The CNN Hero of the Year for 2017 has been awarded to Amy Wright, a North Carolina mom best known for her efforts to empower people with disabilities.
The award was revealed on Sunday by CNN's Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa during a live airing of the 11th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute from New York City, a CNN news release said.
Wright spent her life caring for her two children who were both born with Down syndrome and has first-hand experience of how few job opportunities there are for adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
In an effort to rectify this, she established a nonprofit organization, Able to Work U.S.A, and a coffee shop named after her two children, Bitty and Beau's Coffee, according to the news release.
Wright offers employment to 40 people with IDD, giving them the chance to earn a paycheck while also gaining a sense of pride and accomplishment.
"When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate," she said, per CNN. "Trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see."
Upon receiving her award, Wright said, "I am bringing this home to the 40 employees who work at Bitty & Beau's because they are my heroes, and most of all to my two youngest children, Bitty and Beau, who are my inspirations."
Ten CNN heroes are nominated each year and the public are then encouraged to vote for the person they feel is most deserving to be dubbed as a hero of the year.
According to WWAY-TV, Wright will receive $100,000 as part of the CNN Hero of the Year award to build her cause, while other nine heroes will receive a $10,000 cash award.
Here is list of the other CNN heroes, as compiled by the news outlet.
- Stan Hays, a Grand Champion pitmaster uses his barbecuing skills to feed people in need during disasters through Operation BBQ Relief.
- Samir Lakhani established the Eco-Soap Bank, which recycles used hotel soap for better hygiene and job creation in Cambodia.
- Jennifer Maddox's after-school program, Future Ties, provides a safe space for more than 100 children to learn, grow and succeed in Chicago.
- Andrew Manzi's nonprofit, Warrior Surf, provides free six-week surf camps for veterans and their families, complete with therapy sessions on the beach.
- Rosie Mashale and the organization Baphumelele provide care for more than 5,000 orphaned, abandoned or sick children in South Africa, many of whom have lost parents to AIDS.
- Leslie Morissette's project, Grahamtastic Connection gives computers, iPads and robots to ill kids so they stay connected to friends, family and school.
- Mona Patel created the San Antonio Amputee Foundation, which offers peer support, education, recreation and financial help for people who need prosthetic limbs.
- Khali Sweeney's Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program provides around 100 Detroit children with training and academic tutoring five days a week.
- Aaron Valencia founded the Lost Angels Children's Project, an after-school program that focuses on classic car restoration.
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