Becky Finfrock

Nov 22, 2013  |  Today's News

Chad Pregracke, founder of the non-profit organization Living Lands & Waters that cleans up the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways, was named the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.  Over the past 15 years, Pregracke and his volunteers have collected more than 7 million pounds of garbage from the rivers.  For nine months of the year, he and his 12-person crew live on a boat/barge. In addition to the river cleanup efforts, he has launched a floating classroom barge to educate high school students and teachers about the damage of pollution to river ecosystems. In 2007, Living Lands & Waters also began a program to plant one million trees along river shorelines to “protect and restore the natural environment.”   They are currently half-way to that goal.

CNN Heroes – “everyday people doing extraordinary things to help change the world” –included a five-week public vote on  Living Lands & Waters will receive $250,000, plus each of the top 10 heroes will receive $50,000.  Pregracke has pledged to give some of his Hero of the Year money to the rest of the top 10 CNN Heroes.  "I've met so many great people today, the other Heroes, and I'm really moved by all their stories and all the things they do around the world. ... I'm going to give 10 grand to each of them, because they're awesome," he said.

CNN will air “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" on Sunday, December 1, at 8 p.m. ET.

Congratulations to Chad and Living Lands & Waters!