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CNN Live Event/Special

17th Annual CNN HEROES: An All-Star Tribute. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 10, 2023 - 20:00   ET



JASON MOMOA, ACTOR: Good evening. I like a good hero. The whole cast and crew of "Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom" does, too. And you're about to meet a whole bunch of them. Some of their inspiring stories might even make you ugly cry. And that's OK. Just feel it. Feel all the goodness. Because this is CNN HEROES.

ANNOUNCER: From the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, this is the 17th Annual CNN HEROES: An All-Star Tribute. Honoring everyday people changing the world.


ANNOUNCER: Please welcome your hosts, Anderson Cooper and Laura Coates.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And thank you and welcome to the 17th Annual CNN HEROES: An All-Star Tribute. We are coming to you live from the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. And we want to welcome our viewers watching around the world. And I want to say a very special welcome to CNN's Laura Coates.

We are so glad you're here.



COATES: Wow. I'm glad to be here. I had a prom under a whale once and I was alone, so I'm glad I'm here with you right now. It's fun. It's an honor --

COOPER: Wow, that's quite a story.

COATES: It is. It means a little bit of a -- we'll talk later.

COOPER: All right.

COATES: It's an honor to be here, everyone. I have so admired heroes for so many years. This year's honorees are absolutely incredible. They care for veterans, repair our oceans, assist the needy, bring confidence to our schools and to our kids in forgotten neighborhoods. And they do so much more. They have found ingenious ways to do their bit of good where they are.

And tonight is truly all about the people who poke holes in the darkness so that the light gets in and reminds us all that there is hope and that change is always possible. In other words, you've had quite the gig you have not told me about all this time.

COOPER: It's a great gig. 17 years. CNN has given each of our Top 10 Heroes a global platform to share their work and $10,000. Now, later tonight one of the honorees will be named the 2023 CNN Hero of the Year. They'll receive an additional $100,000 and more.

Now, tonight not only are we honoring our Top 10 Heroes but we're going to be presenting our first CNN HEROES Legacy Award for a Lifetime of Service. We'll reveal that recipient later in the show.

And as always, we are just very grateful to have all the artists who have donated their time to honor our heroes.

COATES: Yes. Absolutely.


COATES: You know, this year given the state of the world, you can imagine where we are right now, most of us have probably searched for a small quiet place to maybe do a little bit of ugly crying. Maybe in our cars, our empty stairwells, Wolf Blitzer's office. It's a therapy place. Some of them on my couch right now. But normally it's me. But that's fine. He really knows how to listen. Whatever room he's in is situational for a lot of reasons.

COOPER: I did not know he provided that service.

COATES: He does. He does. The D.C. crowd.

COOPER: Tonight if you cry it will likely be because of the joy our heroes create with their work. So let's get started.

COATES: Ooh. I want to say this line. Hold on. Sorry, Anderson. Let's meet our first hero.

COOPER: In the United States 61 percent of under resourced children have no books in the home and only 17 percent of black fourth-graders are proficient in reading.

COATES: I have a fourth-grader at home. This is amazing to think about. To share how our hero is changing these numbers for black boys in particular, please welcome the star of the brand-new film "American Fiction," Jeffrey Wright.


JEFFREY WRIGHT, CNN HERO PRESENTER: Thank you. Reading is freedom. It unlocks the world's possibilities and a child's potential. Alan Irby's mother instilled this value in her son. She was an elementary school teacher and on weekends she'd call Alvin to the kitchen table for reading lessons. He didn't like that much. But because of her care he read well. In high school he was bored in his regular English class, doing spelling tests and reading short stories, so he asked to join the advanced class. And there he fell in love with language reading classics.


He also noticed that in his new classroom the students were all white. While in his regular class they were black and brown. This upset him and pushed him toward his life's work. He followed in his mother's footsteps and became a teacher. And in 2013 he launched Barbershop Books to encourage black boys to fall in love with reading as he did.

To date he's put more than 50,000 books in 250 barbershops, reaching more than 10,000 boys. They're getting their cuts. They're shaping their fades. They're bonding with mentors. They're seeing the possibilities in the world. And they're doing it in the heart of their community, the barbershop.


ALVIN IRBY, BARBERSHOPBOOKS.ORG: Barbershops are a cultural center for black communities. Every month no matter who you are you've got to go get a cut. I was teaching first grade in the Bronx and I was getting a haircut and one of my students came into the barbershop. He is getting antsy and he's looking bored. He should be practicing his reading. But I didn't have a book.

Barbershop Books inspires black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun.

What's up, man? How are you doing?

We install a child-friendly reading space in the barbershop. We literally ask little black boys, what do you like to read? And then we buy the books. And then those are the books that we distribute to our national network of barbers.

I just want to like share some tips and strategies to just even talk to them about books.

Many black boys are raised by single mothers. So there's this opportunity to support barbers in becoming black male reading role models.

What you reading?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm reading "Diary of" --

IRBY: "A Wimpy Kid." I used to read that book all the time when I was younger.

They're central to the work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you say that word?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have positive black older men around them that's giving them directions, encouraging them to read. That will empower them.

IRBY: The kids, they love it. They're reading with their parents. And that's great to see as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These books I would say have power. The power of funness.

IRBY: You want to count the green beans?


IRBY: Yes.


IRBY: I'm just excited that we get to create a safe space for boys to do something that is really life-changing. That's what I really believe reading is.

It unlocks potential.



WRIGHT: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero Alan Irby.


IRBY: Yo. Sit down. Many black boys don't identify as readers, but low performance or resistance to reading are natural responses to whack books. At Barbershop Books we see firsthand the transformative power of engaging reading experiences. Children can't read more and get worse at reading. So one key to solving America's current reading crisis is simple. Curate content and create conditions that inspire kids to read for fun.

Please join us in helping the babies read. Thank you all so much.


COOPER: I love that. For asylum-seeking families living in shelters at the U.S.-Mexico border the process for entry can take a day, can take a month. It can take years. During this time most kids living there cannot go to school.

COATES: Here to tell us how our next hero decided to help the more than 21,000 kids who are caught in this limbo you described is a very proud supporter of UNICEF and one of the stars of "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," Rachel Zegler.


RACHEL ZEGLER, CNN HERO PRESENTER: 22 years ago, a 10-year-old girl saw in school in Cali, Colombia.


Estefania Rebellon was suddenly pulled from class and told to meet her father in the principal's office. Because he was a lawyer, Colombian rebels had threatened him. So the family went into hiding and two weeks later they fled.

Estefania, scared and uncertain, landed in Miami, Florida, with one toy and the clothes on her back. Like all asylum seekers her family didn't choose this new life. They were forced to flee for their safety. But thanks to good teachers and her hard-working parents she earned a college degree and began an acting career in Los Angeles.

In 2018 during a surge in the border crisis in Mexico she volunteered at a camp and met asylum-seeking children who struggled even more than she had. With $1,000 in savings she opened a school at that camp and launched the "Yes We Can World Foundation." In just five years she's opened more schools, transformed three buses into mobile classrooms and provides free supplies and meals all year long to kids age 3 to 15.

She is an incredible citizen, saying to countless kids, you matter, you are loved, and you are safe to learn.


ESTEFANIA REBELLON, YES WE CAN WORLD FOUNDATION: When we arrived at the border, people were everywhere. I just kept feeling like the weight of this crisis was on my shoulders. I couldn't sleep. And I thought why don't we turn a bus into a mobile classroom and we could take it to all the different shelters.

We literally just Googled and YouTubed how to convert a bus into a mobile classroom. All of the placement of things, all the colors, all the furniture is all very intentional to be able to build the best space that we can for the kids.

Many have experienced terrible tragedies, rape, murder, harassment, kidnapping, domestic violence. Schools are the way to be able to help them heal and also help them prepare for what their life is going to be like.

I want to prevent as much heartache for the kids that I experienced. My family's case is the case of many refugees and migrants. It was never a choice to leave our home. When we arrived in the United States, I became a very quiet child. I started finding my way through being involved in the school.

Anytime I get a chance I share my immigration story. There's always that switch that happens in their eyes. Being a migrant is not something they need to be ashamed of. This is a moment in your life. This is not your entire life. This is a crisis that's not going to stop anytime soon. I want our efforts to be something permanent that we'll be proud to look back and say that we were there when people needed us the most.



ZEGLER: It is my honor to present CNN Hero, Estefania Rebellon.


REBELLON: Buenas noches. I am a proud Latina and a proud American. An asylum grantee who was given an opportunity to live safely and to pursue her dreams in this country. No one leaves their home unless they have to. No one. Forced migration around the world continues to terrorize and uproot everyday families like mine.

At Yes We Can World Foundation we work with the extraordinary kids caught at the center of this humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Our tool for change is education. Potential is everywhere, but opportunity isn't.

Join our mission and help us expand access to education for migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Tonight they are visible and they are seen around the world. Thank you. Yes, we can!


COOPER: Hey, congratulations, Estefania. Congratulations. How are you feeling?

REBELLON: Oh, my gosh. This is overwhelming. And I'm just so proud of our team. And I'm just so proud to be a Latina and to be here representing tonight. Migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border are heroes to me, so this is for them.


COOPER: And Rachel, how does Estefania's work inspire you?

ZEGLER: Oh, my gosh. I mean, as a Latina here in the U.S. seeing someone who is also from Colombia who's doing such amazing work for our youth, it's a really inspiring thing and I'm very proud to have presented this to her tonight.

COOPER: Thank you both for being here. And congratulations again.

You can find out about all the work of our CNN HEROES, go to We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Joe Manganiello, Amanda Seyfried, Sterling K. Brown, Iman Vellani, Danielle Brooks, and many more of your favorite stars honor our heroes.




Throughout the night as you meet the 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 the heroes. No one makes me ugly cry better than these heroes do. They're an inspiration to us all. Oh, and one thing.

Laura, don't forget to hold Anderson's hand backstage. He needs that.

Have a wonderful night, everyone.



COOPER: All right. Sometimes it is nice to have somebody hold your hand. It's a thing of mine.


Our next hero certainly understands that need for connection.

COATES: Well, he's found a way to use yoga and meditation to help the 1.7 million people suffering from a traumatic brain injury. It's a silent epidemic for those who are injured and of course their caregivers.

To tell us about his work is the host of "Deal or No Deal Island" and a member of the board at UMPC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Joe Manganiello.



Every day we are reminded that life can change in an instant. For Adam Pearce that moment came on New Year's Eve in 2009 when a friend called and said that his brother Kevin, a world-class and Olympic-bound snowboarder, had hit his head on a halfpipe. Adam raced across the country, quit his job, and became Kevin's full-time caregiver, helping him learn how to walk, talk and reconnect his brain and body to the life that he loved.

About two years into Kevin's difficult recovery they took a yoga class and something shifted in that class for Kevin and they decided to figure out why and how to help others. In 2014 Adam co-founded the Love Your Brain Foundation, which offers free training courses and classes in yoga, retreats for patients and their caregivers, and contributes to new research about the brain. To date they have supported more than 34,000 patients and their caregivers. That's comfort and connection for those who know what it's like to receive that terrifying call, and to those who struggle to find a way forward where they can begin to believe that this new life will be OK.


ADAM PEARCE, LOVE YOUR BRAIN FOUNDATION: Seeing Kevin with 30 tubes in his body, it was just devastating.

Did you have a great day today?

KEVIN PEARCE, ADAM'S BROTHER: It was a good day.

A. PEARCE: Great day.

K. PEACE: What I remember most is Adam being there. He moved to Denver and he did every single day of therapy with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breathe in and lift your arms up towards the sky.

A. PEACE: We found yoga probably about like two years after his accident. He'd come out of yoga class and be like that's the old Kevin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Axel threading through.

A. PEACE: We had just so many people coming to us saying there's no support, what did you do? We knew we needed to do something. Retreats are creating the conditions for people to feel accepted exactly as they are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew I needed to be around other people who understood me because nobody else does.

A. PEACE: I think people feel isolated after brain injury because they don't feel able. When you don't feel able, you generally retreat back inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard. I've lost my identity.

A. PEACE: There's a deep connection formed because there are so much common understanding of the challenges that go along with brain injury. I hope people walk away from the retreat feeling that they have a sense of control in their healing. Oftentimes our medical system has us thinking that someone else can fix us. There is so much more that we can do for ourselves.

K. PEACE: Every single person on this planet's going to be faced with a challenge. It doesn't matter what that challenge is. It's how you deal with it. I am totally and completely 100 percent happy with where I'm at today.

A. PEACE: What this has taught me is that trauma and adversity can be a powerful pathway for deeper learning and growth.



MANGANIELLO: Please join me in honoring CNN Hero, Adam Pearce.


A. PEACE: In my experience transformation most often occurs in situations filled with great challenge or great love. At Love Your Brain we have both. When we explore our joys and grief together, we can forge pathways to greater understanding and resilience.

For anyone navigating the uncertainties of brain injury, I want you to know that you are not defined by your injury but by the compassion and courage with which you face it.


Thank you.


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

COATES: To shape our first Young Wonders, I know that's you as well, Anderson Cooper, but our first Young Wonders --

COOPER: Don't mock me.

COATES: I'm not mocking you. It's sincere.

Our first Young Wonder is a remarkable story. He's a student organizer for the Prakhin Foundation whose mission is to promote awareness of the holocaust, genocide and antisemitism through education, and a star of Bradley Cooper's "Maestro" and hit Max series "Just Like That," Alexa Swinton.


ALEXA SWINTON, CNN YOUNG WONDER PRESENTER: In 2019 a young boy traveled to the city of Galilee in the northern part of Israel. Steven Hoffen volunteered for an organization led by Arab and Jewish women to promote sustainable agriculture, women's empowerment and cultural understanding.

What struck Steven was how they were doing this. Growing fresh produce in towers on rooftops and in kitchens. He saw up close how hydroponic farming worked to bring healthy food to those who needed it and could be a way to battle climate change. He returned home to New York City and eventually started his organization, Growing Peace.

In just two years he has placed 14 systems in the Bronx which helps formerly incarcerated women and low-income families, seven towers in Washington heights to help low-income seniors and seniors living with a disability, and built a massive system at the food bank in Tel Aviv.

His work reminds us that no matter our age when we see something new and take it in big things like cooperation, community and change are possible.


STEVEN HOFFEN, GROWING PEACE: What struck me most about hydroponics was that it seemed some high-tech. Like something out of a movie. Instead of growing food from the ground we're growing crops out of these tall shiny towers by passing nutrient-rich water through their roots.

Hydroponic farming saves more water. It also uses less space, making it easier to grow in food deserts and urban areas.

The name of my organization is Growing Peace. We install the hydroponic systems to alleviate food insecurity. Every week I visit some of my sites to monitor the systems and see how the crops are growing.


HOFFEN: It brings me joy to expose other young kids to hydroponics.

You just want to cut it right at the root of each leaf here. You're doing a great job.

We can basically grow anything that grows in the ground. Like leafy greens, cherry tomatoes and strawberries. The produce that we harvest go to various communities in need including elderly people.

I hope to spread the message that as climate change worsens we need to switch to more sustainable methods of food production. With these systems in place communities won't be lacking healthy food.


HOFFEN: Thank you so much. Enjoy.

When I see the smile on somebody's face, it makes me feel like I really made a difference.




COOPER: Well done.

COATES: I know.

COOPER: It's pretty amazing.

COATES: Great job.


COATES: Such a sweetheart. And don't forget to tell us what you think about Steven's work and all of our Top 10 Honorees by tagging CNNheroes. Great job.

COOPER: We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: Up next on CNN HEROES, "The Color Purple's" Danielle Brooks honors an incredible hero for kids with incarcerated parents.

Don't go away. CNN HEROES will be right back.



COOPER: And welcome back to CNN HEROES.

In the U.S. there are nearly three million children who have an incarcerated parent.

COATES: Here to tell us how our next hero is helping those kids in the Washington, D.C. area go on to college is the co-founder of Black Women on Broadway and the star of the new film "The Color Purple," hence all the purple, Danielle Brooks.


DANIELLE BROOKS, CNN HERO PRESENTER: Too many kids of incarcerated parents think I'm alone, I'm ashamed, people think I'm trouble, too.

Yasmine Arrington Brooks had those thoughts. Her father has been in and out of prison most of her life. When her mother passed away when she was 13, Yasmine went to live with her grandmother, who created a home filled with love and the love of learning. And in a social change program for teens she was asked, what pisses you off? Yasmine answered incarceration.

Not just because of her life experience, but she and her grandmother had been researching college scholarships and learned that nothing existed for students with incarcerated parents in their region. Yasmine pitched the idea for scholarships. It provides college tuition money, offers mentoring programs, book grants, emergency funds to cover unexpected bills and provides each student with a new laptop.

Since 2014 more than $450,000 has helped nearly 100 students. Thanks to this superstar, kids are learning that they aren't alone, that they are seen, loved and supported by a community that is so very proud of them.



YASMINE ARRINGTON BROOKS, SCHOLARCHIPS.ORG: Having a parent that's absent from the home and particularly when you know that they're incarcerated, a lot of questions go through your mind. It's very humiliating. It is demoralizing. You just miss a lot. Parents oftentimes miss graduations, birthdays. Not having my father in my life, I was still very insecure in a lot of

ways. I never talked about it in school because it becomes a thing where someone can stereotype you. And so most of the time we're very silent about it.

Tiana. Hi!

The main objective of our scholarship program is to help directly address the financial gap and challenges that many of our scholars face.

Getting ready for graduation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm going to graduate. I'm so excited!

Y. BROOKS: We all are connected because of the lived and shared experience of having an incarcerated parent. So we all sort of bond off of that. It's definitely a lifeline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad has been incarcerated basically since I was born. My dad is an intellectual at heart. He likes to talk about the things that I'm learning. The scholarship was definitely a game changer for me. It changed my entire outlook on college. It's definitely much more than just like the scholarship that I'm getting but also the network and the support. I'm starting law school in the fall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mentor is a lawyer. She has been my career support, my emotional support, my life support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have done it. I'm really so proud of you. I really am.

Y. BROOKS: Hey, Mick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I've got my number one hype woman in Miss Yasmine.

Y. BROOKS: I'm excited for you, Mick. I'm so excited for you.

I accept my dad for who he is. Our relationship is complicated.

ScholarCHIPS is my way of making sure that other young people like me can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You're growing, you're glowing. I'm loving it.

When you have a community of support around you and there are other people rooting for you who understand what you're going through and where you've come from, it just really changes your whole life.


(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) D. BROOKS: Girl, you are the light. Please join me in honoring CNN Hero and number one hype woman Yasmine Arrington Brooks.


Y. BROOKS: Our parents are not defined by their worst moment, and we are not defined by the collateral damage of the prison industrial complex. Children of incarcerated parents all over the world, rise up. Knock down those barriers. Open up those doors. You are worthy of all of the beautiful things that life has to offer.

ScholarCHIPS scholars and alumni, thank you for being you and for making our community so strong and transformative and healing.

Friends, please. Please join us to expand our impact for millions of children of incarcerated parents everywhere to make their dream of a college education a reality. Thank you.


COATES: Oh, my goodness. How excited. I am so excited for you. You are just loving light, my friend.

Y. BROOKS: Thank you. It's a reflection. It's a reflection. This is a lot of black girl magic right here. I'm loving this.

COATES: Well, you are the most magical. What does this mean to you, to be recognized in this way for what is your passion, what is your calling? Tell me.

Y. BROOKS: It just feels like a dream. I just keep saying pinch me, pinch me. I'm so eternally grateful. This is a major, major breakthrough. Anyone who's a founder, especially of a grassroots non- profit organization, knows how difficult it is to raise funds and capital and get the word out and build capacity and sustainability. So this right here is the beginning of so much more. And it's so needed.

COATES: Well, you heard her, Danielle. Go ahead and pinch her. There you go. All right.



COATES: If you want more information of course go to Love you, sis.

Y. BROOKS: I love you.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, "Miss Marvel's" Iman Vellani honors a hero. Amanda Seyfried, Brooke Shields and Sterling K. Brown. And later Martin Sheen presents a very special award.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TERESA GRAY, MOBILE MEDICS INTERNATIONAL: Our organization sends volunteer medical teams to disaster areas, humanitarian crisis and refugee crisis around the world.

Because of donations that we've received from being a CNN Hero we've been able to buy medication supplies and equipment all over the world, in Kenya, the earthquake in Turkey, the fire in Maui. That is not something that we would have been able to do prior to having the exposure and getting the donations.

It literally changed the face of our organization. The amount of people that we are able to help.



COATES: Unbelievable. Every day our heroes like Teresa work hard to help as many people as possible and with the right support including yours they can do just that.

COOPER: This year the Elevate Prize Foundation is helping amplify the impact of our CNN HEROES even more. Take a look.


JOSEPH DEITCH, FOUNDER/CHAIRMAN, ELEVATE PRIZE FOUNDATION: The world needs heroes now. We're at a tipping point. We just have to awaken that spark.

COOPER: Four years ago entrepreneur Joe Deitch founded the Elevate Prize Foundation with an ultimate goal.


DEITCH: If we make good famous, we can take good further.

COOPER: With that in mind this year the foundation brought our heroes together in Miami for critical non-profit and leadership training.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people have a formal board?

RICHARD CASPER, CREATIVETS: We've just been learning so about how to expand our reach and help more people.

CARIE BROECKER, PEACE OF MIND DOG RESCUE: We've learned about social media, financial planning. It's all been extremely helpful.

BOBBY WILSON, METRO ATLANTA URBAN FARM: They've given me opportunities to think in a different way and hopefully be more productive.

COOPER: Training that arrived right on time.

SHIRLEY RAINES, BEAUTY 2 THE STREETZ: Everything they say that should not be done is what my accountant was doing. I just had to get rid of my accountant. COOPER: The heroes also participated in the foundation's annual summit

for global change makers and donors.

CAROLINA GARCIA JAYARAM, CEO, ELEVATE PRIZE FOUNDATION: We can use visibility to inspire people to drive change in their communities and to ignite the next generation of social entrepreneurs to get involved.

MEYMUNA HUSSEIN CATTAN, TIYYA FOUNDATION: I started the organization with my mom in her garage. And now I'm talking to huge decision- makers.

NORA EL-KHOURI SPENCER, HOPE RENOVATIONS: The Elevate Prize Foundation, CNN, what they want for us is for us to be able to grow our impact and to do more.

DEITCH: Let's go make good famous.


COOPER: In its second year of collaboration with CNN HEROES global non-profit the Elevate Prize Foundation is committed to magnifying the work of changemakers, creating a network for good and inspiring action on an international scale.

Here's their founder, Joe Deitch, and CEO Carolina Garcia Jayaram.


DEITCH: Real change requires people with passion, purpose, and persistence. We are here to celebrate 10 such individuals. Ten people doing the extraordinary.

JAYARAM: Our mission at the Elevate Prize Foundation is simple. To create a global fan base for good and inspire action. Tonight these heroes are getting the recognition they deserve. Their stories remind us that we each have the power to change the world. We just need to take that first step.

DEITCH: By donating to CNN HEROES you can join us in taking that step. The Elevate Prize Foundation will match any donation dollar for dollar up to $50,000 for each of these heroes. So please, if you're able, go to, click donate and contribute to your favorites.

Thank you to CNN HEROES for introducing us to these remarkable people and for helping to grow this global movement for good.


COOPER: So please go to, support our heroes and their work like our next one. He grew up in Ghana in West Africa where 32 million people are served by only four main hospitals. Those who live in rural communities often have to choose between working to feed their family or traveling long distances to receive basic but often life-saving preventative care.

COATES: And to share how he found a way to bring health care to them is one of the stars of the Marvels and a champion of the Aga Khan Development Network, Iman Vellani.


IMAN VELLANI, CNN HERO PRESENTER: A grandmother's love is big, profound and everlasting. Osei Boateng felt it deeply with his. But her high blood pressure went untreated for too long and she died from a stroke. Let's talk about the power of an aunt's love. The fun, the spoiling, the care. Osei lost his aunt from complications caused by untreated diabetes. In that aching swirl of preventable pain he vowed to find a way to bring health care to rural areas.

After immigrating to the United States with his family he got a full scholarship to study biology at Cornell University. When they returned to the beloved Ghana in 2017 he launched OKB Hope Foundation to bring health care to his people. He turned a van into a mobile clinic complete with lab, medications, a physician, nurse, and has trained a legion of local health care advocates.

So far thousands of people have received life-saving and life-changing care. One man, one idea, and one more example of what the power of love can do.


OSEI BOATENG, OKB HOPE FOUNDATION: We've designed the van like a clinic.


When we are traveling especially long distances there's a lot of potholes. There have been a lot of times where our car got stuck in the mud.

This is our daily experience.

We can get home as late as 12:00 a.m. We've been to communities where they haven't seen a doctor before. Literally. They haven't been to the hospital before. 90 percent to 95 percent, everyone that comes through has one health issue or the other. We have a physician. The nurse will collect the vitals. We have our lab tech. And dependent on the person's condition, if the doctor needs additional labs work done, we have some point of care labs that we do in the van. Typhoid, malaria, we have medications also. It's like a one-stop shop for people.

We know that we had limited resources, and so we identified people who would be passionate about health care. And then we trained them on various health diseases, ranging from malaria to diabetes. We give each of them a blood pressure machine so they can go house to house and provide care for people in their community.

Up to date, we've served over 4,000 people. So imagine if you had two or three vans. Going into these communities and really providing them with health care, seeing how the moms, the fathers, the grandmothers, the children, are really grateful, words cannot describe the feeling that you get providing care for someone who otherwise wouldn't be alive if your mobile health van wasn't there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VELLANI: Please join me in honoring CNN HERO, Osei Boateng.


BOATENG: Too many of us know how it feels when you lose your loved one to a preventable disease. Too many of us know how it feels when you see care but never find it. And too many know how it feels when you're going through a mental health challenge but have no support. Thousands of individuals live in rural and underserved communities face this daily. And this is what we are working so hard to address because every life deserves the best possible care.

This award is a testament that health care should not be a luxury but a fundamental human right. With your help, we can save more lives. Thank you.


ANNOUNCER: Still to come on CNN HEROES, Amanda Seyfried and Brooke Shields. A performance by LL Black. And soon you'll find out our 2023 CNN Hero of the Year.



COOPER: We are back with CNN HEROES, and we want to remind you that the Elevate is -- that Elevate is matching your donations to all of our Top 10 CNN HEROES, up to $50,000 each. So go to, click to donate. You can do it now and support our incredible honorees.

COATES: You know, in the United States there are more than 33,000 veterans who sleep on the streets, even in military cities like Fayetteville, where my mother is from, North Carolina. Hi, Mommy. Home to Fort Liberty, the 82nd Airborne, the Special Operations Command Center and the VA medical facility. Our veterans, they are struggling.

COOPER: Here to tell us how our next hero found a unique way to help them is a proud supporter of JDRF, which funds vital research and type one diabetes, and the focus of a critically acclaimed documentary series about her life, "Pretty Baby," Brooke Shields.


BROOKE SHIELDS, CNN HERO PRESENTER: Sometimes life beats us down. Some big event comes along and it just knocks you to the ground. That happened to Stacey Buckner in 2008. She was an outdoor-loving camper one moment and the next having a stroke in her shower.

After being hooked up to machines for months, they discharged her in a wheelchair, with a traumatic brain injury. They declared her unable to work. Coming from a military family, which instilled a sense of true service for her, Stacey fought back the suicidal despair, and she worked with a local agency to get a job at the VA Medical Center.

On her way to and from this truly life-saving work, Stacey saw homeless veterans behind the strip mall. One day she handed a woman a hygiene packet, and the woman tossed it back to her and said, I'm homeless, where am I supposed to shower? Stacey knew where, her jeep. Because of her love of camping, it had a shower hookup. And that's when Stacey started Off-Road Outreach.

And Off-Road Outreach provides dozens of homeless veterans each week with showers, fresh produce, clothing, and also connects them to services.

Life hit Stacey hard. But she's up. She's showing her city how to give back, and she is literally showering it with her love.


STACEY BUCKNER, OFF-ROAD OUTREACH: A lot of these veterans, they are deep in the woods. I have several veterans that I've actually been looking for that got displaced. It's not that they don't want to be found. They don't want to be in the public eye.

Hey, what's up, baby? How you doing?

Gaining trust is really, really important.

We didn't have the half sizes, so we got the next full size.

It takes boots on the ground to get back there, find them, and meet their needs. Coming out of the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, I had a stutter. No one wanted to hire me. You wonder, why are you still here? But I just thought, you know, God did not put me here to be living that same life I was living before.

Eventually, I did find a community resource for adults with disabilities. They took a chance on me. I saw a gap in services for homeless veterans, and I just thought, you know, I can do something about that.

Let me know when you're ready and I'll start the shower, OK?

We provide clothing, food. There's a full kitchen in the back. We also do laundry.

Your pants are almost done spinning, baby.

For veterans, we do wrap around services.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like this establishment. This setup you got.

BUCKNER: This is my brick and mortar.

It's just filling a basic human need.

These are ready to hang and dry. They're clean. Smell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel like a woman.

BUCKNER: Yes. Franky, you ready to shower, baby? It'll be warming up for you. OK?

Sometimes I really do surprise people with who I am.

Oh, my god, you smell good.