April 11th, 2014
10:10 AM ET

Former Firefighter Rescues Pets in Disasters

Hazel Donnelly was taking her husband to the doctor when they got a call that their apartment building was on fire.

Her first thought was about her 17-year-old cat, Kramer.

"I don't have children on my own, so my cat is like my child. I became hysterical," said Donnelly, 50. "What if (he) didn't make it?"

Once she arrived home, Donnelly implored firefighters to get her cat, but they were busy trying to control the blaze.

Then Red Paw Emergency Relief arrived. The nonprofit assists pets and their owners when disaster strikes. Jen Leary, a former firefighter who founded the group, met with building residents and, once the fire was out, retrieved the animals.

"Everyone who received their pets started to cry," said Donnelly.

No one was hurt, but the Donnelly's apartment had severe damage, and they weren't sure where they were going to stay. Donnelly was thrilled to learn that Red Paw could provide free short-term care for Kramer.

"When (someone) loses everything in a fire, they shouldn't then be forced to lose their pets - their family members - as well," Leary said. "Letting them know, 'We'll take care of your animal like it is our own,' it means the world to people."

Since 2011, Leary and her group have provided emergency assistance to nearly 1,000 animals and their families throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.

For more on Leary, visit CNN Heroes.

Posted by
Filed under: News • Videos
March 14th, 2014
09:40 AM ET

Helping Women Escape 'The Life'

As darkness falls, Joy Friedman hits the streets - the same ones she used to troll for customers while working as a prostitute.

"My last trick was turned behind that storefront," she said, gesturing to a nearby building.

Now the survivor of sex trafficking cruises these neighborhoods with a different purpose. She's looking for women and girls who are caught up in this lifestyle so she can offer them free condoms and hygiene products.

She is also delivering a message: There is help for them if they want it.

Friedman works for Breaking Free, a nonprofit that helps women escape prostitution. It's where she got help 13 years ago.

"(Prostitution) has been happening forever. And forever, women have just been the victims of it," said Vednita Carter, the organization's founder. "They deserve better."

Since 1996, Carter says she has helped more than 6,000 women get the support they need. In the process, she's built an army of survivors who have joined her crusade to end sex trafficking.

See the full story at CNN Heroes. 

Posted by
Filed under: News • Videos
February 14th, 2014
10:25 AM ET

For Harlem Skaters, it's Not About Olympic Gold

Every four years during the Winter Olympics, millions of people become armchair experts on figure skating: quadruple jumps and combination spins, death spirals and triple Salchows.

And like clockwork, many rinks across the United States see a surge in enrollment for figure skating lessons inspired by Olympic fever. But the costs of seriously pursuing the sport put it out of reach for many families. Skates alone often cost $300, to say nothing of the ice time, coaching and costumes.

Yet each week in Harlem, Sharon Cohen helps more than 170 girls hit the ice and skate their way to new heights.

"The girls really fall in love with gliding, like I did, and realize that they're doing something very special," said Cohen, a former competitive skater who began teaching girls to skate in 1990.

"Before, there weren't a lot of girls (here) that could imagine themselves as figure skaters. ... But the thing about skating is it lets you imagine you can be anything."

Since 1997, Cohen's nonprofit, Figure Skating in Harlem, has provided skating equipment and instruction, tutoring and life skills classes to more than 700 girls from low-income communities.

For more, visit CNN Heroes 

Posted by
Filed under: News • Videos