 6,000 students and 15 teachers, and works with 15 schools and counting.

The pain caused by poverty still there, but it drives Nelly whose work inspires so many children to manifest a limitless future and possibilities.


NELLY CHEBOI, TECHLIFT AFRICA: I can't even describe just how dehumanizing poverty is, just getting crushed over and over again. My mom, she didn't believe in educated mass. Even though her herself could barely read and write. We grew up in a tin roof house. It was full of potholes. I used to look at the different light bouncing from the holes from the roof and then just imagine what it would look like to sustainably fix poverty.

I needed to do something. I discovered computer science my junior year of college in America. I just fell in love with it. I just knew this is what I wanted to do. To deliver my promise that I made to my mom that I'm going to take care of her and also bring it to my community.

Most of these computers are ending up in landfills. All of you are going to be graphic designers today. Well, we have kids here. Myself included back in the day. Who don't even know what a computer is?

We refurbish them, we install our own custom operating system.

Then there's also vectors. It doesn't matter how much you zoom it, it's still perfect. It's still aligned.

We have a saying here at TechLift Africa, the kid is the VIP in this computer lab.

Nice, there you go.

We're really trying to change that culture and really hope that it can transcend the whole school.


They can go from doing a remote class with NASA to music production, video production, coding, personal branding and so on.

If you come here, you select this one instead.

The world is your oyster when you're educated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be a lecturer. And make a living so that I can build my mom a house and myself a house.

CHEBOI: Oh, wow, impressive stuff here.

My hope is that when the first TechLift kids graduate high school their families and themselves will not need aid because they can make money online. Their money will support their families, their money will support themselves.

The thing that was really frustrating me growing up not seeing change, not seeing hope, not even seeing progress. I feel like with these kids I can see a path and that is really like why we're doing this work. My life is bigger than myself. If I have the power to change anything, I have to do it. I have to give it my all and keep doing it.



CAMPBELL: It's my honor -- it's my honor to present CNN Hero, Nelly Cheboi.


CHEBOI: There's just something about Anderson Cooper saying Mogotio that just gets my crying.


CHEBOI: My mom is here.


CHEBOI: I'll never forget the pain of poverty that still runs deep in my community. People dying of treatable diseases, parents sinking deeper into poverty just to educate their kids, and the lack of upward mobility for the most hardworking people in our communities.

The hope that our work can empower people, give them skills to find a decent job and fix poverty for good is the mountain I'm devoted to moving.


COOPER: Often during natural disasters the medical response system is overwhelmed, and it can take days for resources to reach people. The same happens in conflict zones like Ukraine where we're experiencing the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

RIPA: Here to tell us how your next hero is bringing much needed relief to these places is the star of "Severance" and a champion for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Adam Scott.


ADAM SCOTT, PRESENTER: You remember how Mr. Rogers, yes, the cardigan wearing, sneaker loving Mr. Rogers, you remember how he told us that in scary times we need to look for the helpers? Well, meet Teresa Gray. After spending two decades as a paramedic in the Alaska tundra and becoming a nurse, she decided to semi-retire and raise her kids. So one night in her pajamas scrolling through Facebook, she saw the tragic images of a little boy from Syria dead on the shores of Greece.

Now, as a mother, health care worker, and human being, she was horrified. So three weeks later she was using her medical skills at a refugee camp in Aleppo. Then in 2017 she created Mobile Medics International, bringing teams of medical volunteers into places that desperately need it. In the last six years they've done 23 missions on five continents helping more than 30,000 people.

Teresa's work shows us that even in the middle of destruction the helpers are there with their skills and their love. Living, breathing reminders of hope to those who have lost everything.


TERESA GRAY, MOBILE MEDICS INTERNATIONAL: I've been in free hospital medicine for over 30 years, EMT, SWAT paramedic, rural medicine, metro medicine. When someone's in a desperate situation, I know how to help them.

Mobile Medics International, we do what's called fill-the-gap medicine. We have been dropped by helicopter in the middle of a foreign country, and we're OK with that. Whether it's a natural disaster or it's a refugee crisis, we go where the need is.


When I saw the Ukraine crisis unfolding on the news, I knew that we were going to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the border of Romania, soldiers --

GRAY: This is the most dangerous mission we've ever done. There's been threat of chemical weapons and air strikes, but volunteers were begging to go.

We found that Romania was pretty overwhelmed with refugees, and there was very limited medical. They've got food, they've got shelter, but it's emotionally draining. So there's a flu outbreak that obviously affects the children.

Hi. Ask her if it's OK if we come in and talk to her.

They have to talk to the Ukrainian interpreter who then talks to the Romanian interpreter who then talks to me. I know that she's very scared, but the babies are going to be OK. Does he know the name of the pills that he had? We also have pre-existing conditions. He was on this drug.


GRAY: This is an experimental drug.

The emotional trauma, room after room after room. No allergy to this. No, no, no. You can see it in their faces they don't know if they'll ever get to go home again.

We're doing a little excursion. We met Marina and Sasha, her son, at the clinic today.

We drove her to the border and we let her get out and look across and see Ukraine maybe for the last time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through text translation): I cannot put this into words. Of course this help means a lot for us.

GRAY: It isn't just about giving you medicine, it's making that human connection. Human suffering has no borders. People are people, and love is love.



SCOTT: It's incredible. Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Teresa Gray.


GRAY: Thank you. Our mission statement is a quote from Louis Pasteur. One doesn't ask of one who suffers what is your country and what is your religion. One merely says you suffer, this is enough for me. You belong to me, and I will help you.

To all of you who supported us in big and small ways know that you are what makes our work possible. We are honored and humbled that you trust us. And on behalf of the people around the world whose generosity -- who through your generosity will help, we thank you.


ANNOUNCER: Still to come, Holly Robinson Peete, Kristin Davis, Justin Theroux, and Kevin Bacon.



COOPER: And welcome back to CNN HEROES.

RIPA: Wait, is it Kuma time yet?


RIPA: Nope, she's still in the car on her way over. All right. Let's introduce another hero then.

COOPER: According to the CDC one in 44 children is on the spectrum for autism and researchers at Boston University found that black children are five times less likely to receive critical early intervention services.

RIPA: Here to share with us how our next hero is working to close this disparity is the co-founder of the Holly Rock Foundation, an actor, author and proud mom of a son who lives with autism, Holly Robinson Peete.


HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE, PRESENTER: When the doctor comes in and says the word autism, you're overwhelmed with a barrage of questions. As a mother, Debra Vines had many. She searched for answers in her Chicago neighborhood and found none for black families. She searched for answers in wealthy areas where women in fur coats would tell her about programs that only cost $500.

That's rough when you're trying to find money for groceries. Debra tried to function for her son Jason but spiraled into addiction and ended up in prison. When she got clean she vowed to devote her life to help families like hers, and in 2007 she launched the Answer Inc. So mothers and fathers didn't have to search like she had. There's a 24- hour hotline, co-ed parent support groups and weekly classes to help young people acquire social and life skills.

She also helps educate the community about how to recognize and relate to people with autism including first responders to prevent the kind of misunderstandings that have led to tragic consequences. So now when families hear the diagnosis and ask what do I do, they have an answer -- call Debra.


DEBRA VINES, THE ANSWERS INC.: We started really seeing a lot of behavior problems in Jason about 3 years old. Biting himself until he bled, head butting you, screaming all the time. And in the black community resources were very, very limited.

Handsome, you ready? Let's go.

To get any type of assistance I had to take a train, plane, bus and a magic carpet to get there. The support groups that I found, they (INAUDIBLE) affluent communities. I was the only black woman there. The only person that had low income. I felt totally helpless, isolated, depressed. And the only way that I found some joy was with the drugs. I was a functioning addict. You still saw Jason with me everywhere I went, then I went to jail.

When I did finally get cleaned, that's when things started happening. Every single Saturday we provide tutoring, nutrition classes, cooking, socialization, life skills.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job. You're going to count one, two.


VINES: They're not just going to be taken care of.


VINES: They're going to be educated as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stir this for me?


VINES: We want to provide them that outlet where they feel super special. We are a family, and I want the parents to be able to talk about what they're going through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I've always wanted her to have a friend that she --

VINES: That's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all right. We've all been there.

VINES: Having a child with a special need, we carry so much.

So are we ready?

With autism we want to make sure everyone is educated. Jason had a medication meltdown where he was very, very violent. I had to call the ambulance, fire department, called the police. They came in with guns drawn. I'm telling them there's no weapons, my son has autism.

They didn't know how to handle him, they didn't know how to handle me. So first responders are trained to deal with our children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Jason, how are you doing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, good, good. How long has your mom been doing this kind of stuff?

VINES: Because he's smiling it makes it a little bit easier, but what if you get ahold to somebody that's not smiling? People are afraid of what they don't understand. Advocacy is a gift. That's my high now. Jason has taken me places that I never thought that I would go, but it made me grow up to a woman that I never thought that I will be. (END VIDEO CLIP)


ROBINSON PEETE: It is my profound honor to present CNN Hero, Debra Vines.


VINES: Good evening. Thank you to my fellow autism mom, Holly Robinson Peete. So exciting.

I ask that you guys give individuals living with autism, developmental, and intellectual disabilities the chances in our society to become the best versions of themselves, especially the adult population. We can empower them with acceptance and love. I encourage all of you to advocate and fight for more resources for black and brown individuals. The playing field would never be diverse and inclusive until fair and adequate services are met.

I sincerely thank you for opening your heart to autism. Join me and be a servant for the change today. Thank you.


COOPER: She's awesome. Throughout the night we are also privileged to honor a few special guests who have inspired all of us with their dedication and their courage. We want to take a moment to say thank you to all the election workers out there without whom our democracy would not function.


COOPER: The January 6th insurrection and the lies that fueled it led to unprecedented intimidation and threats against election workers.

RIPA: And we want to share the story of a mother and daughter who believed that this election work is a way to honor all those who were denied their rights in the past.


COOPER (voice-over): For nearly 10 years Shaye Moss worked at the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections in Atlanta, Georgia. She served as an election worker because her grandmother instilled in her the importance of voting, a right that had once been denied to her. At election time Shaye's mother, Ruby Freeman, would come to work processing ballots. But in 2020 election deniers targeted Shaye and Ruby making false claims that security footage showed they were sneaking in fake ballots.

The former president invoked Ruby's name 18 times in a phone call pressuring state officials to change the vote count in Georgia. Those comments went viral.

RUBY FREEMAN, ELECTION WORKER, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: I've lost my name, and I've lost my reputation.

COOPER: In the days after Shaye and Ruby received death threats. They were harassed. Shaye had to quit her job. They feared for their lives.

SHAYE MOSS, ELECTION WORKER, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way and every way all because of lies.

COOPER: In spite of that, they courageously testified during the January 6th hearings and told the world the truth. They showed that the way we continue to strengthen our democracy and enfranchised citizens everywhere is to stand up to lies and hate, and to ensure the power of one voice and one vote remains.




RIPA: Please join us in honoring --

COOPER: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Kevin Bacon, and more of your favorite stars salute our heroes.


RIPA: Welcome back to CNN HEROES. In the United States we have more than 18 million veterans. They are leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, and bring so much to our country. However, many still struggle with the unseen wounds of war.

COOPER: To tell us how our next hero is empowering these great Americans through art is the founder of, Kevin Bacon.


KEVIN BACON, PRESENTER: Thank you. Sometimes the only way to get through unimaginable pain is to find a way to share it. The way Richard Casper shared his happened in an art class. He returned from Iraq riddled with post-traumatic stress, a disc problem, and a brain injury. His Humvee had been blown up four times and he had watched his best friend Luke die.

Richard struggled with his reentry until this six-foot-five tower of inspiration and picked up a brush and stroke by stroke shared his pain. He created a picture of Luke's gravesite with his arm reaching out to touch the headstone and a background awash in blood red. When his classmates critiqued him, this Purple Heart Marine felt seen for the first time since coming home.

He went onto graduate from art school, and in 2013 launched CreatiVets to help others like him find peace through song writing and visual art. So far more than 1600 veterans have signed up, each one just like Richard sharing their pain, letting the art and the music do what they do best, bind them together in the truth of their stories from the battlefield so they can find their way through and heal.



When I was lead vehicle commander my gunner Luke Epstein, who came like my best friend, really quickly. Luke was up in the gun when he was shot and killed by a sniper. In the infantry, they have to strip away all your vulnerabilities. They have to because you're not going to survive in war. But they never gave me my vulnerability back.

I'm so thankful that I fell into art. Art is so emotional and vulnerable. It's like I said everything without saying anything.

So right now we're backstage where nobody else gets to go besides the artists.

So I created a program built on using the arts and music to help veterans, and we pair them with number one songwriters or hit writers to tell their story for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guy drove in with a motorcycle full of explosives and killed my buddy. It messed me up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will shoulder the burden, as they already have done.

CASPER: And I try to explain to them in the beginning it's going to be easier to tell your story once you create your art piece. Because you're not going to be talking about you, you're going to be talking about your art piece and focus on it. They finally had the words to say what they never could say before.

The next day after the writing session we record all of the songs.

Are you guys ready to rock?

It's incredible to see their life experience go from just a story I tell to a song I can share with everybody. I want them to know that art's an option for healing.

Give me a hug, dude. I lost it like twice on that one.

It's what allows you to understand that it's OK to not be OK. I just go back to everything I suffered from, and I really go back to Luke. It was his death that brought this for me to create. And so every time a veteran gets saved I'm like Luke just saved someone else. I just know he'd be looking down and just be like you're doing what you're meant to do, you're truly living for both of us now.


BACON: It is my honor to present CNN Hero, Richard Casper.


CASPER: That kills me. And Luke's brother is here with me tonight. Thank you for helping me carry on this legacy.


CASPER: I'm a Marine, I'm not supposed to be the first one crying up here. Every day 20 veterans and members of the military community take their own lives. That heartbreaking reality should concern us all. That's why CreatiVets is working to seek our help out these veterans and military personnel through the power of the arts. By sharing our story we hope to inspire others to join us.

Together we can make a real difference in the lives of those who have given so much to our country. Thank you all so much.



COOPER: Over the years, no organization has been a greater supporter of our efforts than Subaru, which has generously sponsored CNN HEROES" since 2008, 15 years. Please welcome Tom Doll, the president and chief executive officer for Subaru of America.


TOM DOLL, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SUBARU OF AMERICA: Our HEROES, they represent the best of humanity. And tonight, we are recognizing 10 HEROES. But there's actually tens of thousands of heroes out there that realize that giving of oneself is the biggest and best gift we have to give to others, whether it's to people or to animals. And the bonus is that the giving makes you feel great.

You know, this is the 15th year Subaru sponsored CNN HEROES," and over this time, Subaru has donated more than $4 million to over 100 HEROES in support of the great work that they are doing in our country and around the world. We at Subaru live by our share the love philosophy, and our heroes are going above and beyond to share their love. So please join Subaru in donating to our CNN HEROES. And if you do, Subaru will match your donation dollar for dollar up to a total of $500,000.


DOLL: At Subaru, we know firsthand that helping others creates kindness, and kindness creates love. So, please, be kind. Help us share the love by contributing to our celebrated heroes here tonight. You can donate right now at Thank you all very much.


ANNOUNCER: Still to come on CNN HEROES, Kristin Davis, Jeremy Sisto, and Justin Theroux with his rescue dog Kuma. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RIPA: Welcome back. You know that Subaru is matching all of your donations to all of our Top 10 CNN HEROES. So go to, and click on the donate button. Do it now, and support our incredible honorees.


COOPER: In the United States, we have more than 54 million seniors who want to remain in their homes, but they need help making them safe. We also have 10 million people working in the construction industry, but less than 4 percent of the trade jobs are filled by women.

RIPA: Our next hero created an innovative program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that addresses both of these issues. To share her story is a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR and a patron for Sheltered Wildlife Trust and one of the stars of "And Just Like That," Kristin Davis.



KRISTIN DAVIS, PRESENTER: You can't do that. You can't do that because you're too short. You're too old. Not strong enough. And the one we really hate to hear, you can't do that because it's a man's job.

Nora El-Khouri Spencer believes differently. When she and her husband bought a new house that needed fixing up, she taught herself basic home renovation skills. She liked the work. What she didn't like was how each plumber, electrician, and carpenter she'd hired to help her all had been men. While pursuing her degree in social work, she was tasked with creating a plan to help seniors.

And in that moment, Nora got the idea for hope for innovations, to train women in the construction trades by making improvements for homes for seniors, helping them build experience and earn living wages. Since July of 2020, more than 40 women and non-binary individuals have participated in her free 10-week program and helped complete 130 renovation projects. So, yes, anyone can do that.


DAVIS: They can use their hammer, a saw, their brilliant and select to break down barriers and strengthen lives.


NORA EL-KHOURI SPENCER, HOPE RENOVATIONS: I wasn't a handy person growing up. When my husband, Brian, and I bought our first home, I realized pretty quickly that my tastes were outside of my budget. So I just started to learn things on my own. And I figured out pretty quick that I was good at it. Over the years, I'd hire contractors to help me do things I didn't know how to do. And it hit me that I had never met another woman. We're going to talk about roof framing.

We offer a 10-week pre-apprenticeship program. They learn safety, blueprint reading, construction maps. And then they get into carpentry, electrical, plumbing. It's a lot of work. We've had single moms, women in recovery, all kinds of different people come in together and finding a shared excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worked at quite a few dead end jobs. I always had to work at least two or three. And it was always a struggle. So through Hope Renovations, I discovered that I liked carpentry a lot.

SPENCER: This is where it gets fun.

We're also helping older adults age in place.

The crew is here today building a ramp for a client who is having trouble getting into her home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very hard trying to get in and out because I didn't have anything to hold on to.

SPENCER: We're able to bring the trainees out onto job sites, so they're giving back while they're learning. That's really a win-win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out the way, boys, because we're on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never witnessed all women building. Everybody got a nail, a hammer, a piece of board, no men.

I want to thank you all for all your help. And you're just a blessing to me.

SPENCER: You get to watch something come together that you built.

Does that feel like it's going to work for you?




SPENCER: There's just such a feeling of accomplishment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I'm a carpenter. It blows my mind that I'm making this much money from one job. It's such a good feeling.

SPENCER: We're providing hope to the people that we serve. We are helping them renovate their lives.



DAVIS: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Nora El-Khouri Spencer. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SPENCER: My guess is this may be the first time many of you have seen a construction worker in an evening gown.


SPENCER: But it shouldn't be the last. You should see construction workers who are moms, sisters, aunts, and nieces, who are non-binary and gender queer and non-conforming because we have a whole world to build.


SPENCER: Our homes, our schools, our communities, our neighbors, they need us, and we need these opportunities. On behalf of Hope Renovations and all of us who stand ready with our hammers in our hands, thank you.