CNN Hero of the Year reframes how we view disability

Tears were nearly spilled on the set of "New Day" Monday morning when host Alisyn Camerota introduced ...

Posted: Dec. 18, 2017 4:41 PM
Updated: Dec. 18, 2017 4:41 PM

Tears were nearly spilled on the set of "New Day" Monday morning when host Alisyn Camerota introduced 2017 CNN Hero of the Year Amy Wright.

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Wright, who employs and advocates for dozens of intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD) people at her North Carolina coffee shop, Bitty & Beau's Coffee, addressed her two children who have Down syndrome during her acceptance speech Sunday night.

"I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you," she promised during "CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute."

Camerota was moved by Wright's words and her message. "Oh my gosh, it was a tearjerker last night and this morning," she said.

"So many people were pulling for you," Camerota added. "Look, all of the heroes are so wildly impressive but there was something about your personal story that your own kids have Down syndrome and you wanted to change the world because of that."

Wright opened Bitty & Beau's Coffee in January 2016 and named the shop for two of her four children.

She was named 2017 CNN Hero of the Year for her efforts to advocate for disabled people. The award is determined by online voters who selected Wright from among the top 10 CNN Heroes finalists.

Wright will receive $100,000 to grow her cause. All of the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2017 will receive a $10,000 cash award. Donations made to each of their designated nonprofit organizations are also being matched up to $50,000.

"It is a very personal story for me," Wright told Camerota. "When Beau was born 13 years ago, my husband Ben and I didn't know anything about Down syndrome, and I reflect on that and the fear we felt and the grief we felt and how we transformed that into some of the greatest joy we've known in our lives."

Wright and her husband were inspired to act on behalf of people with disabilities when they learned about the lack of opportunities within the population.

"You use a statistic: 70 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, like cerebral palsy, like autism are not employed, and so what kind of life is that?" Camerota asked.

"It's not that the jobs aren't there, it's that people don't value people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," Wright said. "And so, if we can reframe the way people think about people with IDD, then opportunities are organically going to follow."

Learn more about Amy Wright's efforts and donate here.

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