Photo by Sun Star - Jumping for JoyCNN announced its Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2011, while opening online voting that will determine the winner of the $250,000 grand prize. All ten heroes will be featured on the 5th annual celebrity-filled award gala airing in December.

Culled from hundreds of submitted names, these ten heroes will each receive $50,0000 to continue their world-changing work. Their stories have been featured by the news network in videos throughout the year. Now the public is set to determine the top prize winner by voting online.

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper will air on Sunday evening, December 11, 2011. The ten finalists, listed below, will each have their story told by a celebrity.

Votes accumulated in online voting through December 7 will determine who will be named on the show as top “CNN Hero of the Year”. Voting continues through December 7 at at

Here are the finalists, some of which have been featured on the Good News Network:

* Amy Stokes from Yonkers, NY founded Infinite Family to help kids in sub-Saharan Africa, orphaned by HIV/AIDS. She uses the internet to connect hundreds of teen ‘Net Buddies’ with adult mentor volunteers from around the world.

*Restaurant owner, Bruno - CBS video Chef and restaurant owner Bruno Serato realized that many of the kids at his local Boys and Girls Club often go to bed hungry. They are “motel kids” – children whose families stay one step ahead of homelessness by living week-to-week in cheap motels. Serato’s “Caterina’s Club” started serving them pasta dinners, and now he feeds nearly 200 children seven nights a week. (GNN Story – subscription only)

* Derreck Kayongo of Atlanta couldn’t get over the fact that so much soap was being wasted every day in hotels across America. In 2009, the Ugandan war refugee created the Global Soap Project which has collected 100 tons of partially used hotel soap and reprocessed it into more than 100,000 bars to help fight the spread of child diseases in Africa and Haiti. (GNN Story – subscription only)

* In one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, Diane Latiker, a grandmother has opened her door and invited gang members to come inside. She hoped that by providing them with support and a place to go, she would ensure that her own daughter and other kids would be safe and able to focus on their future instead of gangs. (See the GNN story)

* Eddie Canales watched in Texas as his son Chris, a high school senior, made a tackle during a football game that left him paralyzed, leading him to start “Gridiron Heroes”, which provides emotional and financial support to high school football athletes who’ve sustained spinal cord injuries. It’s a fraternity that includes 19 injured players in the state of Texas.

* Elena Durón Miranda is the founder of “P.E.T.I.S.O.S.” (Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor) to get Argentinian children out of the garbage dump and into school. Today P.E.T.I.S.O.S. provides free after school programs and access to education, counseling and medical care to about 200 children.

* After Patrice Millet was diagnosed with cancer, he dedicated his life to helping needy kids in his native Haiti. In 2007, he sold his business and started the “FONDAPS” youth soccer program, which has provided free equipment, coaching and food to hundreds of children from the slums of Port-au-Prince and aims to help teach participants to become responsible citizens. (GNN story – subscription only)

* Arizona-born Robin Lim is helping Indonesian women who are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth after her youngest sister died from pregnancy complications there. Lim became a professional midwife and dedicated her life to offering free prenatal and birthing services to thousands of low-income women in Bali and Aceh.

Sal Dimiceli a CNN hero for Wisconsin residents* Raised in poverty, Sal Dimiceli vowed when he was 12 years old that he’d always help people in need, and he’s spent nearly all of his adult life making good on that promise in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Through a local newspaper column, Sal invites people who’ve fallen on hard times to write him letters, describing their situation. His nonprofit assists about 500 people a year with food, rent, utilities and other necessities. (See the GNN story)

* Taryn Davis’ husband died in Iraq when she was 21. Unable to find a community that could honor her husband’s memory in a spirit she could relate to, she created one. Since 2007, her American Widow Project has connected 900 young military widows in a sisterhood that helps them honor their husbands while celebrating life.

Last year’s “Hero of the Year”, Anuradha Koirala, was honored for her efforts to end human trafficking. CNN’s 2009 “Hero of the Year”, Efren Peñaflorida, saw his pushcart classroom model replicated more than 50 times by different organizations and institutions across the Philippines. He can also be seen hosting his own search for heroes on a Philippine television show, which features people working in the Philippines to better the lives of others.

“Over the past five years, the CNN Heroes Initiative has profiled more than 150 heroes and honored 50 everyday men and women from around the world for their tireless efforts to improve the lives of others,” said Jim Walton, President of CNN Worldwide. “We hope to empower these selfless individuals to persevere in their humanitarian efforts.”

Submit your own suggested hero at their website.

Photo (top) by Sun Star – Jumping for Joy

Leave a Reply