Persons of the Year

"World News" revisits extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

ByABC News
December 19, 2008, 2:19 PM

Bob Blair

Dec. 26, 2008— -- The people picking beans at the Volunteer Farm in Woodstock, Va., are not professional farmers. They are volunteers who harvest vegetables for the hungry at the farm created by former prisoner of war Bob Blair.

Five years ago, Blair had an epiphany -- to get volunteers to help him grow nutritious food for the needy.

We have an awful lot of people, hundreds of thousands of people, who are food insecure," Blair said, "meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from."

The produce is served to the hungry often on the same day it's collected.

Since "World News" featured Blair in June, he said he's produced 35 tons of vegetables with the help of 3,100 volunteers. But even in a good economy, Blair said, that's just a drop in the bucket. He is desperate to provide more.

"They didn't plan on being hungry," he said. "They didn't plan on losing their jobs. They didn't plan on losing their homes."

To fill those empty plates, Blair said he'll grow more on two new farms. And he is adding meat to the bounty.

"The people would like to have some protein," he said. "We knew when the economy took a dip that there would be an increase."

Ron Hunter

For Ron Hunter, a successful college basketball coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, his recruiting trip four years ago to Lagos, Nigeria, was life-changing.

"I was absolutely amazed about the number of people that lived in poverty, the number of children that had no shoes," he said.

So, he teamed up with Samaritan's Feet, a charity dedicated to giving shoes to poor children. And to raise awareness about the lack of shoes in the third world, he agreed to coach a game barefoot.

But not only did he go barefoot. So did the fans. Together, they collected tens of thousands of pairs of shoes.

Since "World News" featured Hunter in January, he has received more than 250,000 pairs of shoes.

"I don't think there is a day that's gone by that I haven't received some pair of shoes," he said. "My house actually looks like a shoe warehouse."

In June, Hunter, his assistant coaches and some of his players delivered the shoes to children in Lima, Peru. Hunter noted that some children as old as 9 or 10 didn't know how to tie them because they've never had shoes to tie.

In January, he will coach barefoot again -- and he's getting other professional and college coaches to do the same. This time he hopes to collect a million pairs of shoes.

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Drs. Vince and Vance Moss

After hearing about the suffering of civilians in war-torn countries, these twin brothers -- both U.S. Army reservists since college -- felt compelled to act. They approached the U.S. military and State Department about a medical mission to Afghanistan to treat civilians. Their idea was rejected because of safety concerns, so the Mosses took matters into their own hands. They chartered a plane, stocked it with medical supplies, hired their own security and flew to Afghanistan -- all at their own expense. They made two trips to the country, gaining the trust of the people and providing much-needed care.

Since "World News" featured the Moss brothers in February, they have served with the Army on a three-month tour to Iraq, assigned as medics to a marine unit. Upon their return home, they arranged for the transport and life-saving surgery for several Iraqi children in the United States.

"When you look at our pictures, and you look at the eyes of the little kids, a lot of them that we treated, I think you will come to the same conclusion that we have -- it certainly was worth it," said Vance Moss.

Maj. Dan Rooney

In August, "World News" featured Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, whose life changed when he was on a commercial flight, that he learned was carrying the remains of a deceased service member home from war. From the moment Rooney stepped off the plane, he had a mission. Also a pro golfer, Rooney mobilized other golfers to donate $1 in extra ground fees to fund scholarships for the children and spouses of those killed or disabled in the line of duty. They raising $1.1 million during Labor Day weekend 2007. Since then, Rooney has raised more than $2 million for his nonprofit Folds of Honor Foundation, and now will be able to provides scholarships to more than 300 military families.

In September, "World News" featured former police officer Julia Burney-Witherspoon, whose life changed when she stumbled upon a warehouse filled with imperfect children's books. Destined for the shredder, she promptly organized a book giveaway and started the organization Cops 'N Kids to share her love of reading with children. Since then, Witherspoon's organization has grown and reached thousands. Despite the recession, she has received donations of books and money. Cops 'N Kids gave 40,000 books to children last week.

"For me, Christmas is about making sure that children who don't have a lot get a lot," she said. "I try to make sure that reading is under their tree, that books are under their tree, that reading is a part of their Christmas holiday."

Piecemakers Quilting Group

In March, "World News" reported on Central Christian Church's Piecemakers Quilting Group in Henderson, Nevada. After a fellow church member taught her fellow parishoners how to quilt the group started a quilting ministry: making quilts for cancer patients to keep them warm during the difficult process of chemotherapy. When we met the quilters, they had given out almost 800 quilts over eight years -- each sewn with care and love. Since then, the group has been inundated with donations both monetary and material. Membership in the group has more than doubled, and they've been able to give out more than 453 quilts in the last eight months.

"I can't really give you an answer as to how we have been able to do so much in just these past few months," said Dorothy Fletcher, a ministry quilter. "It just gets done. It's a wonderful thing…It's a group effort."

"God's word is written on every quilt that goes out," said proud quilter Kathy Biser.

In May, "World News with Charles Gibson" reported on Kristin Elliott, 18, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer at 16, undergoing months of chemotherapy and surgery to remove a tumor from her leg. When the Make-a-Wish Foundation asked Kristin what she wished for, she wanted nothing for herself, but asked for help building an AIDS orphans house in Zambia. The foundation contributed $2,600 and since then, she's received an outpouring of donations – up to $200,000. Now a freshman at Baylor University, Kristin has been cancer-free for a year and returned to Zambia to break ground on the orphanage. With the extra donations, she is also adding a wing in the hospital for AIDS patients.

Josh Sommer

In March, ABCs News featured 20 year-old Josh Sommer, then a Duke University student, who learned he was suffering from a rare form of cancer called Chordoma, which strikes anywhere along the spine or skull. There is no cure and the average survival is seven years. With so little known about disease, Josh learned that the one laboratory primarily focused on Chordoma research was at Duke, where he began working to find a cure. He created the Chordoma Foundation, raising funds for research and hosting the first conference on chordoma research. Now, Josh is in remission. He's taking a year away from college, having won a fellowship for Echoing Green, an organization that funds young people working on health and social problems, and recently launched a new Web site to foster an online community for his foundation.