CNN’s Hero of The Year was revealed at their 10th annual awards ceremony held on December 11th. The event was hosted by Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa. The Hero of the Year was voted for by the public on various social media platforms. Voting commenced on October 26th and concluded on December 6th. All top ten CNN Heroes will receive $10,000 with the winner receiving $100,000. After six weeks of voting, CNN announced Jeison Aristizábal as their Hero of the Year for 2016.

Meeting the Hero

Coming from a very poor area in Cali, Colombia, Aristizábal has been combatting cerebral palsy his whole life.

He grew up frequenting doctor’s offices, and undergoing many surgeries. There were instances where his parents could not afford the medical visits, and Jeison was forced to wait until the family could get more money. As he grew older, Jeison acknowledged how fortunate he was for having a supportive family, but he also noticed other children with disabilities who were not as fortunate as he. With permission of his parents, Jeison welcomed children with disabilities to his family’s garage. He and a physical therapy student started with a ball and a mat, helping twenty children, and more and more started coming to him for help. He raised money to buy and donate wheelchairs to children just so they could move around, escaping their beds.

Many families did not know how to deal with their child’s disability, and some saw it as a punishment from God. Jeison Aristizábal also initially believed his disability was a punishment from God, but optimism changed his outlook, and now he sees it as a blessing to help children with disabilities as well as their families.

In total, Aristizábal and his organization, “Association of Disabled People of the Valley” (ASODISVALLE), has helped over 1000 youths and their families for free. They provide special education, medical services, as well as nutritious meals. The organization also welcomes children without disabilities who desire a good education.

Aristizábal and ASODISVALLE work with children who deal with a wide range of disabilities, such as autism, downs syndrome, and cerebral palsy.

What's Next?

The next step for Jeison is to graduate from Law School with hopes of changing laws in Colombia, to improve the treatment of those with disabilities, which may be different from those in the United States. Aristizábal is quoted as saying, “When I was a young boy, a doctor told my mom that I would amount to nothing.” Now, CNN’s Hero of the Year, at 33 years of age, will receive $100,000 to further improve the lives of children and their families in Colombia. Aristizábal’s story shows that disabilities should not always be viewed as a negative, but actually prove that anything is possible and that there is still good in the world.

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