THE BLOG
09/29/2014 04:34 pm ET Updated Feb 27, 2015

Celebrating Regular People and Their Humanity: Fighting Pandemics, Responding to Natural Disasters and Helping to End Domestic Violence

We all hear of celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and business contributing their time, name or money to help make the world a better place. Far less common is public recognition for the huge number of people who find some creative way to improve our lives or the lives of others. While the newsworthiness of the former is perfectly understandable, the latter group is deeply inspiring and tells a positive tale of humanity that contrasts so starkly with the horrors with which we are presented daily. I'm hugely impressed by Bill and Melinda Gates' contributions to society, but when my neighbor told me about her own volunteer charity work, I was inspired to sign up right away.

Notably, CNN has taken a leadership role with its "Unsung Heroes," and CBS radio talk show host Al Cole has taken this concept further with his nationally syndicated show People of Distinction. The public's response to hearing ordinary people describe the extraordinary contributions they have made lead Mr. Cole to go an extra step and create the "People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards."

This year's list of honorees represents a wide diversity of people -- women and men, young and old, with little formal education to the highly educated -- that share one thing in common: all have approached challenges in inspiring, innovative and impactful ways. The impressive list of award winners is composed of everyday people who remarkably found creative ways to support veterans, help victims of domestic violence and those left homeless by natural disasters, fight cancer and bring joy to disadvantaged kids.

Katrin Macmillan founded Projects for All with the aim of fostering community ownership of development projects and thereby empowering marginalized communities. Katrin's passion for giving a voice to individuals and communities was shaped by her time living in Nigeria and Ethiopia and working in human rights advocacy and development. Christian Spears started SIFT: Staten Island Friends Together, a grassroots volunteer organization that formed immediately after Superstorm Sandy struck, that has helped over 550 homeowners in Staten Island, Long Island, Brooklyn, New Jersey and even Oklahoma recover from natural disasters.

I am humbled and honored to be among this year's honorees. More importantly, I'm excited that our work around the world to advance the recognition of the huge societal benefits of wisely using Earth's resources and ensuring a healthy environment is being highlighted with one of the awards.

Please come join us on October 28th, when Al Cole will host the "People of Distinction Humanitarian Awards" ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. More information about the event and ticketing can be found on the awards event website.