Escobar Named One of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012

Catalina Escobar is being heralded for as a hero her extraordinary efforts to help the underprivileged in Colombia…

The Colombian woman, a wife and mother of two children, has been revealed as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012, an honor that comes with a $50,000 prize and a chance to win more.

Catalina Escobar

Escobar, a professional and entrepreneur, is being recognized for her dedication to saving and improving the lives of the most impoverished children and their young mothers in Cartagena, Colombia.

In 2001, the successful businesswoman sold her international trading company to create what would become her passion and the greatest project of her life: The Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation, after living two tragic and painful experiences in the year 2000, including the death of her second son, 16-month-old Juan Felipe, who died in a tragic accident when he fell from the balcony of her home.

“It was agony,” said Escobar. “I didn’t want any mother to feel the same pain, so … I took action.”

In the last 10 years, her foundation — named for her late son — has brought health care to tens of thousands of children in Cartagena and provided more than 2,000 teenage mothers with counseling, education and job training.

“When a girl gets pregnant, she drops out of school … Next year, she’s going to be pregnant again,” explains Escobar to CNN. “She’s repeating the same patterns of the mother, the grandmother … I want my girls to be empowered. Earning money provides them with independence and allows them to gain back control of their lives.”

Escobar and her fellow Top 10 honorees were nominated by CNN‘s global audience and profiled earlier this year on CNN. They will be honored at CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, a globally broadcast event that airs live on December 2 at 9:00 pm ET.

At the tribute, hosted by Anderson Cooper, one of the top 10 will be named CNN Hero of the Year and receive an additional $250,000 to continue their work.

The Hero of the Year is decided by a public vote. Through November 28, you can vote for your favorite Hero at or from your mobile device.

CNN Heroes List Includes Two Remarkable Latinos…

CNN has named two Latinos to the cable network’s 2011 list of Top 10 CNN Heroes, an award that recognizes everyday people throughout the world who are making extraordinary contributions in their respective communities.

Meet Eddie Canales and Elena Durón Miranda, who will be honored during the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” in December.

About Eddie Canales
During a high school football game in San Marcos, Texas back in the fall of 2001, Eddie Canales’ son Chris – a senior who had three offers to play college football – suffered a spinal cord injury that would leave him paralyzed. Canales quit his job to become Chris’ full-time caregiver as the family adjusted to their new reality.

“You don’t want to even think that your son may never walk again,” says the 55-year-old Canales. “That was a hard pill to swallow.”

Nearly a year later, while watching a high school football game with his son, Eddie witnessed another player sustain a similar spinal cord injury.

“Chris turned to me and said, ‘Dad, we’ve got to go help him,'” recalls Canales.

Canales and his son visited the injured player in the hospital and a short time later he founded Gridiron Heroes, a nonprofit that helps athletes who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries while playing high school football.

“They gave it their all playing the game we love and support,” says Canales. “We want to make sure these kids are not forgotten.”

Click here to learn more about Canales’ Gridiron Heroes.

About Elena Durón Miranda
Eleven years ago, Mexican psychologist Elena Durón Miranda witnessed approximately 200 children rummaging through a trash dump for things to eat and sell during a research trip to Bariloche, Argentina.

“I saw children collect green sausages, a bag of potato chip crumbs, a bag of noodles with cream and recovered leftover yogurt next to a diaper,” says Durón Miranda, 41. “The children began to gently clean the food — wiping each little noodle, each potato and peeling the sausage skin so methodically and accurately. It was as if they had done this same activity many times.”

After learning that many of the children in the community drop out of school and spend their lives working at the dump, Durón Miranda decided to stay in the country and launch PETISOS, which stands for Prevención y Erradicación del Trabajo Infantil SOS (Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor SOS). The non-profit organization’s mission: to provide children with free education and extracurricular programs to keep the children out of the dump and enrolled in school.

“We carry out very personalized tracking of all the boys and girls we work with,” says Durón Miranda. “We work with the families, we work with the schools, we work with the medical or health centers in order to … get them out of the labor situation.”

Click here to learn more about Durón Miranda’s Fundacion PETISOS.

Canales and Durón Miranda – along with the other eight finalists – will each receive a $50,000 grant.

“We hope to empower these selfless individuals to persevere in their humanitarian efforts to create progress, and are proud to share the stories of this year’s Top 10 Heroes,” says Jim Walton, President of CNN Worldwide.

Meanwhile, CNN has opened voting for people to help select the “CNN Hero of the Year” from the 10 finalists. The top vote-getter will receive an additional $250,000 grant. Online voting runs through December 7 at midnight.

The winner will be announced on the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” airing on CNN at 8 p.m. EST.