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‘It’s iron sharpening iron’: CNN Heroes join forces in Miami to take their work to the next level

‘It’s iron sharpening iron’: CNN Heroes join forces in Miami to take their work to the next level

Published 7:25 AM EDT, Fri June 23, 2023

From a beach cleanup to leadership training and yoga; A group of CNN Heroes came together to 'Elevate' their missions

Miami, Florida (CNN) — “It’s literally like winning the Academy Award of humanitarian aid work.”

That’s how Mobile Medics International founder Teresa Gray described being honored on the CNN Heroes stage in December. For Gray and many of her fellow honorees, the night of the annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” is just the start of a new chapter in their work.

The Top 10 CNN Heroes each receive a surge of donations and prize money for their nonprofits along with new attention on their life-changing missions. To help them make the most of this moment and take their organizations to the next level, they also receive critical nonprofit and leadership training.

For the first time, CNN Heroes collaborated with the Elevate Prize Foundation to provide the Top 10 CNN Heroes with this training, which took place at their Make Good Famous Summit in Miami Beach.

The Elevate Prize Foundation is a nonprofit that empowers social entrepreneurs and global changemakers by providing them with the resources they need to expand their philanthropic impact. The organization invited the Top 10 CNN Heroes from 2021 and 2022 to join three years of Elevate Prize winners at the conference last month.

Elevating the work of the CNN Heroes

The Elevate Prize Foundation’s founder and CEO Joe Deitch shared with CNN about the inspiration behind the summit.

“There’s an African proverb: ‘If you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together.’ So often, these social entrepreneurs are alone. And … coming together periodically is energizing. It spurs innovation. It creates communities,” he said.

This is the first opportunity many CNN Heroes have had to reconnect in person since they were in New York City for the tribute show. And with Top 10 Heroes from the last two years gathering, this is the first time many of them have met.

“It’s iron sharpening iron,” said 2022 CNN Hero Debra Vines, founder of The Answer Inc., sharing her excitement about the event. “I see so many collaborations that are gonna happen.”

CNN Heroes Tyrique Glasgow (left) and Nelly Cheboi (right) showcase their work to attendees at the Make Good Famous Summit

Soaring Spirits International founder Michele Neff Hernandez was motivated by her fellow CNN Heroes and other attendees.

“I’m just inspired by the many ways that people are solving big problems without a lot of resources,” she said.

Turning lessons into action

The Heroes arrived in Miami with their own unique goals for the summit and training. Some were focused on their nonprofit’s financial planning, others hoped to find new ways to share their stories and reach a broader audience, while others looked to connect with donors to help fuel their work.

Shirley Raines, the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year, said she was in a training session when she started receiving troubling text messages about the accounting firm her nonprofit works with.

“Everything they said in that seminar that should not be done is what my accountant was doing,” Raines said, adding that she felt that she just got “that little push from the universe” and made the decision to fire her accountant.

In that moment, Raines was glad to have so many people surrounding her who knew what she was going through.

“If it’s going to happen, at least it happened at a damn summit where people are enriching me and telling me what I should do,” said Raines. After she left Miami, she said she found an amazing new accounting firm to handle Beauty 2 the Streetz’s business.

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