Chad Pregracke, an Illinois man who has dedicated his life to cleaning the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways, was named the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year on Tuesday night. Pregracke organizes community cleanups across the country through his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters. About 70,000 volunteers have pitched in, helping Pregracke collect more than 7 million pounds of trash in the past 15 years. "The garbage got into the water one piece at a time," Pregracke said earlier this year. "And that's the only way it's going to come out." Pregracke was recognized Tuesday night along with the rest of this year's top 10 CNN Heroes -- everyday people doing extraordinary things to help change the world. He was chosen as Hero of the Year through a five-week public vote on CNN.com. "I'll just keep on cleaning up America's rivers and loving every minute of it," said Pregracke as he accepted the award Tuesday night.
For being named CNN Hero of the Year, Pregracke receives $250,000 to continue his work. That is in addition to the $50,000 that each Hero receives for making the top 10. On Tuesday night, Pregracke pledged to spread some of his Hero of the Year money to the rest of the top 10 Heroes: "I've met so many great people today, the other Heroes, and I'm really moved by all their stories and all the things they do around the world. ... I'm going to give 10 grand to each of them, because they're awesome."