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CNN Names CNN Hero Of The Year At Star-Studded Gala


Efren Penaflorida’s Work Offers Youth An Alternative to Gang Life; Penaflorida Will Receive $100,000

In a star-studded award ceremony Saturday night at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, Efren Penaflorida of the Philippines was named the 2009 CNN HERO OF THE YEAR, after nearly three million votes were cast at Actress Eva Mendes introduced Penaflorida (pronounced Pen-ya-flow-REE-duh) as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes; host Anderson Cooper announced Penaflorida as the CNN HERO OF THE YEAR at the end of the evening, after a powerful performance by Grammy Award-winning recording artist Carrie Underwood.

Penaflorida was voted CNN HERO OF THE YEAR from among the Top 10 CNN HEROES, who were all honored at Saturday’s event. Celebrity presenters included Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Randy Jackson. Underwood, Leona Lewis, and Maxwell each performed.

CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE, hosted by Cooper, will air globally on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol on Thanksgiving, November 26, at 9 pm. The CNN HEROES gala is the only awards show of its kind – featuring celebrities honoring everyday people who have made an extraordinary difference in their communities and beyond.

Ten years ago, Efren Penaflorida faced a choice so many impoverished teens in the Philippines confront: life in a gang. When a gang member challenged him to a fight, Penaflorida walked away and embraced his education, promising to create a positive alternative for other children to build a better life. Through his organization, Dynamic Teen Company, Penaflorida created a pushcart classroom to bring education to the most forgotten children in the country. The gangs start recruiting early and so does Penaflorida. Every Saturday, he pushes the cart to different sites across the city: the cemetery, the municipal trash dump, and the deplorable housing conditions. He brings reading, writing, and arithmetic to the children. He gives them a place to sit and learn in peace. He teaches them basic hygiene – washing their faces and brushing their teeth.

Since 1997, he has taught more than 1,700 students with nearly 12,000 members in his organization, showing the youngsters that they, too, have a choice. They can reject the gangs, embrace their education and “be the change that they dream.” Peñaflorida hopes to create an international movement for pushcart classrooms in underdeveloped parts of the world.

The CNN HEROES initiative, which began in 2007, garnered a record number of submissions this year (over 9,000) as well as a record number of online votes (nearly 3 million). The Top 10 CNN Heroes were selected by an esteemed Blue Ribbon Panel, which included Colin Powell, Whoopi Goldberg, Ted Turner, Shakira, Rosanna Rosado, Mariane Pearl, Malaak Compton-Rock, and Sir Elton John, among other humanitarians.

More information, including video of the Top 10 CNN Heroes, links to the Heroes’ organizations, and highlights from previous CNN HEROES programming can be found at


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