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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 10, 2023 - 21:00   ET



STACEY BUCKNER, CNN HERO: Sometimes I really do surprise people with who I am.

Oh, my gosh, you smell good. Right here some deodorant, baby.

I mean, look at me. I look really rough around the edges, right? I'm all tatted up, and I may throw out a cuss word every now and then, but I'm just Stacey.

Hey, what's up, brother?

And as for you, what else do you need?

Being called disabled, I like to say that I have special talents.

You've been burning the road up in that walker, I know that much.

You have my number. My name's Stacey.

It's important to show veterans that there are organizations out there that want to be your family, that want to help you get through life's trials and tribulations, and really provide support to you.



BROOKE SHIELDS, ACTRESS: It is my true honor to present CNN hero Stacey Buckner.


BUCKNER: I want to dedicate this to all of our active duty service members and veterans. Thank you. You all are the real heroes in this.

These men and women, who once stood on the front lines to protect our freedom, they now face a different battle on the home front. It is now our duty to serve them.

Through our acts of service, we can embody the very ideals that make our nation strong, unity, compassion, and the belief that, as Americans, we are all in this together.

And to my mom and dad, thank you for being the pillars of strength and believing in me. And I am truly blessed to have you by my side. Thank you, guys.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: That one got me, as all the other ones did as well. But according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, on any given night, there are more than 580,000 people who are unhoused. For so many of us, and these Americans, their only companion is their beloved pet.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: To share how our next hero works to care for these pets and their parents is also a pet parent. This is her dog, Finn. She's the proud supporter of INARA, War Child USA and Best Friends Animal Society.

Please welcome the actress, Amanda Seyfried.


AMANDA SEYFRIED, ACTRESS: In 1979, the blockbuster movie, "The Black Stallion," wowed kids all across the country, kids like a 7-year-old Kwane Stewart, who grew up to become a veterinarian because of that film.

For years, Dr. Stewart worked in private practice. But when he became a vet at a large county shelter, he saw something different. Day after day, people dropped off their pets because they couldn't feed or care for them. He saw the euthanasia rate soar and his own sense of worth and spirit plummeted. He was on the brink of walking away from his childhood dream, when he decided to start helping the unhoused with their pets.

He cofounded Project Street Vet, which offers free pet care, vaccines, medications, and food. It started in Fresno and moved to Los Angeles' Skid Row and has expanded to six cities across the country, including New York City.

This idea came to Dr. Stewart after he stopped to grab something at a 7-Eleven. He noticed a man outside with his belongings, and right by his side, he had a dog, a dog in need of care.

Dr. Stewart didn't judge, like so many of us do. He approached the man and his dog with compassion and grace and did the thing that he was put on this earth to do, help.


DR. KWANE STEWART, CNN HERO: I saw an unhoused gentleman with his dog, and this dog looked like a burn victim. Fleas can just destroy the skin. I had seen this guy before and ignored him. I said, I'll be back tomorrow with something I think will help.

And the dog was just transformed. With tears in his eyes, he looked up and said, thank you for not ignoring me.

OK. You hold her right there. I'm going to check her for more lumps.

That was the moment. That's when I said, I'm going to do more of this. I'm going to get back to saving animals. And I haven't stopped since.

We're going to go right to the heart of Skid Row.


It doesn't matter what your situation is or what your background or past is, I see a pet in need, and I see a person who cares for them dearly who just needs some help.

How you doing, man? My name is Kwane Stewart. I'm a veterinarian. If it's okay with you, I'd like to take a look.

I can treat about 80 percent of the cases I see out of a really small bag.

Good girl.

We're going to put some medicine in her ears to take care of the infection and I'm going to give her an allergy shot. Come here, we're going to make you feel better.

I treat anybody I come across. They see me with my stethoscope and my bag --

You look good.

This little dog was days away from dying, and then they started sharing stories about their dog and the history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of Dr. Kwane, he's alive and thriving.

STEWART: It's all right, man, it's all right.

This door of trust opens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He makes me feel good, and he loves me. And I know he loves me.

STEWART: The people I've met are some of the most remarkable pet parents I've ever met. I've seen people give up their last meal for their pets.

This is your partner obviously, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my best friend.

STEWART: I admire them when I see how committed they are, the relationship and the bond they share.

That's it, buddy. You're a good boy.

STEWART: The motto we've developed over the years is, no judgment, just hope. A gesture of kindness can change someone's life.

I come through here and I just look for pets.

This is my practice.

Now we're reaching so many more pets.

I don't know if there's anything better in my career that's happened to me.



SEYFRIED: Please join me in honoring CNN hero, Dr. Kwane Stewart.


STEWART: Thank you. Trying to soak this in like they told me.

There are so many people that have helped me reach this point. I want you to know I'm thinking of all of you right now.

When I'm asked why I do this work, I simply say, because it's necessary and because I can. I wish I could be out of work tomorrow, but sadly, our homeless issue is only getting worse. So, as long as there's a need and as long as I have breath in me, I will continue to care for these pets and their special owners.

And we'd love to welcome you in to the Street Vet family. We live and work by our motto every day, no judgment, just help. Thank you.


COOPER: Congratulations.

STEWART: Thank you, thank you.

COOPER: So, you're in six cities now. How many more would you like to try to be working in?

STEWART: Well, wow. I guess the dream would be to move into every large urban center, and we would cover a good portion of our homeless population.

COOPER: And how do people find you? How do people get your services?

STEWART: Well, I usually find them. That's how the service works. I started this 12 years ago by packing a bag of medical supplies and walking and searching and finding them.

COOPER: Congratulations. It's really incredible.

Is this -- what would more resources do for you?

STEWART: Well, we could expand more cities and I could treat more pets. My veterinarians, myself, we all volunteer our time. We use the resources to buy medications, to treat animals in hospital -- give them -- hospital care for anesthetics, procedures. So, yeah, we can stretch a dollar. COOPER: All right. If you want to support Dr. Stewart's work and all

of our heroes, go to

We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN HEROES, you won't want to miss this moment. We will present the first ever CNN Heroes Legacy Award to two very special people.



COATES: How am I not supposed to cry? I mean, I'm not supposed to cry?

COOPER: It's incredible.

COATES: All right. I won't cry, CNN. Fine, I'm going to cry.

We're back now with CNN HEROES. And what an incredible update from the 2016 CNN Hero of the Year, Jeison Aristizabal.

Now, tonight, as you mentioned at the top of the show, not only are we honoring our top ten heroes and our young wonders -- that's you, too -- but we are introducing something brand-new. It's an honor that celebrates the lifetime commitment to service and an unwavering dedication to making a difference and solving problems.

COOPER: We call this honor the CNN Heroes Legacy Award.

To present our very first is a proud supporter of Habitat for Humanitarian, multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award winning actor, Martin Sheen.



On January 20, 1981, after the pomp and pageantry of celebrating our nation's tradition of a peaceful transition of power, a husband and wife returned to their rural community of Plains, Georgia.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were filled with mixed emotions. Sadness that they could no longer serve the American people in the White House, while at the same time overjoyed that the 52 American hostages who had spent well over a year in horrific captivity in Iran had been returned home to the loving arms of their families.

Jimmy and Rosalynn sat in their home, the same home where they'd managed a peanut farm, planned their governor and presidential campaigns, raised four children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. Now they decided how they would plan their future as a former president and first lady. Instead of fading away, or cashing in, they committed fully to a life

of service. They did so because, do unto others and to whom much is given are more than just the tenets of their faith. They are the foundation of their character, the fuel that keeps their life in service running strong for decades.

And tonight, we celebrate it all and how it all began in the most humble of ways on the fall day here in New York City.


COOPER (voice-over): In September of 1984, Jimmy and Rosalynn spent a week with hundreds of volunteers at Habitat for Humanitarian to rebuild an apartment building in New York City.


Together, they picked up hammers and nails and raised the hopes of 19 families, when they handed them the keys to their new homes.

Since that day, across the country and in 14 others, with more than 100,000 volunteer builders, the Carter work project has built more than 4,500 homes.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: We work on human rights, and I think a basic human right for any human being, no matter where they live on Earth, is to have a decent place to live and to raise a family.

COOPER: At the Carter Center, they also promoted peace and democracy in troubled parts of the world. In 1989, they sent election observers for the first time to Panama and a protected democracy and push for freedom in more than 100 elections.

While others looked away from the daunting tasks of eradicating preventable diseases, they said, let's do this. They felt a connection between those small villages in the developing world and their small hometown of Plains, Georgia, understanding that we are all linked. And they pushed to end stigmas, fighting for mental health care and equal coverage, setting goals of dignity for all of us.

ROSALYNN CARTER, FORMER FIRST LADY: One is to speak out and get people talking about mental illness so that everybody in our country can realize that it's just an illness like any other illness.

COOPER: They focused on the needs of 53 million family caregivers, building them a center of their own. The carters did this work for others, giving back as much as they could for more than half a century.



SHEEN: On President Carter's 99th birthday, I presented this poem by Tagore to honored him and his first lady. We are called to lift up this nation and all its people to that place

where the heart is without fear and the head is held high, where thoughts are free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, where words come out from the depths of truth and tireless driving stretches its arms towards perfection, with a clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit, where the mind is led forward by thee and to ever widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom, Dear Father. Let our country awake. Amen.


At this time, I am deeply honored to present the first ever CNN Heroes Legacy award to former President Jimmy Carter and the late First Lady Rosalynn.

Joining us to accept this award on their behalf is their granddaughter, Dr. Sarah Carter.


DR. SARAH CARTER, GRANDDAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: On behalf of my grandfather and my late grandmother, thank you for this very special recognition. When my grandparents left the White House, or were involuntarily retired, as my grandfather likes to put it, they dedicated their lives to empowering people to improve their own situations, whether in Plains, Georgia, or in the tiniest village at the end of the road in Ghana, they trusted people to make the best decisions for themselves and to work hard for their own benefit.

My grandparents always reminded us that the people the Carter center aimed to help were just as intelligent, just as hardworking, just as dedicated to their families as everyone else. The grandparents they forced and the truth that they earned in those communities all over the world are at the heart of the Carter Center's success.

My grandparents had the ability to envision the world as it should be, with astonishing moral clarity, and the audacity and determination to pursue that vision over decades. They touched so many people's lives along the way.

So I'm honored to join you this evening to accept this award on their behalf. Thank you.


ANNOUNCER: Still to come, "The Buccaneers'" Josie Totah honors a young wonder. And later, Sterling K. Brown from "American Fiction," and a special performance by Aloe Blacc.



COOPER: Just want to remind everybody, you can support all our top ten heroes tonight by going to and click on donate. COATES: You know, to share how our next young wonder is on her way to

bring joy to hospitalized children and teens who are fighting cancer and other illnesses in the Washington, D.C. area is a proud supporter of Palestine Children's Relief Fund and one of the stars of "The Buccaneers," Josie Totah.


JOSIE TOTAH, ACTRESS: It happens every day, a father asks his daughter to fix his phone. Emily Bhatnagar loves her dad, did that magic kids know how to do and made his phone work again. But in that process, she saw a message that her father had cancer.

For months, she watched him become so weak that sometimes he couldn't work at the family's takeout restaurant. Emily didn't know what to do with her pain and buried herself in books. It was the only thing that fixed her anxiety and despair.

She realized she could bring this love of reading to sick kids. So, two years ago, she started for Love and Butter Cup, named after her favorite flower, and has delivered thousands of books. Though they may not cure cancer, sharing them fills Emily, her dad, her family, and those kids with much-needed joy.



EMILY BHATNAGAR, YOUNG WONDER: I just love books because they just, like, transport you to a whole new world. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, it was heartbreaking, especially because he's my absolute best friend.

I was reading so much. It's a way just to transport into a newer reality that might be a little calmer.

I started thinking, there are little kids out there who are going through the same or similar battle as him, and it just broke my heart. I just had to do something.

I donate books to kids in hospital. Most people just ship it through the Amazon Wish List.

Okay. We have one "Harry Potter".

It comes directly to my parents shop. It's always a mess there with all the books laying around. It does drive them a little crazy.

Pick it up, pack it. I want it out of here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

BHATNAGAR: So far I've donated 20,000 books. I don't know how it's possible. Still freaks me out. Like 20,000. Hello.

It's the best when I see their reactions. And that is really the reason why I do what I do.

Do you like reading?

I was surprised too.

I hope it gives them the dose of happiness so that they can be -- literature that takes them away from everything that's going on.

Unicorns and stuff, and I was like, yeah, this is perfect.

I feel like the book drive is giving me purpose.

I've realized smaller things matter more than the bigger things we often pay attention to. Sometimes I feel like they're years wiser than me. I learn so much from them.



COATES: Emily is incredible. You can feel it in her spirit. If you want to learn more about Emily's work and all of our top ten heroes, please go to


COOPER: In the 1920s, Highland Park, Michigan, was a bustling city. It was home to big car manufacturing plants. But when they closed, the jobs moved away, homes were abandoned, crime and despair took hold. And the city struggled to pay its bills so much so that in 2011, even the street lights were repossessed.

COATES: Which I can't wrap my mind around at all.

COOPER: I did not know that is possible.

COATES: That was even possible.

Well, to tell us about our next hero has a found away to turn the city's blight into community power is the champion of the youth mentoring connection and award-winning actor and producer and one of the stars of "American Fiction," Sterling K. Brown.


STERLING K. BROWN, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: On September 23, 2007, the sun was out, sky was blue, and the kids on Rhode Island Avenue were bear foot playing.

Shamayim Harris also known as Mama Shu was working. Her son's 10-year- old Chinyelu and 2-year-old Jakobi Ra were outside getting ready to cross the street. They held hands, started to walk, and suddenly little Jakobi Ra was hit by a car. He was hit so hard that he landed yards away.

The ambulance took too long, so they wrapped him in a blanket and took him to the hospital, and he passed away that night. The next morning, Ma -- the next morning, Mama Shu woke up thinking, okay, I'm alive. I actually just lived through this.

She decided to turn her grief into glory and began to transform the place that had taken her son's life. Six months later, she bought an abandoned house for $3,000 and restored it. Soon after, she purchased more and more. And in 2016, she launched Avalon Village. And from one single lot, she created a block with beautiful places, where children are safe to play and learn and where neighbors can thrive together.


Avalon, it's a powerful word with historic meaning for healing and rebirth. And it's come alive in Highland Park because when we can turn pain into purpose, we fight for what we deserve.


SHAMAYIM HARRIS, AVALON VILLAGE: As a citizen, I wanted to live the in a beautiful city. I felt that that is what we deserve. After my son, Jakobi, got killed, I needed to just basically change pain into power.

It started off with maybe, like, four lots. And now we have 45. We kept buying the land because it was so many things inside of my head that I wanted to actually build for the people.

The homework house was a space where children can come after school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a rook. What is this?



HARRIS: The children can make music, computers, 3D printers. A library is inside of there. And it is meant to look like a home.

That's three of them. I need three.

It's important for our children to have what some of the other children have in the other neighborhoods.

Girl, I know. Look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those are beautiful.

HARRIS: The Goddess Marketplace, it's a space were women entrepreneurs can provide their services, sell their wears.

Unfortunately, the lights were repossessed back in 2011. We were actually the very first relit block in Highland Park. We got five solar street lights with Wi-Fi capabilities on the land that we owned.

Beauty is healing. It really is. Folks hated to come over here. Now they're, like, bringing their children over and stuff.

People think that we just can't do it. And yes, you can.

Start where you're at. You can change your environment.

After Jakobi got killed, it just helped me to heal. The grief is energy to move forward. Sometimes I just sit and I just smile. But then I say, you know what? I'm not done yet.



BROWN: It is my honor to present CNN Hero, Mama Shu.


HARRIS: Thank you. Some people choose a beautiful place. I chose to make a place beautiful. Everyone deserves to live the in a clean, safe, and stable community.

Avalon Village will continue to transform block to beauty, one block at a time. Thank you, CNN, thank you to my fellow heroes, and thank you to my two darling boys, Jakobi Ra and Chinyelu, who reside in the heavens now. I miss you so, so much. I feel you every day, and I know you got me.

Peace and love to my beloved Highland Park, Michigan. Peace and love.


COATES: Oh, my goodness. Me and Sterling are so inspired by you. I cannot tell you. You're not done yet. So, what is next?

HARRIS: We -- expansion, expansion. I want to get my kids a playground. Add a playground, tennis court, a little small laundry mat. I've got so much stuff to do. I'm so excited. I mean, everything. Just everything and the kitchen sink.

COATES: Well, the future is coming, as you said. Congratulations. So proud.

To learn more, go to

ANNOUNCER: Next, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau honors a hero rebuilding coral reefs, and Edie Falco honors a hero who helps her indigenous community in Montana.

CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE is proudly sponsored by Humana, a more way to health care.



COOPER: And we are back with CNN HEROES live from the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life, the perfect place for our next hero.

With rising ocean temperatures, acidification, algae, sewage, farm runoff, many predict our coral reefs may become extinct by 2050. In the Florida Keys, 95 percent are already gone.

COATES: Here to tell us how he has found a way to restore them is the host and producer of the forthcoming series, "An Optimist Guide to the Planet", Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: Twenty-seven years ago, a good man chased money at a top financial firm in Los Angeles. And every morning, Mike Goldberg did that well. But he knew in his heart that he belonged someplace else, underwater.

So, he quit his job and eventually settled his family in the Florida Keys, opening up a dive shop. And back then, during the dives, they'd see the car-sized brain corals, stag horn, horn large as trees, fish, life, colors, quarter-mile each direction.

But year after year, he saw the coral destroyed. And often, while underwater, he'd cry of the devastation. And instead of letting it continue, he built a community to fight it. He cofounded I.Care, which grows resilient coral in nursery, uses recreational divers to transplant it, and informs them about the reefs.

In the last few years, they've educated 2,000 divers and planted more than 15,000 pieces of coral. The news about the reefs is devastating. But now, each morning, under the Florida's blue sky and warm waters, Mike chases hope.


MIKE GOLDBERG, CNN HERO: I love being underwater. The minute you go diving, the fish are right in your face. The thriving coral reef is incredibly bio diverse, multiple species of coral, multiple species of fish, invertebrates, all living happily together.


It's kind of buzzy.

I can tell you what a dying and struggling reef looks like easily because it's what I see most of the time now.

Once you lose the coral, there's nothing there. It's a literal underwater desert. We've lost so much coral. It truly is a devastating number. What I saw here was so sad that I wasn't sure how to solve the problem.

But then I said, you know what? I'm going to try something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Mote's Nursery.

This is a species of brain coral. They look like little brains whenever they get bigger.

GOLDBERG: I'm not a scientist. What I can do is tell the world of divers that are out there, let's band together.


GOLDBERG: Our goal is to make our reef self-sustaining, and that requires putting down resilient coral. We put them close together on a dead coral head, and they fuse. What I believed would work was and is the recreational dive community coming down and helping us rebuild the reef.

It's just amazing how fast this coral is growing. They look beautiful.

I'm happy that I get to be part of something that I know is a solution. I see things every time I go in the water that give me hope.

One percent of them are thriving. Those are some happy corals.



COSTER-WALDAU: It is my honor to present CNN hero, Mike Goldberg.


GOLDBERG: Thank you.

Every living thing on our planet is supported by the ocean, or in other words, the ocean is what breathes live into our planet. Over half of earth's oxygen is produced by our oceans, and the coral reefs are that life blood. If we lose the reefs, the chain reaction will be devastating.

I'm calling on everyone to take an active role restoring this most precious ecosystem, the one that connects each and every one of us. I do see hope. We are a community rebuilding something that will stand strong for generations to come. Join us.

Thank you.


COOPER: So, the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana is 30 miles from the Canadian border. It's nearly 200 miles from the city of Billings. And when the 5,000 members of the Gros Ventre and the Assiniboine tribes, when they need access to critical medical care like chemotherapy, it's a struggle like no other. Many people there live below the poverty line. They don't own a car. Traveling hours in the brutal winter with 10-foot snow drifts is often impossible.

COATES: Well, to share our next hero helps her community access that care is the champion of the 52nd Street Project which connects kids to the theater, the Animal Haven Shelter on Center Street, and multi-Emmy award winner Edie Falco.

EDIE FALCO, ACTRESS: Montana has got big skies, postcard perfect mountains, and the buffalo thundering across the plains. It is a place Tescha Hawley loves and has called home most of her life.

In 2016, she discovered a lump in her breast. Even as an informed health care administrator, she spent six precious months navigating the federal, state and native medical paperwork maze to meet with the proper specialists. She had four rounds of chemo and 60 treatments of radiation. She travelled three hours each way because that health care didn't exist on her reservation.

And when she was finished with her treatment, this single mother of two, social worker, and licensed therapist cracked open her laptop and started the Day Eagle Hope Project. She provides tribe members who are sick with free transportation, gas cards, and hotel costs. The work involved -- evolved to include a food pantry with local produce and organic buffalo and cow meat, and mental health services to combat high suicide rates.


Yes, Montana is a beautiful place, but it offers spiritual hearing because of the Tescha's eagle-like wisdom and grace.


TESCHA HAWLEY, CNN HERO: Prior to my diagnosis with cancer, I thought my life was based on my professional career and my education. And it wasn't until after that I suddenly realized that none of that mattered.



HAWLEY: In our community, we have a lot of people that won't ask for help, and they will just sit in silence and sadly suffer.

Okay. We're on our way. All set for Billings.

The need is huge for transportation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We leave on Sunday, spend the night, and go do my infusion. The round trip is, like, 400 miles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. See you.

HAWLEY: How many kids do you have?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has 12 grandchildren.

HAWLEY: We have generations of families living in one household unit.


If we could eat healthy, it would reduce our risk of cancer. We have done distributions of fresh eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables. In our language, the ethanon (ph) is our buffalo. Our ancestors prayed

that our buffalo would sustain us. And that's exactly what's happening today with our non-profit work.

With the seven buffalo that were harvested, we will gain about 5,000 pounds of lean meat. The need is so great for so many things. Many times I wanted to give up. It's the barriers, the hurdles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our community should be very proud because you're lifting up a lot of spirits.

HAWLEY: And then I get that sign that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. That's what drives me every day.



FALCO: Please join me in honoring CNN hero and fellow breast cancer survivor Tescha Hawley.


HAWLEY: I stand before you as an indigenous warrior woman, with both feet on mother earth, strong, hopeful, and resilient. To the mother recently diagnosed with breast cancer, to the addict, to the indigenous youth suffering silently, and to the families trying to feed their children, my message to you is remain hopeful and maintain your strength through spirituality.

I ask everyone to pass no judgment, as we do not know what the person next to us is dealing with. Keep our families in prayer and your donation will help heal one warrior at a time.


COATES: All right. Now, do not go away because coming up is something you've all been waiting for. We're going to announce our 2023 CNN hero of the year.

COOPER: Definitely don't want to miss that.

And also what we have next, a powerful performance by Aloe Blacc. So, stick around. We'll be right back.



COOPER: And welcome back to CNN HEROES. We are moments away from announcing your choice for 2023.

But, first, our final guest here with the song that truly honors our heroes. Please join us in welcoming back our champion for the campaign to end qualified immunity which works to reform our criminal justice system, performing his incredible anthem, "My Way," Aloe Blacc. (ALOE BLACC PERFORMING "MY WAY")



COATES: Wow. Thank you so much, Aloe Blacc, everyone.

Look, I am so excited to say this is the moment we've all been waiting for. It is time for us to reveal the 2023 CNN Hero of the Year. It's right here, so let's bring back our top ten honorees back onstage.


COOPER: Since we announced the top ten heroes, we gave you the opportunity to vote for the hero who inspires you. The hero who received the most votes will be awarded an additional $100,000 to continue their life-changing work.

And this year, thanks to our collaboration with the Elevated Prize Foundation, whose mission is to make good famous and ignite a global movement for change, the CNN Hero of the Year will also receive an unrestricted grant of $300,000. All 10 honorees will receive critical nonprofit training and ongoing support.

And now the 2023 CNN hero of the year is -- Dr. Kwane Stewart.


COATES: Congratulations.

STEWART: I didn't prepare for this part, so this is sort of off the cuff.

I -- thank you. I've wanted to be a veterinarian my whole life. I, you know -- since I was a child. And, you know, my dad told me to keep it together. I don't know if that's going to happen, old man. He's here tonight too.


If I, as a child, could dream of doing something that was impactful, then I think I found it, or it found me. And I'm so lucky to be doing what I'm doing. And I have so many people to be grateful for.

There's so many people that have helped get me here. My parents, who instilled good values. My brother who helped me start the charity. Ian, thank you.

Our volunteer veterinarians and technicians. My family, my better half, who's here tonight. My wonderful kids. To name my technician who's home crying right now, thank you.

I -- it's been a wonderful journey, and as I get older, I start thinking about those big questions in life. Why are we here? What defines us? Why are we human? And I think the answer, at least for me, the answer is in the

question. What does it mean to be human? And I believe it's humanity. It's looking out for each other, believing in each other, helping one another. And all of these people embody that.


This part certainly wasn't planned, but the $100,000, I want to celebrate with all of you. It splits evenly ten ways pretty nicely, so it is my contribution to all of us. I want to say I'm honored to know you and to be a part of this fraternity.


I'm here in part because -- I'm here in part because I've been willing to share and give throughout my life. There's no reason to stop doing that tonight.

I have one last quick thought. I was in the streets one day, and an unhoused man and his pet, after I delivered care, we got to talking. And he said sort of nonchalant, he hadn't eaten in almost two days. And I was due for lunch myself. I returned with a sandwich for myself and for him.

He tore off -- it was a Sub sandwich. He tore off a corner of it, a piece of bread. He ate it, and he gave the rest to his dog. And they've taught me a lot, too.

I'll close by saying this. An act of kindness can change your day. Change someone's day. An act or gesture of kindness can change somebody's life.

Thank you.


COOPER: What a night. We want to thank everybody for joining us.

Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Oh, my goodness. Thank you for holding my hand. I needed in there. That was beautiful.

Can you imagine the level of generosity to say give back immediately?


COATES: This tells you why we do this. Thank you so much.

You can support all of our honorees right now by going to and click "donate". Each donation will be met dollar for dollar. And if you know someone as amazing as tonight's honorees, you can nominate them to be a CNN Hero in 2024 because officially, Anderson, nominations are now open.

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

Thank you and good night.