Story highlightsThe 2016 CNN Hero of the Year is Jeison Aristizábal Aristizábal, who battles cerebral palsy, helps children with disabilities in his native ColombiaLearn more about Aristizábal’s work and other CNN Heroes at CNNHeroes.com
New York (CNN)Jeison Aristizábal wasn’t born destined for success.
Hailing from one of the poorest areas of Cali, Colombia, and waging a constant battle with cerebral palsy, the world seemed dead set against him.”When I was a young boy, a doctor told my mom that I would amount to nothing,” said Aristizábal, 33.Jeison AristizábalFamily support and a dogged spirit helped Aristizábal gain independence, and he set out to ensure other disabled youth could do the same. Launching a disability-advocacy foundation out of his parents’ garage was one of the first steps in a journey that’s taken him to law school and across the world.Now Aristizábal has been named the 2016 CNN Hero of the Year for his work providing educational and medical support for youth living with disabilities in Colombia. Aristizábal was recognized during Sunday’s “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” alongside the other top 10 CNN Heroes for 2016. Read MoreThe 10th annual show, hosted live by Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa, saluted everyday people doing extraordinary things to improve the world. Aristizábal was selected the 2016 CNN Hero of the Year after a six-week audience vote on CNN Digital and social media.Aristizábal will receive $100,000 to continue working toward greater opportunities for disabled and non-disabled youth. All of the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2016 will receive a $10,000 cash award. Donations made to each of their designated nonprofit organizations are also being matched up to $50,000. 2012 Hero of the Year becomes CNN SuperHeroJUST WATCHEDThe CNN SuperHero is …ReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
The CNN SuperHero is … 01:53Also announced during the show was a special award: 2012 CNN Hero of the Year Pushpa Basnet was selected the CNN SuperHero. Basnet works to provide housing, education, healthy meals and medical services to children forced to live with their parents inside Nepal’s prisons through her Early Childhood Development Center. “Thank you for making my dream into reality,” Basnet said Sunday. “The most important thing is that you need to believe in yourself, have passion.”The 10th anniversary CNN SuperHero is a former CNN Hero of the Year whose outstanding work continues to best embody the spirit of the CNN Heroes campaign. She will receive $50,000 to continue her inspiring work.Read more about the four other former CNN Heroes of the Year who were in the running for the CNN SuperHero.The star-studded ceremony included presenters Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Octavia Spencer, Keegan-Michael Key, Danielle Brooks, Diane Lane and Edie Falco, among others.Idina Menzel performed the song “I See You” from her album “Idina.” Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetHosts Kelly Ripa, left, and Anderson Cooper arrive at the 2016 “CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute” at New York’s American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 11.Hide Caption 1 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetThese men and women, who have devoted their lives to helping others, have been selected as this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes. From left, Craig Dodson, Brad Ludden, Umra Omar, Harry Swimmer, Georgie Smith, Sherri Franklin, Becca Stevens, Luma Mufleh, Jeison Aristizabal, and Sheldon Smith. Learn more about their work and how you can help at CNNHeroes.comHide Caption 2 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetOlympic gymnast and recent “Dancing With The Stars” winner Laurie Hernandez is one of several celebrities at the 10th annual “CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute.” Hide Caption 3 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetCNN anchor Wolf Blitzer is also lending his star power to Sunday’s event.Hide Caption 4 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet”Empire” star Taraji P. Henson draws a crowd of photographers on the red carpet.Hide Caption 5 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetCNN “New Day” hosts Alisyn Camerota, left, and Chris Cuomo Hide Caption 6 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetActor Neil Patrick Harris poses for photos on the CNN Heroes red carpet.Hide Caption 7 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet”Boardwalk Empire” actress Margot Bingham walks the red carpet at the “CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute” Sunday.Hide Caption 8 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetUmra Omar, left, takes a selfie with her fellow Top 10 CNN Heroes on the red carpet as they get ready for the awards show.Hide Caption 9 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet”Key & Peele” comedian Keegan-Michael Key, left, and actress Elisa Pugliese Hide Caption 10 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet”Frozen” singer Idina Menzel will perform “I See You,” a song from her new album, “Idina” at the CNN Heroes awards show.Hide Caption 11 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetActress Edie Falco attends CNN Heroes Gala 2016 at the American Museum of Natural History on December 11, 2016 in New York City.Hide Caption 12 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetCNN host Don Lemon smiles for the cameras on the red carpet.Hide Caption 13 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpetActress Megan Boone, star of NBC’s “The Blacklist”Hide Caption 14 of 15 Photos: CNN Heroes 2016 red carpet”Blacklist” and “House of Cards” actress Mozhan MarnoHide Caption 15 of 15Born with a purposeJeison Aristizábal has been working to further the cause of disabled youth in Colombia for the past 15 years. His small garage operation has grown: ASODISVALLE (an acronym that translates to Association of Disabled People of the Valley) offers a range of services that have helped transform the lives of more than 1,000 young people and their families — all for free.JUST WATCHEDCNN Hero Jeison Aristizábal: Wheels to goReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
CNN Hero Jeison Aristizábal: Wheels to go 01:59When he began to question why God gave him a disability, Aristizábal explained in his acceptance speech Sunday, he had an epiphany.”Today I realize God chose me to help children with disabilities and their families and build a chain of dreams. I am about to graduate as a lawyer, and I want to do more to change my country’s laws.” As he works to improve the way his government treats people with disabilities, Aristizábal invited viewers to pick up the cause.”Open your hearts and join this beautiful work, too. There are many children hoping for your support.” His advice to anyone who wants to make a difference: Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute' Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'Hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa speak onstage during the CNN Heroes gala 2016 at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 11, in New York.Hide Caption 1 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms speaks onstage with actors Taraji P. Henderson and Octavia Spencer. Stevens’ nonprofit allows women who’ve battled Nashville street life to live in residential centers at no cost and find gainful employment. Hide Caption 2 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez introduces CNN Hero Jeison Aristizábal. His foundation provides educational and medical services to young people living with disabilities in Colombia.Hide Caption 3 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Sheldon Smith of Dovetail Project speaks onstage with actor Keegan-Michael Key, left, during Sunday’s “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” Sheldon Smith started a Chicago nonprofit to help young dads become positive role models.Hide Caption 4 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'Presenter Neil Patrick Harris holds Instagram star Marnie the Dog. Harris introduced Top 10 CNN Hero Sherri Franklin, whose nonprofit rescues senior dogs and finds them forever homes.Hide Caption 5 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Sherri Franklin of Muttville accepts her award. Hide Caption 6 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'Actress Diane Lane and 2016 CNN Hero Harry Swimmer pose after Swimmer accepted his award. Swimmer turned his North Carolina horse farm into a therapeutic haven for children with severe physical and mental disabilities.Hide Caption 7 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Brad Ludden of First Descents speaks onstage as presenter Edie Falco looks on. Ludden started an outdoor adventure group to give young cancer patients life-affirming experiences.Hide Caption 8 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Craig Dodson of Richmond Cycling Corps poses backstage. Dodson started a cycling club for at-risk youth living in Richmond, Virginia, public housing after realizing a pep talk wasn’t enough.Hide Caption 9 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'A view of the Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life during the CNN Heroes gala.Hide Caption 10 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida in the audience. Hide Caption 11 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Georgie Smith of A Sense Of Home accepts her award from presenter Richard Gere. Smith helps former foster kids establish a home all their own after they age out of the Los Angeles foster care system.Hide Caption 12 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Umra Omar of Safari Doctors speaks onstage with actor Liev Schreiber. Omar travels a dangerous stretch of Kenya’s coastline offering free medical services to isolated citizens.Hide Caption 13 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Hero Luma Mufleh of Fugees Family speaks onstage after accepting her award. She founded a school and soccer program for young refugees near Atlanta.Hide Caption 14 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'2016 CNN Hero of the Year Jeison Aristizábal poses on stage with hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa.Hide Caption 15 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'CNN Superhero and 2012 CNN Hero of the Year Pushpa Basnet, right, poses with 2016 CNN Hero of the Year Jeison Aristizábal after Sunday’s “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” Hide Caption 16 of 17 Photos: Inside 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute'NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 11: (L-R) Efren Penaflorida, Brad Ludden, Pushpa Basnet, Liz McCarthey, Umra Omar, Georhie Smith, Chad Pregracke, Sherri Franklin, Anderson Cooper, Jeison Aristizabal, Kelly Ripa, Harry Swimmer, Becca Stevens, Craig Dodson, Luma Mufleh, and Sheldon Smith pose onstage during the CNN Heroes Gala 2016 at the American Museum of Natural History on December 11, 2016 in New York City.26362_013 (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Turner)Hide Caption 17 of 17“Sometimes when we see a big problem, we feel like we can’t do something,” he said. “But starting with the little things, helping fix the little things, we can transform many lives.”Here’s more about the other nine men and women who were selected, along with Aristizábal, as a Top 10 CNN Hero because of their dedication to helping others:Craig Dodson: Breaking a negative cycleJUST WATCHEDCoach becomes a father figure to at-risk kidsReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Coach becomes a father figure to at-risk kids 01:03Craig Dodson was a semi-professional cyclist in 2005 when he was asked to speak to a group of students from one of the roughest housing projects in Richmond, Virginia. Inspired to help, Dodson founded the Richmond Cycling Corps in 2010, for at-risk children. “We are like the Navy SEALs,” Dodson said. “We have to infiltrate and be there for every part of their life.”Learn more about Craig Dodson’s work.Sherri Franklin: Helping old dogs find new loveJUST WATCHEDShe gives old dogs a new lease on life ReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
She gives old dogs a new lease on life 01:09Sherri Franklin has poured her lifelong passion for animals into Muttville, a nonprofit that rescues and finds homes for senior dogs — more than 4,000 so far. She started the nonprofit out of her home in 2007. “It is not about the quantity of time, it really is about the quality of time you spend with your animal,” Franklin said.Learn more about Sherri Franklin’s work.Brad Ludden: Conquering cancer with sportsJUST WATCHEDHe thinks kayaks can help fight cancerReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
He thinks kayaks can help fight cancer 01:06After watching his aunt battle cancer when she was 38, Brad Ludden started First Descents, a nonprofit that brings outdoor adventures to young adults battling the disease. “It’s that important reminder that this life, it’s really fleeting,” Ludden said. “With that knowledge, we have this obligation to go out and live as fully as possible.”Learn more about Brad Ludden’s work.Luma Mufleh: Forging a refugee familyJUST WATCHEDRefugees find solace with the ‘Fugees’ReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Refugees find solace with the ‘Fugees’ 01:05Luma Mufleh founded a soccer program and school called the Fugees Family that addresses the unique needs of the refugee community in Clarkston, Georgia. Last spring, the Fugees Academy graduated its first class. “It’s getting people from all over the world, from all different faiths, to come together to do something great,” Mufleh said.Learn more about Luma Mufleh’s work.Umra Omar: Caring without bordersJUST WATCHEDDoctors brave danger to provide health careReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Doctors brave danger to provide health care 00:55Umra Omar left a career in the United States to help people without any access to health care in her homeland of Kenya. Omar founded Safari Doctors, a group that travels by boat, road and air to ferry free medical services. “Being here, being close to home, to be able to fill some of the gaps in accessing health care, it’s kind of been an IV drip for life and purpose,” Omar said.Learn more about Umra Omar’s work.Georgie Smith: Designing with a purpose JUST WATCHEDFoster youth get their dream homesReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Foster youth get their dream homes 01:04Los Angeles County has the country’s largest foster youth population, and when they age out of the system, they’re often left on their own. Georgie Smith founded A Sense of Home to design comfortable living spaces for former foster children. “By setting up their first home, it gives them the foundation from which they can succeed,” Smith said.Learn more about Georgie Smith’s work.Sheldon Smith: Building up good fathers JUST WATCHEDHe’s training men to be good fathersReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
He’s training men to be good fathers 01:12Sheldon Smith grew up with an often-absentee father, and felt the effects. Serving jail time for robbery scared Smith straight and inspired him to stay in his child’s life. He later started the Dovetail Project, which teaches young fathers the life skills necessary to become responsible parents and positive role models. “My goal when I started the Dovetail Project was to break the cycle,” Smith said.Learn more about Sheldon Smith’s work.Becca Stevens: Fighting human traffickingJUST WATCHEDHelping women escape prostitution and addictionReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Helping women escape prostitution and addiction 01:05Nearly 20 years ago, Becca Stevens set out to help the women of Nashville who have been scarred by prostitution, addiction and trafficking. Today, her nonprofit provides women a home, medical care, counseling and jobs — all for free. “None of the women ended up on the streets by themselves. And so it makes sense that it takes a community to welcome them home,” Stevens said.Learn more about Becca Stevens’ work.Harry Swimmer: Riding for a good reasonJUST WATCHEDDisabled kids proud they can do what others can’tReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Disabled kids proud they can do what others can’t 01:04Harry Swimmer transformed his horse farm into a sanctuary for children with disabilities after meeting a special girl who responded positively to horse-riding therapy. “She just lit up like a candle,” said Swimmer. “That’s when I knew what I wanted to do.” Since 1988, his organization, Mitey Riders, has provided more than 800 children with free equine-assisted therapy.Learn more about Harry Swimmer’s work.As part of the award package, each Top 10 CNN Hero for 2016 will receive free organizational training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide. They will participate in a customized version of the Annenberg Alchemy program, which offers practical guidance to help strengthen organizations for long-term success.