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CNN Honors Extraordinary Deeds of Seven Everyday People in Global Event

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- CNN Worldwide and its global audience paid special tribute tonight to seven ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary deeds, recognizing them as "CNN Heroes" in a global telecast. CNN's Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour hosted "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

"Over the past five months, our CNN Heroes initiative has shone a spotlight upon dozens of amazing people from around the globe," said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. "All of them deserve the designation as a 'hero,' and these seven we honored tonight truly stood out with their accomplishments, their courage and their humility."

From May 1 through September, CNN Worldwide has featured everyday heroes across its television networks, digital services and at <>, encouraging viewers to nominate local heroes they deem deserving of recognition as a CNN Hero. 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. CNN and its audience narrowed the nominations to a list of 18 finalists, from which a blue ribbon panel of judges selected the eventual honorees.

The honorees in each of the six categories and one selected by CNN's global audience 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.

As an undergraduate attending the University of Washington at Seattle,

Kithene raised money for a clinic and opened Mama Maria two years ago.

To date, the clinic has provided services to more than 18,000 patients

who previously had no health care. He plans to enlarge the clinic and

launch an HIV-testing program.

-- YOUNG WONDER - Kayla Cornale, 18, of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, who

developed a musical system to improve communications with her autistic

cousin and other people with the disorder. Kayla's patented system

"Sounds into Syllables" has won top awards at several international

science fairs, captured the attention of autism researchers and is

being tested in several Ontario school districts.

-- CHAMPIONING 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. Through

these efforts, up to 11,000 children receive daily lunches nine months

out of the year. Food, in combination with the computer labs, has

produced a decrease in the dropout rate in rural Kenya.

-- COMMUNITY CRUSADER -Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Gulu, Uganda, who

opened a school in her town to rehabilitate girls devastated by the

Lord's Resistance Army. St. Monica's Girls Tailoring School gives about

300 girls and their babies room, board, an education and vocational

skills free of charge to help them rebuild their lives.

-- DEFENDING THE PLANET -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. Through Garcia's efforts, pollution declined

considerably in the area, and unemployed citizens have found work

converting dumps into resources that help them improve their quality of


-- FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE - Pablo Fajardo of Lago Agrio, Ecuador, who grew

up in the Amazon and started working at the age of 14 to support his

younger siblings. As he labored on a plantation and in the oil fields,

he attended night school to get a high school education. For six years,

he woke at 3:30 a.m. to study law, and now in his first case, he is up

against the oil industry in a major environmental lawsuit.

-- VIEWERS' CHOICE AWARD - Pat Pedraja, 12, of Tampa, Fla., who embarked

on a one-kid mission to change the makeup of the nation's bone marrow

registry. A leukemia patient himself but not one in need of a marrow

transplant, Pat visited 30 states through his "Driving for Donors"

program to encourage minorities like himself to become donors. In just

three months, Pat raised more than $100,000 and helped sign up more

than 5,000 people to the registry.

In addition to honoring everyday heroes, the tribute telecast paid special recognition to Christopher Reeve with the presentation of the inaugural CNN Heroes' Hero award. After a tragic horse-riding accident, Reeve along with his wife, Dana, formed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to support efforts to find cures and treatments for spinal cord injuries and to improve the lives of people living with paralysis. Reeve's eldest children, Matthew and Alexandra, along with Peter D. Kiernan, chairman of the board of the Reeve Foundation, accepted the award.

The gala tribute included 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 and appearances from Tyra Banks, Glenn Close, Harry Connick, Jr., Rosario Dawson, Kyra Sedgwick, Jimmy Smits and Mira Sorvino.

Joel Gallen, who has helmed ambitious telethon events supporting victims of both the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, served 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.

SOURCE CNN Worldwide
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