May 6th, 2024

Champions for Change Returns for the Eighth Year Running on CNN




NEW YORK, NY – (May 6, 2024) – Beginning Saturday, May 11, CNN’s Champions for Change programming will spotlight the extraordinary stories of pioneers who are driving us towards a brighter future and changing the world. Profiles in grit, creativity and innovation will be highlighted on air and across CNN’s digital platforms throughout the week, culminating in an hour-long special hosted by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Saturday, May 18 at 9pm ET.

Featuring reporting from Dr. Gupta, CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates, CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez, CNN Anchor and Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner, and CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir, Champions for Change returns for its eighth year showcasing inspiring changemakers.

Champions for Change is honored to have the commitment of brand partner Charles Schwab, now in its eighth year of support.

This year’s Champions for Change include:

Donae Burston | La Fête Wine Co.
The wine industry has long been dominated almost exclusively by White men. That may soon change thanks to the international efforts of an American businessman. Donae Burston is disrupting the beverage industry by breathing life into the Black wine culture. Burston’s company, La Fête, partners with a non-profit and professional groups to raise Black involvement in the production, marketing and enjoyment of wine, fermenting a more diverse and fulfilling industry.

Bob Dalton | Sackcloth & Ashes
A businessman in Oregon is radiating warmth and dignity for homeless people. Bob Dalton’s blanket company, Sackcloth & Ashes, partners with local retailers across the country. For every Sackcloth & Ashes blanket each shop sells, another gets donated to a homeless shelter in that same shop’s community. The simple, but novel approach has provided a warm embrace for hundreds-of-thousands of people living on the streets.

Amy Denet Deal | 4Kinship
A West coast fashion designer returned to her Navajo roots to found 4Kinship apparel. Amy Denet Deal started 4Kinship as an artisanal clothing label using repurposed material to reflect indigenous ethics and aesthetics. Now she uses her creativity and brand to invigorate her community, empowering fellow indigenous artists along the way.

John & Thomas D’Eri | Rising Tide Car Wash
Two Florida entrepreneurs, a father and son, saw an untapped workforce where others saw disability. John D’Eri’s son – and Thomas D’Eri’s brother– inspired the two men to found Rising Tide Car Wash, empowering people on the autism spectrum with gainful employment. With customized technology that accommodates neurodivergent people, the company leverages the strengths of its dedicated workers, many of whom go on to confidently work in other fields.

Dima Gazda | Esper Bionics

A physician and electronic engineer in New York is making revolutionary strides with bionic limbs. Dima Gazda is perfecting a self-learning artificial hand at Esper Bionics. The “Esper Hand” uses AI to detect a patient’s muscle activity, recognize situations and execute motion. Gazda emigrated from Ukraine and is using the new technology to help Ukrainian veterans who lost limbs in combat.

Keith Hayes | 5280 High School
As drug abuse among youth becomes increasingly deadly, a recovering addict in Denver is putting a new spin on conventional treatment to meet the growing threat. Keith Hayes directs the recovery program at 5280 High School, a special secondary school pioneering a peer-based method to tackle addiction. 5280 is one of the country’s largest recovery-centered high schools and one of the few tuition-free programs of its kind.

Bethany Hornthal | Hair to Stay

Women frequently cite hair loss as the most distressing side effect of chemotherapy. Bethany Hornthal is the Executive Director of Hair To Stay, a non-profit that enables individuals to offset costs for expensive scalp cooling / cold capping treatment – a technology that helps patients keep some of their hair. Hornthal was instrumental in obtaining funding for the first FDA-approved scalp cooling system.

Cliff Kapono | The MEGA Lab
A native Hawaiian pro surfer also happens to be a scientist trying to save the world’s oceans. Cliff Kapono co-founded the Multiscale Environmental Graphic Analysis (MEGA) Lab to enlist an unconventional group of environmentalists empowered to gather information on coral reefs. From artists to skateboarders, The MEGA Lab hopes to utilize volunteers’ unique talents – no degrees necessary – to better understand the forces at work beneath the waves.

Patty Mitchell | Passion Works Studio
In Ohio’s Appalachian region, a local artist/social entrepreneur crafted a vibrant community. Patty Mitchell founded Passion Works Studio, where artists with and without developmental differences collaborate to create marketable works using otherwise discarded materials. The studio, which has generated more than $3 million in sales, fosters purpose, connection and belonging.

Dr. Johnna Nynas | Obstetrics & Gynecology

More than 46 million Americans, or 15 percent of the U.S. population, live in rural areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, regions where pregnant women struggle to access the care they need. Dr. Johnna Nynas is passionate about getting pregnancy care to women in rural towns like the one she grew up in, and is using innovative methods to provide vital access to medical care.

Cassandra Quave | Ethnobotanist
It’s an alarming public health trend: harmful bacteria developing resistance to traditional antibiotics. For one ethnobotanist and professor in Atlanta, nature may hold the remedy. Cassandra Quave leads the hunt for modern medicines in ancient plants. Through her lab at Emory University, she takes a state-of-the-art approach to the study of medicinal plants, pursuing the next generation of antibiotics to fight infections like the one she suffered as a child.

Annette Rubin | Vero Building Systems
As climate change presents a growing and changing threat to homes across the country, a Florida entrepreneur is putting a well-known material to new use in home construction. Annette Rubin is pioneering Styrofoam to construct storm-durable and environmentally responsible homes in areas prone to hurricanes. Her designs promise lower production costs than traditional construction with a fraction of the usual carbon footprint.

Dr. Dondre Simpson | Dental
Dentistry is a neglected necessity across America’s economically depressed areas. Since so many impoverished people do not go to the dentist’s office, Dr. Dondre Simpson goes to them to serve as a healer, friend and role model.  CNN’s Laura Coates tells Dr. Simpson’s story and its connection to her own upbringing by her father, a dentist committed to community service.

Franziska Trautmann | Glass Half Full
In New Orleans, where bottles abound but recycling programs don’t, an engineer found a way to make pristine beach sand from glass that would otherwise end up in landfills. Franziska Trautmann founded Glass Half Full, a company converting waste glass into materials to fight coastal erosion. From fine sand to “glass gravel,” Glass Half Full material is helping restore beaches, wetlands and levees across Louisiana and beyond.

The Champions for Change hour-long special will stream live for pay TV subscribers via, CNN connected TV and mobile apps on Saturday, May 18. The special will be available on demand beginning Sunday, May 19 to pay TV subscribers via, CNN connected TV and mobile apps, and Cable Operator Platforms.


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