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Champions for Change

Champions for Change

  • Premiered: 
    June 17, 2017
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: CNN
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Special, Annual
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Inspirational
  • Tags:

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Plot Synopsis

Each year since 2017, CNN has broadcast a one-hour special that showcases community champions in underserved communities who challenge the status quo one sector at a time, while revealing the personal inspirations propelling transformation and the steps these trailblazers took to create lasting change. This special is a culmination of a week-long event, with segments airing across the CNN media platform.

The inaugural CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE premiered on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 9pm ET/6pm PT on CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted the one-hour special, with CNN and HLN anchors out in the field spending time with the people and causes that are close to their hearts. The anchors travel across the country to share the moving stories of the leaders and volunteers behind these inspiring organizations, learn about the challenges they face, and see first-hand the real difference they are making in the lives of those they help. Featured organizations include: The Heroes Project; Friends of Karen; Farm-Aid; Meals on Wheels; DreamYard; Spike's K9 Fund; Partners in Health; Madison Square Boys & Girls Club; Runway to Hope; Blessings in a Backpack; Optimist Youth Home and Family Services; and Girls on the Run DC.

The second CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE debuted on Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on CNN, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosting the one-hour special. Anchors Brooke Baldwin, John Berman, Wolf Blitzer, Kate Bolduan, Erin Burnett, Ana Cabrera, Alisyn Camerota, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Fredricka Whitfield along with chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Bill Weir, take viewers around the world and into the hearts of these men and women and their extraordinary stories. The following organizations were highlighted: U.S. Space and Rocket Center Education Foundation; The West End House; Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation; Every Mother Counts; Safe Horizon; Candelighters NYC; Operation Smile; World Wide Orphans; Champions for Change at Feeding America; Urban Pathways; and equine therapy.

On Saturday, May 19, 2019 at 8pm ET/5pm PT, CNN premiered 2019 CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE, a one-hour special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Anchors Brooke Baldwin, John Berman, Kate Bolduan, Erin Burnett, Alisyn Camerota, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Dr. Sanjay Gupta Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon, Jim Sciutto, and Bill Weir, return to highlight the stories and people who continue to change their communities and the lives of others. Featured leaders include: Killer Mike, Young@Heart Chorus, Diane Latiker, Pastor JD Williams, David Hogg & Lauren Hogg, Sebastian Junger, Jeni Stepanek (Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation), Kevin Hines, Heather Abbott, Dr. Danielle Moss (Oliver Scholars), Hanif Qadir, and Dan Buettner.

The 2020 CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE debuted on Saturday, September 26, 2021 at 10pm ET/7pm PT on CNN. John Berman and Alisyn Camerota anchor this hour-long special that includes updates from Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Bill Weir of champions from previous years. The 10 individuals highlights include: Dr. Demetrio Aguila (M25 Program at Healing Hands of Nebraska); Kevin Barber (Wheels of Change); Judaline Cassidy (Tools and Tiaras); Carla Gautier Castro (KONTi Design Build Studio); Lual Mayen (Junub Games); Earl Moore and Doug Naselroad (Appalachian Artisan Center "Culture of Recovery"); Tony Weaver Jr. (Weird Enough Productions); Nona Yehia (Vertical Harvest); Boyan Slat (The Ocean Cleanup); and Meagan Williams (Pontilly Neighborhood Stormwater Network).
On Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 8pm ET/5pm PT, CNN premiered the 2021 CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE. Victor Blackwell and Alisyn Camerota host this hour-long special that explores the motivations and catalysts driving these 12 bold leaders:

Derek and Becky Woods (Riverdale Children's Theatre): Derek and Becky Woods are instilling a new generation of theatrical performers with deep cultural literacy and appreciation of diversity. Their Riverdale Children's Theatre trains kids from a wide range of religions, ethnicities, and experiences to understand themselves and each other through acting, singing and stagecraft. The program has a growing list of accomplished alumni, and while participants typically pay tuition, no child gets turned away for financial reasons. CNN anchor and resident music man John Berman joins the kids to belt out some tunes and explore the magic behind the Riverdale Children's Theater.

Shara Mondy (Suited 4 Success): Shara Mondy outfits men -- especially those trying to start new lives after prison -- in business suits so they can confidently pursue employment, curtailing recidivism through the power of dignity. CNN's Victor Blackwell first learned of the "Suited 4 Success" program as a young reporter working in Shara's hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. He frequently donated his apparel to her cause and watched her become the center of an activist network providing haircuts, interview training and even table etiquette lessons to disadvantaged men starting anew.

Jenn Dianto Kemmerly (Monterey Bay Aquarium -- Seafood Watch): Overfishing has become a serious problem in the world's oceans, not only impacting the food chain but also the livelihoods of millions. The issue weighs heavily on CNN's Kate Bolduan, an avid diver and seafood connoisseur. She meets with Jenn Dianto Kemmerly, VP of the Global Ocean Initiatives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Jenn and her team promote and develop sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices for fishermen, chefs, and average consumers.

Lincoln Brown: CNN's Pamela Brown introduces us to her big brother, Lincoln. What started as a small gesture providing Christmas presents to strangers in need turned into Lincoln's heart-felt embrace of an immigrant family. Pamela shows us how her brother grew especially close to the family's 14-year-old son and became a beloved figure to the two daughters and their single mother. In this year's most personal "Champions for Change" story, Pamela paints an inspiring profile of a man, an immigrant family, and how one person can motivate an entire community to make an impact.

Sharae Moore (S.H.E. Trucking): Truck driver Sharae Moore is changing the face of her industry. Her company, S.H.E. Trucking, trains and encourages women to take growing roles in long-haul trucking. Sharae's training program boasts a 100% success rate for women seeking commercial licenses. CNN's Erin Burnett is passionate about women's empowerment in business and explores S.H.E. Trucking's most significant impact: the support network among women who are increasingly taking the wheel in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Silvia Hernandez (Comal Heritage Food Incubator): Silvia Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, helped found the Comal Heritage Food Incubator in Denver. The program teaches entrepreneurship and professional food techniques to immigrants so they can parlay their old-country cooking knowledge into careers in ethnic cuisine. Central to the incubator is a luncheonette where paying customers enjoy diverse dishes and students learn the business. The concept hits home for CNN's Ana Cabrera. She grew up in Denver and is partly of Mexican descent. Ana meets up with Silvia, introduces us to some of the students and shares their recipes for success.

Sean Perry (We R H.O.P.E.): Sean Perry is shaking up the traditional approach to children's mental health by making treatment available to students of all income levels at much younger ages. His nonprofit "We R H.O.P.E." works within school systems, during school hours. CNN's Alisyn Camerota has three teenagers of her own and a keen interest in young people's welfare. She explores how Sean is closing the economic gap in professional mental health support while shattering the stigma of mental illness.

Alexander McLean (Justice Defenders): CNN's Anderson Cooper introduces us to Alexander McLean, founder of Justice Defenders. The London-trained lawyer was appalled by the cumbersome, crowded and ultimately unfair justice system in Africa where many inmates, never having legal representation, languish behind bars. Justice Defenders provides extensive training for inmates and prison guards, teaching everything from basic court procedures to a full law degree-granting program. The empowered inmates then provide advice and legal services to themselves and fellow prisoners. The program has resulted in more than 4,000 convicts winning their releases from Kenyan and Ugandan prisons over the last three years. Activists all over the US are now working with Justice Defenders to set up similar programs.

Joanne Peterson (Learn to Cope): Joanne Peterson knows all too well the family struggles that come with opioid addiction. She set up the "Learn to Cope" network to help other families navigate their loved ones' dependencies and the associated traumas. Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to this respected activist who set up a groundbreaking family/peer counseling program and became a prominent voice for treatment and recovery.

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham (Blue Star Families): As the proud spouse of an Army Special Forces Officer, CNN's Brianna Keilar knows the importance of community support for military families. She introduces us to Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Gwen Bingham, co-chair of Blue Star Families' Racial Equity and Inclusion Initiative. The program strives to support military families of color suffering higher rates of financial and personal hardship than other service families.

Oliver Foote (Harlem Honeys and Bears): Former lifeguard and current CNN anchor Don Lemon dives in with a synchronized swim team making intergenerational waves. Led by Coach Oliver Foote, the Harlem Honeys and Bears showcase senior citizens' community spirit and vitality while promoting water safety and swimming for old and young alike. The team members, some in their 90s, compete in synchronized swimming events. They also run a youth learn-to-swim program to combat the disproportionate drowning rate faced by African Americans.

Kramer Wimberley (Diving With a Purpose): Kramer Wimberley is training a generation of SCUBA divers to restore ocean ecology for the future while protecting history and heritage in submerged wrecks. As a lead instructor for Diving With a Purpose, Kramer along with a team of other Black divers, mentors and encourages youth to pursue underwater archaeology and SCUBA. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield, a 30-year SCUBA diver, joins Kramer and his team as they work beneath the waves.