Gilroy Army Dog Trainer Named to CNN Hero of the Year Top 10

Mari Cortani is being honored for her work matching military veterans with service dogs. Now your vote can help her win $250,000 to continue her work.

For the last six years, CNN has held its annual Heroes of the Year awards, honoring people around the world for their incredible contributions to society.

Each year, 10 people from the world's population of nearly seven billion are selected for special recognition. This year, one of the 10 is Gilroy native Mary Cortani, a military veteran whose nonprofit organization has helped dozens of veterans struggling with PTSD to regain stability through interaction with dogs. See CNN's blurb on Cortani below:

Of the more than 2 million U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s estimated that one in five of them is likely to have PTSD or major depression. Veterans with these invisible wounds experience flashbacks, nightmares and an enhanced state of anxiety and withdraw from society to avoid sights and sounds that remind them of war. Mary Cortani is helping some of them return to normal life again. A former U.S. Army dog trainer who matches veterans with dogs – many from shelters or rescue groups – now guides them on a new mission: train your own service dog. In the last two years, she and her nonprofit, Operation Freedoms Paws, have worked with more than 80 veterans.

By virtue of her nomination for CNN Hero of the Year, Cortani will be given $50,000 to be put toward Operation Freedom Paws. But CNN has opened voting to the general public to select one of the ten Heroes to win $250,000. To vote for Cortani, click here. You can vote up to 10 times per day until voting closes on Nov. 28. 

The winner will be named on Dec. 2 at CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, a televised concert and awards ceremony hosted by Anderson Cooper at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Presenters and superstar performers will be announced at a later date, but performers at previous Heroes events have included stars like Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood. 

New to the Heroes process this year is the addition of help from the Annenburg Foundation, which CNN calls "a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide." The Annenburg Foundation will provide training to all 10 Heroes in "fundraising, communications, management of volunteers, and strategies to build and keep a strong board of directors."

Since the Hero of the Year awards started six years ago, more than 45,000 people from over 100 countries have been nominated by the general public. Cortani is one of 60 to be selected by CNN over that span.

Stay tuned to Gilroy Patch for much more on this story. 

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Misty Louie September 20, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Mary has helped me live life again. Through my service dog Max, I am able to leave my house again. I am able to do things I haven't been able to do in a long time due to my PTSD.
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