October 20th, 2008
04:43 PM ET

Heroes Nominator: Maria changed the way I look at my life

Program Note: CNN Heroes received nearly four thousand submissions from 75 countries. A Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year, and over 1 million of you voted for your CNN HERO OF THE YEAR

A Global Celebration: Thanksgiving Night at 9p ET


Maria Ruiz of Texas regularly crosses the border into Mexico with food, clothing and toys for impoverished families.
Maria Ruiz of Texas regularly crosses the border into Mexico with food, clothing and toys for impoverished families.

Sandra Horine
Nominated Maria Ruiz | HER STORY

After visiting Maria and her family in January, I was struck by their simple way of life and priority of serving others…they had no thought for themselves. Maria’s husband worked two jobs to support their work in Mexico. They have gone without health care and other things that we take for granted. Maria, on her own, had created this feeding center where she fed 1200 children per day. I wouldn’t even attempt something like that unless I knew I had the right support and that I would be successful…Maria just knew there was a need and went to fill it without listening to the fact that what she wanted to do was just about impossible. Maria and her family changed the way I look at my life.

I submitted her name to the CNN Heroes because I wanted more people to hear her story. I hoped that more people would be inspired to make a difference with what they have, where they are. That is what Maria did. She did not wait until she had all the answers; she stepped forward and met needs. We can all do that in the corners that we live…we simply need to open our eyes, our ears and hands.

People like Maria are giving their all, everyday and giving everything from what little they may have.

I was very overwhelmed to learn that she was selected as part of the Top 10. One of my friends sent me the e-mail that Maria made the Top 10. I had to read the e-mail several times to understand exactly what was going on because I was so excited. Never did I dream that there would be a monetary award. This can allow for them to complete the orphanage and feeding center. And…if she were selected for the $100,000, the number of children that can be helped is infinite. WOW!

The first thing I did was e-mail Maria to congratulate her…then I e-mailed all my friends. I am so proud of her.

Maria is very humble. She does not consider herself a hero. But she is my hero for following what she felt led to do without letting doubt cloud her vision.

Filed under: CNN Heroes
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Mike B

    Maria, your story was the most inspiring for me personally because you are giving and giving when you don't have much for yourself. Also, I could tell you were uncomfortable receiving the award. We could see you gave all the credit to God and to your family. But hopefully the exposure will bring you more volunteers and resources now. Be energized! Peace, MB

    November 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm |
  2. Sharon

    Hi Maria,
    It is such an unselfish thing that you are doing to help these kids.
    They are indeed our future. If there is anything I can do to help please call on me. I live in Minnesota but my kids and grandkids live in Az.

    November 29, 2008 at 12:07 am |
  3. Richard Mason

    Which of these wonderful people is more deserving than the others for the Heroes vote?
    Is learning more important to children in Senegal than those in Ethiopia or Cambodia?
    I vote for all of these Heroes.
    Richard Mason
    Topeka, KS

    November 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  4. Gerald

    Hi Maria,

    Congratulations! Your persistent and unselfish work in Mexico when, for years, no one – not CNN or anyone else – was watching, is a perfect example of heroism. Indeed, who knows what the long term consequences of your sacrifices may be. We do know that you are helping to reduce the number of neglected children in this high risk world, and surely your life's work needs to be acknowledged and praised.

    As some of the posts above point out there are many hero's in the miliatary – men and women who risk their lives every day. There are hero's within our fire departments and police departments all around this country. It is truly unfortunate that we cannot know about every single one. I sincerely hope that all of these hero's will be recognized and rewarded appropriately.

    But, what Maria is doing is extraordinary for very few of us can claim such contributions to humanity. The kind of heroism recognized here is not part of a contract for employment or service. Without discounting for a second what others do, I want to celebrate Maria's life which involves a sacrifice with no assurances that she will ever get anything tangible in return.

    When CEO's are making off with huge undeserved parachutes, when the chasm between the rich and poor expands with every day that passes, when government officials lie to us at every turn, ...and more and more - I am ecstatic with CNN's efforts to recognize any of our hero's. I am considered a senior member of our society. When I look back on my life, one regret that I have is that I did not make sufficient sacrifices on behalf of others, including our future generations. Thank you Maria for doing what you do! I personally think you should be nominated for sainthood.


    November 15, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  5. Callie

    Congratulations, María! Your work is amazing, and so is your dedication. You are my hero and I hope you are able to continue changing lives one day at a time.

    I used to work as a Spanish/English medical translator all over the continent, and I will never forget the amazing human experience that each pueblito and its people had to offer.
    You are doing exactly what I want to do.

    I have walked across fields of land mines and interviewed tuberculosis patients, fed the hungry, and seen life-threatening wounds. I loved working and helping in that capacity, but I have a small child now, so I’m reluctant to be away for long periods of time in areas that can threaten my life. When my son is older, however, I will do so again, with renewed energy, in your example.

    You’ve been brave, selfless, and kind – when you didn’t have to be – and that’s what I call heroic. All of the 2008 honorees, in fact, continue their work without obligation, without pay, and without having had to participate at all. The vision and ambition of the average person who chooses to help is relevant to every human and hearing your stories should encourage each one of us.

    I wish you the best of luck, María.

    November 6, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Ryan

    America has thousands of soldiers in combat zones across the globe, yet CNN can't bring itself to recognize the heroism of a single one. I guess it would offend Europeans and rich urban white liberals, so CNN recognizes non-controversial charity workers instead. Pretty pathetic.

    October 31, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Aida Marranzini

    It is hard to choose. They are all so deserving, and the award funds will go to help their causes, that it seems unfair to pick one over the other.

    October 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm |
  8. W. Harms

    I believe that while all of these people are good, nice, altruistic and perhaps inspirational. They are not heroes, they have done nothing heroic. I have known and worked with real heroes, men who have received the Medal of Honor. To call these candidates heroic or heroes dismisses the actions of true heroes. Please look up hero in the dictionary preferably the first three or so definitions. I am tired of the media calling even victims heroes. “Heroes” should bring to mind Ulysses, York or even Travis.

    October 31, 2008 at 11:15 am |
  9. Maria

    Thank you Rose for your vote and support! God bless you.

    October 31, 2008 at 10:54 am |
  10. Jason

    Not that any of the people on here on not true heros, not that what they did doesnt deserve recognition, I want to know why all Ten are not Americans? Why are all Ten not soldiers, or soldiers families, or soldiers kids, all of whom sacrificed sometimes everything so all of these people could have the freedom to do these things! Please give some respect to the Military!

    October 31, 2008 at 9:23 am |
  11. Rose from Muscoy

    I am glad that somebody is helping these children, God Bless-you and your family, Maria! Hope you will win the money which will help with food and taking care of these children.

    Take care, you got my vote!

    October 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm |

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