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November 4th, 2010
12:43 PM ET

Heroes nominator: 'Linda possesses what I call the '3 Cs' – Commitment, Creativity, and (lots of) Chutzpah.'

Program Note: CNN Heroes received more than ten thousand nominations from 100 countries.. A Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year. Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through November 18th (6am ET) at CNNHeroes.com

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Bruce Bobbins
Nominated Linda Fondren | HER STORY

There is a well-known Biblical poem with the verse, “A woman of valor who can find? Her value is far above jewels.”

Linda Fondren is just such a woman and her efforts to try to eradicate the alarmingly high obesity and diabetes rates in her native Vicksburg and across Mississippi – efforts that are nothing short of Herculean – are invaluable.

From the moment I met Linda I knew that she was not content to just talk the talk. She walked the walk. Spurred on by the death of one of her sisters, whose life was drastically altered by extreme obesity, Linda not only said, “enough is enough…this has to stop,” she took matters into her own hands and launched Shape Up Vicksburg. This life transformation challenge – “this is not a weight loss challenge; lots of people lose weight but then gain it back,” she says – is transforming her city and region. And at a time that obesity is an epidemic that is plaguing our country, and when Mississippi has again been voted – for the sixth consecutive year – to be the “fattest” state in the country, Linda’s campaign is critically essential.

Linda possesses what I call the “3 Cs” in great abundance: Commitment, Creativity, and (lots of) Chutzpah. She went to her city government, the regional health care system, the biggest businesses in Vicksburg, churches, schools, community groups, restaurants and chefs and said, “We’ve got to do this, for ourselves and for our future. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” And, without exception or hesitation, they all said “YES” and are helping Linda do it.

More than just admiring Linda as a passionate and dedicated leader, I admire and deeply respect her as a person. She is genuine, warm, embracing - the real deal.

When I heard that Linda was selected as a Top 10 CNN Hero, I was thrilled. Sure, I was confident when I nominated her that I put together a strong and persuasive argument, but I also knew that there would be thousands of other equally worthy candidates. In fact, each finalist is well-deserving of the honor. There is an incredible spirit and strength in this country, despite these harsh economic times. I know that it is a spirit and strength that Linda – in fact, each of the Top 10 Heroes - possesses in abundance. I can only imagine the adversity Linda has overcome in her life, being born in abject poverty, an African-American woman in the Deep South, having her mother die when Linda was only a young girl, dropping out of school in the seventh grade, being a single mom by age 15…all this and more. I haven’t met too many people in my life who would have had the steely resolve, the fortitude and character to transcend all this…I don’t know if I would have been able to do so. But to look at her now, and see where has is and what she has accomplished…well, it’s nothing short of an Oprah show, a Lifetime Movie of the Week!

I began answering the questions posed by citing a Biblical verse. I’m confident that as others read my words they too will quickly come to realize what I did about Linda: “Her value is far above jewels!”

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