Roy Exum: He’s Still My Hero

Sunday, October 3, 2010 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It was a year ago when Jordan Thomas rocketed to fame, a dazzling kid who way before his 21st birthday captured our hearts by creating a foundation that would provide artificial limbs, or prosthetics, to kids who otherwise would have to do without.

This time last year Jordan, who lost a leg in a boating accident while a student at McCallie, was chosen as one of 10 CNN “Heroes of the Year” and tonight, at the annual “Low Country Boil” charity feast the Jordan Thomas Foundation holds each year in Chattanooga, a huge crowd will learn he is still very much exactly that - a hero.

His foundation, which he actually started in the hospital while mending from his own tragedy, has benefited a number of children who, in the growing stages of their lives, need increasingly larger prostheses to keep up with their growth; what fit at age 10 is too small at age 14.

So as we delight in our 2009 “Hero of the Year,” and eagerly await sharing in his laughter and his life tonight, let’s take a look at CNN’s 2010 class of heroes. On Thanksgiving night one will be chosen as the winner but that’s fallacy; here are 10 who have each made a difference.

The top 10 Heroes of 2010, in alphabetical order:

-- Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega founded a hospital in Juarez, Mexico, that cares for about 900 people daily -- regardless of their ability to pay. Despite the escalating violence in the city, the 74-year-old travels there several times a week to make sure residents get the care they need.

-- Susan Burton was once caught in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Today, her nonprofit A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides sober housing and other support services to formerly incarcerated women in California.

-- With her weight-loss challenge, Shape Up Vicksburg, Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown battle the bulge. Through free fitness activities and nutrition classes, residents have lost nearly 15,000 pounds to date.

-- Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal's women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims.

-- Narayanan Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India's homeless and destitute -- 365 days per year -- through his nonprofit Akshaya Trust. Since 2002, he has served more than 1.2 million meals.

-- Since 1992, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow has dedicated his life to helping people in need. Today, his program, Mary's Meals -- run from a tin shed in the Scottish highlands -- provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world.

-- Harmon Parker is using his masonry skills to save lives. Since 1997 he has helped build 45 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya, protecting people from flash floods and predatory animals. The bridges also connect isolated villagers to valuable resources.

-- Aki Ra is helping to make his native Cambodia safer by clearing land mines -- many of which he planted years ago as a child soldier. Since 1993, he and his Cambodian Self Help Demining organization have cleared about 50,000 mines and unexploded weapons.

-- Evans Wadongo, 23, invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar power. Through his Use Solar, Save Lives program, he's distributed an estimated 10,000 solar lanterns for free.

-- Since 2005, Texas home builder Dan Wallrath has given injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans homes of their own - mortgage-free. He and his Operation Finally Home team have five new custom homes under construction.

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