Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CNN Announces Finalists for ‘CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute’

CNN Pressroom - Performers for Dec. 6 Gala Include Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Wyclef Jean, Norah Jones; Presenters Include Glenn Close, Harry Connick, Jr., LL Cool J, Kyra Sedgwick, Jimmy Smits

CNN today revealed the names of 18 finalists for “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” the culmination of a five-month audience nomination process through which ordinary people will be recognized for accomplishing extraordinary things. Hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour, “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” will air live globally on CNN/U.S., CNN International and CNN en Español on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 9 p.m. (ET).

In its first year of the CNN Heroes initiative, CNN received more than 7,000 nominations from viewers in 80 countries, nominating people from more than 90 countries.

Honorees will be announced at the Dec. 6 gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, which will include performances from Grammy Award winners Mary J. Blige and Sheryl Crow and a duet by Grammy Award winner Norah Jones and acclaimed performer-producer Wyclef Jean. Presenters will include Tyra Banks, Glenn Close, Harry Connick, Jr., Rosario Dawson, LL Cool J, Kyra Sedgwick and Jimmy Smits.

“We’re honored to shine the spotlight on some of the world’s lesser known heroes with the help of an esteemed slate of performers and presenters,” said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. “While other awards programs venerate those who are already celebrated, we are recognizing the unheralded, the ones who accomplish great things without the benefit of recognition.”

From May 1 through September, CNN Worldwide has featured everyday heroes across its television networks, digital services and at www.CNN.com/Heroes, encouraging viewers to nominate local heroes they deem deserving of recognition as a CNN Hero. The finalists in each of the six categories include:

· MEDICAL MARVEL – Peter Kithene of Seattle, who founded a clinic in his native Kenya that has provided services to more than 18,000 patients; Ann McGee of Las Vegas, who started a transportation program to provide free medical flights for families with gravely ill children; and S. Ramakrishnan of Ayikudy, India, a quadriplegic man who runs one of India’s largest centers for the disabled, serving people from 330 surrounding villages.

· YOUNG WONDER – Kayla Cornale, 18, of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, who developed a musical system to improve communications with autistic people; Dallas Jessup, 15, of Vancouver, Wash., who produced a video and an online program designed to teach young women and girls how to escape an attacker; and Josh Miller, 17, of Santa Monica, Calif., who established a student-run nonprofit group dedicated to motivating high school students of all backgrounds to succeed in school and life.

· CHAMPIONING CHILDREN – Dr. Rick Hodes of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who has served as a conduit for Ethiopian children to receive essential vaccinations, surgeries and other medical procedures; Scott Loeff of Chicago, who founded a camp for children with Tourette Syndrome to enable them to fit in with other children; Steve Peifer of Kijabe, Kenya, who combated severe dropout rates in Kenya by ensuring that more than 11,000 children have daily lunches at school and access to computers.

· COMMUNITY CRUSADER – James McDowell, a U.S. Army sergeant major who serves with the 82nd Airborne in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and led efforts to encourage Afghan farmers to switch from growing poppies to equally profitable saffron bulbs; Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Gulu, Uganda, who opened a school in her town to rehabilitate girls devastated by the Lord’s Resistance Army; Julie Rems-Smario of Oakland, Calif., who founded a nonprofit agency that serves deaf survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

· DEFENDING THE PLANET – Florence Cassassuce of La Paz, Mexico, who invented a five-gallon bucket that can purify several days’ worth of water in four minutes; Irania Martinez Garcia of Guantanamo, Cuba, who has taught hundreds of residents to learn how to grow food efficiently while using organic and sustainable materials from the local dump and their own trash; and Mark Maksimowicz of St. Petersburg, Fla., who co-founded a volunteer armada of boats to help clean up North American coasts.

· FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE – Pablo Fajardo of Lago Agrio, Ecuador, who seeks to force one of the world’s largest oil corporations to pay more than $6 billion to clean up toxic waste in the Amazon rain forest; Rangina Hamidi of Stone Ridge, Va., who founded a company that enables women in her native Afghanistan to make money from their intricate embroidery skills; and Lynwood Hughes of Rocky Mount, N.C., who started a nonprofit group to help U.S. veterans secure their disability benefits.

Joel Gallen, who has helmed ambitious telethon events supporting victims of both the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, serves as executive producer for the event. Gallen won a Peabody Award for “America: A Tribute to Heroes” and has been nominated for several Emmys throughout his career. Kelly Flynn is senior executive producer for the CNN Heroes initiative.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.

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