The My Hero Project Celebrates 20 Years Of Honoring Heroes

The MY HERO Project Celebrates its 20th Anniversary With Multimedia Festival
The MY HERO Project Celebrates its 20th Anniversary With Multimedia Festival
Contact: Jeanne Meyers                                            FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Co-founder/Director MY HERO
[email protected]
SANTA MONICA, CA – 11/25/15 – The MY HERO Project’s 20th Anniversary Celebration and Multimedia Festival brought together filmmakers, musicians, artists and storytellers, honoring real live heroes working to create positive change in the world.  The event took place November 21, 2015, at the Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica.
The evening began with an acknowledgement of the three mothers who founded MY HERO online in 1995.  Jeanne Meyers, Rita Stern Milch and Karen Pritzker wanted to use media to shine a light on those working to address real problems with innovative solutions, compassion and courage.
The result was, an interactive, non-profit, educational website where visitors of all ages could share and discover stories, art, films and music celebrating the best of humanity. MY HERO became a safe haven on the Internet, a place where students and adults could share stories of hope and inspiration. Today, MY HERO is a trusted global educational online destination used by teachers, students and adults in 197 countries.
Accepting the MEDIA AWARD on behalf of Vulcan Productions - The senior director of engagement - Ted Richane
Accepting the MEDIA AWARD on behalf of Vulcan Productions - The senior director of engagement - Ted Richane
MY HERO presented the 2015 Media Award to Vulcan Productions.  The company, founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, uses the power of stories to change minds and ignite action through meaningful projects that help people understand the world around them and to inspire them to make a difference.  “Paul Allen’s commitment to using media to educate and inspire through Vulcan productions is work that MY HERO respects and honors,” said Meyers.  “We applaud their mission and the outstanding quality of their work."
Vulcan Productions' latest project, Racing Extinction,” will air on Discovery Channel this December.  Directed by Academy Award Winner, Louie Psihoyos ("The Cove"), "Racing Extinction" brings attention to the role of humans in the dramatic loss of species.  Ted Richane, Director of Engagement and Impact for Vulcan, accepted the award.  “The film...tells a story about how this mass extinction is upon us, about how mankind is causing it but it also tells a story about some things we can do to stop it.  And it includes a number of people, a number of heroes, who are putting aside their careers and are planning their lives around saving mantas, saving elephants, saving sharks, saving all these species.”
Richane also gave a shout out to youth activist and filmmaker, Slater Jewell Kemker, whose environmental work has been featured on MY HERO for years. She was saluted in a short video tribute as part of the 20th Anniversary Celebration.  Richane remarked, “Racing Extinction" is about people like Slater, whom I’ve never met but that film was unbelievable to watch. There’s also a role for every one of us to play, no matter who you are, what you do, where you live. There are things that you can do and actions you can take.  We all need to be heroes if we’re going to turn this ship around.”
The MY HERO Best of Fest and Relationship First Award“ went to “The Future of our Species,” by director Tiffany Shlain.  The short film takes a look at 'Leonardo's Brain,' a book by Shlain’s father, best-selling author Leonard Shlain. He finished writing the book days before he passed away. Shlain builds on her father's idea that Leonardo da Vinci is a modern example of an evolved human being.
“One Woman Roadblock,” a documentary by the Mill Valley Film Group is the winner of the Environmental Hero Award, The film tells the story of a former tribal chief, Marilyn Baptiste, who led her native community in battling proposed gold and copper mines that would have destroyed Fish Lake, a source of livelihood and spiritual identity for her people. Filmmaker Will Parrinello of the Mill Valley Group was on hand to accept the award and read a statement from Baptiste.
“To the MY HERO International Film Festival, thank you for the honor and for your support of our most important work… to protect our lands, our water, our wildlife our wild plants that we use for food, medicine, and trees… for future generations.”
Tiffany Shlain - Best of Fest and Relationships First Prize with The Future of Our Species
Tiffany Shlain - Best of Fest and Relationships First Prize with The Future of Our Species
“Project Syria: An immersive Journalism Experience” is the first winner of the MY HERO Immersive Storytelling Award to those who use new technology to foster empathy and compassion.  Director Nonny de la Pena, uses virtual reality and 3-Dimensional environments to convey the sights, sounds and feelings that surround the civil war in Syria, which has displaced nearly half the country’s 23 million people.  More than three million refugees have been forced from homes and into camps and makeshift housing.  More than half of these refugees are children. Wendy Milette, Director of the MY HERO International Film Festival commented, “Nonny’s brilliant use of actual sound from historic events takes this innovative form of storytelling to a completely different level. I found myself personally engaged in concern for the children and women in the story and I wanted to help.”
The People’s Choice Award went to “Young Storytellers,” a short film about an organization that pairs media professionals with young students to help them discover the power of their own voices.  The students write their stories and have an opportunity to direct professional actors and create their own short narrative films.
Ken Payumo - 2015 MY HERO Humanitarian Hero Award Winner
Ken Payumo - 2015 MY HERO Humanitarian Hero Award Winner
Erin Gruwell received MY HERO’s 2015 Global Educator Award.  In 1994, Gruwell, then a young English teacher, walked into her first classroom in Long Beach, California where the students were deemed “at-risk” and “unteachable.”  She helped them draw parallels between their lives with the struggles of others, including Anne Frank. Her students started a journal of their own and named themselves the “Freedom Writers.”  All the while, the video cameras were rolling.  In 2015, the documentary, “Freedom Writers: Stories From an Undeclared War (2015),” by director Daniel Anker, was released. The U.S. State Department recently translated the film into Hebrew and Arabic and, soon, Gruwell will travel to the Middle East to teach 25 lessons on tolerance and acceptance to young Palestinians and Israelis.
Kathy Eldon, founder of Creative Visions Foundation, was on hand to present the 2105 Dan Eldon Activist Award in honor of her late son, who was killed on assignment in 1993.  This year’s recipient, “Frame by Frame,” is a documentary by Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach that follows four Afghan photojournalists as they struggle to establish a free press in a country where photography was once illegal.
One of the most poignant moments of the evening was the screening of the documentary short Defying Death in South Sudan.”  The film, by Francis Mead, featured Ken Payumo, a United Nations aid worker who refused entrance to 80-plus armed soldiers threatening more than 12,000 refugees in a U.N. compound in Bor.  Payumo ordered the gates closed, locking himself outside with the hostile soldiers, who eventually walked away.  For his brave actions, Payumo is the recipient of the 2015 MY HERO Humanitarian Hero Award. Veteran turned Peace Activist Ron Kovic was on hand to award  “Defying Death in South Sudan” the 2015 Ron Kovic Peace Prize.
Soujourner Truth - artist Tom Block
Soujourner Truth - artist Tom Block
Tom Block, artist and human rights activist, is the winner of the innagural Shetterly Art Award for his powerful portrait of Sojourner Truth, the former slave who became a powerful voice for the rights of women and blacks in the post-abolition United States.  Robert Shetterly, founder of Americans Who Tell The, is sponsoring the award to celebrate an artist who has created a hero portrait that truly conveys the emotional power of hero art.  Block is the founder of the Human Rights Painting Project, in conjunction with Amnesty International, and founder of the newly formed Institute for Prophetic Activist Art in New York.  His highly expressionist portraits of human rights activists include Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Sojourner Truth, and portraits of individuals incarcerated around the world for acts in the name of social justice.
Other winners include:
• John Seigel Boettner, Co-founder of Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press, is the recipient of MY HERO’s Media Arts Educator Award.  “Teen Press,” a documentary short by filmmakers Pamela Tanner-Boll and T.C. Johnstone, offers a glimpse into one semester of the Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press program, in which student reporters learn to be responsible journalists. 
• Gabrielle Gorman, from New Roads High School won the Student Filmmaker Award for her short experimental film, “Dear America.” The film is a deeply personal exploration of the pain and joy of growing up Black in America.
The Emerging Artist Award went to Kayla Briët for her sizzle reel.  Briët is a multi-talented young artist who creates and shares inspirational soul-quenching media.  
Reggae musician Pato Banton ended the festivities by getting the audience to its feet and dancing to the beat of his song, "Love is the Greatest Thing," capping off a 20th Anniversary Celebration and Multimedia Fest filled with inspiration, light and love.  To enjoy the highlights of the event, and view the winning films, visit

Page created on 12/3/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 7/7/2017 10:19:54 PM

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