Leeza Gibbons – Voice Of The Caregiver
For 10 years Leeza Gibbons and her two siblings witnessed their mother slip slowly behind the “veil of Alzheimer’s.” Gibbons, 52, TV veteran and host of radio’s Hollywood Confidential, immersed herself in becoming an advocate on behalf of caregivers. “It’s not just about the person who has that disease but everyone who loves and cares for that person,” she says. Gibbons cofounded The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation with James Huysman, Psy.D., to provide caregivers with resources to ensure their own health and well-being. At centers in five states, caregivers are paired with an advocate who helps them navigate the often consuming web of issues that come with a loved one’s diagnosis.
Scott Hamilton – Cancer Crusader
For Scott Hamilton, fighting testicular cancer with the same determination that helped him win a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics was only part of the treatment. In addition to inspiring millions with his successful battle, Scott founded the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative – established at the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute. The organization promotes cancer awareness and raises funds for research, recently hitting the $10 million mark in its goal. One thing Hamilton hung onto throughout his struggle was his credo. “The only true disability in life is a bad attitude,” he says.
Tom Joyner – Education Advocate
Fifty years ago 75 percent of African American undergraduates attended black colleges; today only 20 percent do. With declining enrollments and shrinking endowments, radio personality Tom Joyner wanted to preserve the experience of historically black colleges and universities that his family enjoyed throughout the years. In 2009, 11 years after founding the Tom Joyner Foundation to keep students enrolled at HBCUs, Joyner, age 60, has helped put 14,000 students through college and has raised over $55 million in donations.
Brenda Krause Eheart – Bridge For Generations
The phrase, “it takes a village,” means a lot to Brenda Krause Eheart. In her quest to establish a community for parents adopting foster children, Eheart recognized a need for an intergenerational influence as well. She invited older residents, who receive subsidized rent, to live in the community of Hope Meadows in Illinois, where they spend their retirement years serving as volunteer grandparents.
Lilly Ledbetter – Equal-Pay Advocate
Lilly Ledbetter learned what “a day’s work for fair pay” really meant while picking cotton on her grandfather’s farm. After 19 years working as a night-shift supervisor for Goodyear Tire & Rubber in Alabama, earning performance awards and accolades, Ledbetter learned she was making considerably less money than male supervisors. To even the playing field, Ledbetter embarked on an eight-year fight for equal compensation. The battle eventually led to the Supreme Court, followed by Congress, which passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Ledbetter knows her fight was worthwhile. “The young people getting out of school think discrimination is a thing of the past,” she says. “But when they hear my story, they know. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Captain Richard Phillips – Reluctant Hero
Vermont resident Captain Richard Phillips doesn’t consider his heroic actions against gun-wielding Somali pirates on the high seas particularly noteworthy. “I was just the idiot who got caught,” he says. Along with offering himself up as a hostage, it was his quick actions that allowed the ship to be disabled, cargo secured, and the crew members of the Maersk Alabama to get into safe rooms by the time the pirates boarded.
Raquel Welch – Advocate For Cancer Survivors
Raquel Welch, age 69, has been an international symbol of beauty for most of her life. After teaming up with Hair U Wear to create the Raquel Welch Signature Collection of wigs, the actress realized she could help women struggling with the effects of chemotherapy. “To chemo patients, losing hair starts to represent losing,” says Welch. “It doesn’t have to be that way.” In 2009, Welch was recognized by the American Cancer Society for her generous donation of more than $1 million worth of wigs annually since 2000.
Additional information on AARP The Magazine’s 2010 Inspire Award honorees can be found online at www.aarpmagazine.org/inspire.