For seven years, CNN has conducted a search for everyday people doing extraordinary things to help change the world. This year, the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year is a 38-year old Illinois man by the name of Chad Pregracke. Chad will receive $250,000 to continue his work cleaning up trash in U.S. waterways. In true hero form, he has pledged to give $10,000 to each of the other 9 Hero of the Year finalists who range from urban gardeners to youth advocates.
It all started when Chad spent his summer breaks as a high school student working for some extra cash, as a commercial shell diver in the Mississippi River. He began to notice large amounts of debris in the waterway, which supplies drinking water to 18 million people in more than 50 U.S. cities. So at age 17, he started complaining to government officials, but nothing changed. In his own words, "I saw thousands of barrels, thousands of tires, cars, trucks and tops of school buses. ... I got sick of seeing it and just wanted to do something about it."
So at age 23, he created the non-profit, Living Lands & Waters, that organizes community cleanups across the country. These days, for 9 months out of the year, Chad and his 12-person crew live on a barge, traveling the country with a fleet of boats, organizing clean-ups that are fun for the volunteers who show up in each city. Close to 90% of what they recover is recycled. Over the past 15 years, 70,000 volunteers have worked alongside Chad and collected more than 7 million pounds of trash
Anything YOU might be fed up with in your community? Here's your chance to be extraordinarily ordinary. Take it from Chad: do something.
Note: Excerpts for from cnn.com.