The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012, An Amazing Group

The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012, An Amazing Group

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Teen Columbian hero Catalina Escobar-CNN Hero photoFor their extraordinary efforts to help change the world and better the lives of others, 10 everyday people will receive $50,000 and a chance for much more.

This select group of top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012, revealed yesterday, were nominated by CNN’s global audience after being profiled earlier this year on CNN.

They will be honored at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” a globally broadcast gala that airs live on December 2. At the tribute show, hosted by Anderson Cooper in Los Angeles, one of the top 10 will be named CNN Hero of the Year and receive an additional quarter million dollars to continue their work.

The choice of top Hero will be decided by public voting conducted online through November 28 at

READ the List of Top Ten 2012 Heroes below, or WATCH the video with introductions here:


Catalina Escobar (photo, top of page)
Catalina Escobar is helping young moms in Colombia, where one in five girls age 15-19 is or has been pregnant. Since 2002, her foundation has provided counseling, education and job training to more than 2,000 teenage mothers.

Pushpa Basnet (photo, below)
Pushpa Basnet was shocked to learn that many children in Nepal have to live in prisons with their parents. In 2005, she started a children’s center that has provided support, such as housing, education and medical care, to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents.

Wanda ButtsNepal kids hero Pushpa Basnet -CNNHero photo
Wanda Butts lost her son in a drowning accident six years ago. In his memory, she started the Josh Project, a nonprofit that taught nearly 1,200 children — most of them minorities — how to swim.

Mary Cortani
Mary Cortani is a former Army dog trainer who started Operation Freedoms Paws, a nonprofit that helps war veterans train their own service dogs. Since 2010, she has worked with more than 80 veterans who have invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Razia Jan
Razia Jan is fighting to educate girls in rural Afghanistan, where terrorists will stop at nothing to keep them from learning. She and her team at the Zabuli Education Center are providing a free education to about 350 girls, many of whom wouldn’t normally have access to school.

Thulani Madondo
Thulani Madondo struggled as a child growing up in the slums of Kliptown, South Africa. Today, his Kliptown Youth Program provides school uniforms, tutoring, meals and activities to 400 children in the community.

Leo McCarthy (photo, below)Dad creates Mariahs Challenge-CNNHEROvid
In memory of his daughter, who was killed by a drunken driver in 2007, Leo McCarthy started Mariah’s Challenge. The nonprofit gives college scholarships to teenagers who pledge not to drink while they’re underage. Nearly $150,000 in scholarship money has been awarded.

Connie Siskowski
Connie Siskowski is helping young people who have to take care of an ill, disabled or aging family member. Since 2006, her nonprofit has provided assistance to more than 550 young caregivers in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Scott Strode
After beating his addiction to drugs and alcohol, Scott Strode found support through sports. Since 2007, his nonprofit, Phoenix Multisport, has provided free athletic activities and a sober support community to more than 6,000 participants in Colorado.

Malya Villard-Appolon
Malya Villard-Appolon is a rape survivor dedicated to supporting victims of sexual violence in Haiti. In 2004, she co-founded KOFAVIV, an organization that has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.

This is the sixth year CNN has conducted its annual search for CNN Heroes. In those years, the campaign has profiled more than 180 inspiring individuals on its global television network and websites.