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Anderson Cooper salutes 'CNN Heroes'

Anderson Cooper is grateful that the world has no shortage of heroes, for many reasons.

One is "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which the cable news network anchor-reporter has hosted annually since it began in 2007. He presides over the special's sixth edition Sunday at 9 p.m. at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium as 10 selected "Heroes" are introduced by celebrities and receive a $50,000 grant each for their respective efforts. Then, one will be declared "CNN Hero of the Year" from online and social media voting (which ended several days earlier) and get an additional $250,000 grant.

"It's an event unlike any other," Cooper says. "It's so satisfying to be able to focus the spotlight on really deserving people who don't often get attention and work in ways -- sometimes large, sometimes small -- in their communities to make a difference.

"There's always a moment when you sort of find your throat catching," Cooper adds, "especially during some of the films we show of the work. What really strikes me is that these are people who don't have access to power or money. They just see a need in their community and decide to roll up their sleeves and start doing something about it."

Among the 10 "CNN Heroes" chosen this year: Wanda Butts of Toledo, Ohio, whose son died in a drowning accident and founded an initiative to help minorities learn to swim; Thulani Madondo, a Kliptown, South Africa, man dedicated to improving the lives of children in his slum area post-apartheid; and Leo McCarthy, a Butte, Mont., resident who started providing college scholarships to youths who abstain from alcohol, after an underage drunken driver caused his daughter's death.

"CNN Heroes" is part of the very full plate Cooper has these days. In addition to his Emmy-winning CNN weeknight program "Anderson Cooper 360," he's a contributor to CBS' iconic newsmagazine "60 Minutes." And for now, he's also host of the syndicated weekday series "Anderson Live," though that will end after its current second season.

"I'm surely disappointed that it's not continuing," Cooper says, "but you know, that's the way things go. I love doing the jobs at CNN and '60 Minutes,' and I'm looking forward to focusing on those."

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