Best of Humankind Awards Show
Best of Animalkind
Sponsored by PetSmart Charities, the Best of Animalkind will be awarded to the rescuer, adopter, or animal-friend who has exemplified the deepest level of respect and love for our animal friends.
2021 Winners and Finalists
Jeff and Michele Allen – WINNER
Michele and Jeff Allen are the founders of a year-round hospice dedicated to senior dogs. Removing terminally ill dogs from bad conditions, they work 24/7 to ensure that the animal’s last days are spent in comfort, surrounded by love and the appropriate medical care.
Victoria Curtis’ original mission was to create her town’s first off-leash dog park. But a meeting with 4Paws2Freedom founder, Terry Sandhoff, changed her focus. Victoria was amazed at the difference a dog made in the life of a Disabled American Veteran with Post Traumatic Stress and other disabilities. So, in 2014, she established the Healing Heroes program and built a special needs” area inside the dog park for service dog training. Since its inception, Healing Heroes has raised more than $200,000 and given some 250 veterans the opportunity to receive service dog training with 4Paws2Freedom.
Best of Militarykind
Christopher Douglas – WINNER
Christopher Douglas is a Midlothian Police Officer and Air Force veteran. However, his most remarkable title is “Captain America of Texas.” In his superhero role, Christopher has worked with the “Make a Wish Foundation” to make countless dreams come true. In addition, he’s thrilled youngsters as the star of a special needs birthday drive-by aboard the captain truck. Despite working 12-hour shifts, Christopher is always ready to show love and kindness to his community in his off-duty hours.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kanwar Singh considers his hair and turban an essential part of his religious faith as a Sikh. However, U.S. military rules stated that he’d have to cut his hair and remove his turban to serve. But Kanwar was undeterred. For nearly two years, he went above and beyond to encourage the armed forces to accommodate the religious practices of all service members. Now, due to his perseverance, thousands of U.S military personnel can serve their country while still retaining important parts of their spiritual identity.
Best of Womankind
Dorothy Oliver – WINNER
Dorothy Oliver is not in the medical profession, but she’s primarily responsible for getting 97% of the residents of Panola, Alabama, vaccinated. As the pandemic took hold, the general store owner was so concerned about her community that she went door-to-door encouraging her friends and neighbors to get vaccinated. To make the vaccination process as easy as possible, Dorothy volunteered to schedule appointments and drive fellow residents to and from the vaccination centers. As a result of her efforts, almost all of the 350 people in her town are now vaccinated.
Shreyaa Venkat is an 18-year-old sophomore at Georgetown University, where she majors in global health. She’s also the co-founder and CEO of the philanthropic teen-led nonprofit platform, NEST4US. Shreyaa’s activism focuses on sustainability, quality education, leadership, and kindness. The teenager has spent thousands of hours contributing to the 12+ United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by tackling various societal issues. These include zero hunger, poverty, and climate action. In just five years, her organization’s family of volunteers has grown to more than 2,000 people of all ages and backgrounds.
Best of Sportskind
Hannah Jordan – WINNER
Hannah Jordan’s creative spirit is inspired by cycling. She was only six years old when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease that would require her to use a feeding tube for the rest of her life. At 13, Hannah began cycling. She quickly fell in love with the sport, and within 10 days of learning to ride, she’d completed 210 miles. In the following years, Hannah competed in more than 150 races. She even claimed a world title, all while being attached by feeding tube to the bag of fluids in her backpack. Now, aged 20, she’s working to bring hope to others with inventions that will help them live their very best life.
Nicole Rutigaliano felt isolated and lonely when the pandemic hit. Like many, the 51-year-old craved more human interaction than video calls could provide. So, once people began to get vaccinated, she decided to start a 40’s and older kickball team with some of her female friends. But the response to the weekly get-together was so overwhelming that she ended up creating a whole league! Today, more than 100 women take part in the “Not In The Face” Kickball League, in which women have get the chance to exercise, make new friends, and feel less alone.
Best of Earthkind
Chef Jibriel Saunders works with the nonprofit Zurie’s Circle, to teach youth about gardening, eating right and cooking great food out of the garden. He assisted during the beginning of COVID-19, supplying families with fresh produce and grapes right from the school garden.
Sara Stewart – WINNER
Sara Stewart is the inspiration behind The Unity Gardens in South Bend, Indiana. This nonprofit free pick garden aims to improve community health by increasing the accessibility to fruits and vegetables and promoting education on nutrition, food preparation, and sustainability. However, it’s become so much more than a garden. Sara has created a culture of caring in her community, as the gardens provide food for anyone in need and bring diverse people and businesses together to grow, harvest, share, and eat healthy food.
Humankind Educator of the Year
Kimberly Mileszko – WINNER
Kim Mileszko is a job developer for a large high school in New Jersey, working with special needs youngsters aged 17-21. Kim places dozens of special needs students from four local high schools into job training programs. During the last year, she’s reinvented the process to ensure that graduating students continue to grow and be successful. By contacting local businesses, organizations, and community groups and asking, “How can my students help you?” Kim has been instrumental in helping students, often overlooked by the business community, gain the social and physical skills to become productive members of society.
Pierre-Carly LaFaille made a lasting impact on all 150,000 students in her 236-school district during the pandemic. When campuses shut down during spring break, Pierre-Carly canceled her plans and created a free hotline for families and students to reach out for virtual learning assistance. But she soon found that the tools and applications that would help the most for virtual learning were not accessible to most students and families needing help. So, she reached out to the vendors of online learning applications and asked for district-wide donations and funding. The result was a war chest of around $1,000,000 with which to continue her work.
Humankind Healthcare Worker of the Year
Dr. Gulshan Harjee
Dr. Gulshan Harjee co-founded the Clarkston Community Health Center in 2013. The non-profit is located in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia, where unemployment and lack of insurance are among the worst in the state. Clarkston is a hub for new immigrants, refugees, and undocumented persons, and there are some 60 languages spoken locally. As a former asylum seeker herself, Dr. Harjee is sympathetic to the community’s needs. And today, through 400+ volunteer Clinical and Non-Clinical volunteers and eight Academic Collaborations, the CCHC provides ethnically, culturally, and linguistically sensitive care to 5500 patients.
Dr. Tamatha Fenster – WINNER
Dr. Tamatha Fenster is a gynecological surgeon who was reassigned to the ICU during the first wave of the Covid pandemic. Seeing patients die from the virus, unable to have family or friends at their bedside, prompted Dr. Fenster to create an innovative communication device so that dying patients could hear the voices of their loved ones and religious figures while they took their last breaths. The device, called “Voice Love,” allows people to communicate from anywhere in the world, bringing solace to critically ill patients under quarantine. It is free to all, as they believe patient connection to clergy, loved ones and friends is a fundamental right.
Humankind Triumph of the Year
Mark Scotch – WINNER
Mark Scotch’s chance meeting with Hugh Smith in a local bar could change the lives of many. Hugh was on dialysis and badly in need of a transplant. After chatting with the stranger, Mark made a snap decision to donate one of his kidneys. After the transplant, Mark discovered the urgent need for living kidney donors. So, to publicize the message, he set off on a 1500-mile bicycle ride from his home in Wisconsin to Hugh in Louisiana.
Yuri Williams is the founder of A Future Superhero and Friends. After losing his mother to cancer in 2009, he came up with the idea of helping the underserved in his community. His goal was to feed the elderly, children, veterans, and those without homes. He’s since expanded his mission, visiting sick children dressed as Spiderman, and attending events like blood drives, movie nights, and toy drives around the country, helping at least one person in all 50 states.
Humankind Act of Kindness Caught on Video
Skyler Carter – WINNER
Skyler Carter is a high schooler who came to the aid of his classmate and friend, Tanner Hendrix. Tanner is a high functioning special needs student and was devastated to find that a bully had put his tennis shoes in the toilet before PE class. But the following week, Tanner got a big surprise, when Skyler was caught on camera at his home delivering him a new pair of tennis shoes and telling Tanner how upset he was to hear that Tanner was treated poorly.
Sonam Singye didn’t hesitate when he came upon a fellow delivery man with a flat tire. He instantly lent the stranger his own moped, which allowed him to complete his two deliveries. The two men didn’t even exchange cellphone numbers, but the moped was returned safe and sound, and the whole act of kindness was caught on camera.
Humankind Person of the Year
Heather Boone – WINNER
Heather Boone’s mission as the Pastor of Oaks of Righteousness Church is to help anyone in need. After establishing the church, she founded a homeless shelter, living there herself for two years to better aid those without houses. The food pantry and food program she later created provide more than 10,000 meals a year. She’s also created a clothing closet, a furniture donation center, a community center, a free daycare center, and a tutoring program for children.
Rene D. LaBerge is the inspiration behind the South Burlington Dolphins Youth Football Program in Vermont. Through football, he’s taught young people the importance of teamwork, sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance for 55 years. But perhaps his greatest impact on the lives of the Dolphin players has been off the field, where he’s always ready with advice, encouragement, or a sympathetic ear. He’s even provided a temporary home for some players who were struggling with life issues. And his kindness and understanding have reaped rich rewards, as several former Dolphin players have gone on to become coaches in colleges and high schools.
Humankind Viewer’s Choice Award
Caroline Lindner spends every Monday night from 6-8 pm giving free haircuts to men and women in need and those without homes. With a simple haircut, Caroline acknowledges her clients as people, offering them the gift of respect, love, and dignity.
Mark James – WINNER
Mark James is a Corrections Deputy at Florida Sheriff’s Office. He’s also a youth football coach and a mentor. His mentoring program is called Nu Nation of Men, in which he teaches young men the skills that will empower and sustain them throughout life. These include social skills, anger management, conflict resolution, hygiene, health & nutrition, accountability, and recreation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Humankind?
USA TODAY’S Humankind series features video stories about real people doing amazingly selfless and kind things in their communities. These stories lift us up, touch our hearts and remind us about the resilience and beauty of the human spirit.
What is the Best of Humankind Awards?
USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Awards recognize and reward everyday people who have showcased the highest level of kindness, compassion, and perseverance. Awards will be given in multiple categories including but not limited to: Animalkind, Sportskind, Militarykind, Womankind, Earthkind, as well as recognition for educators, first responders and more.
How does the program work?
The Best of Humankind awards will take open nominations this summer. All nominations will be reviewed by an advisory board. Finalists will be selected and their stories shared, via video, for America to vote this fall. Winners will be announced in December during a streaming broadcast and live on HumankindAwards.com for at least one year. Each winner will receive $1,000 with the person nominating them receiving $250.
Who can be nominated for a Best of Humankind Award?
USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Awards will recognize everyday people/individuals doing great things. Organizations/businesses/non-profits cannot be nominated for a Best of Humankind award.
Can I nominate a non-profit rather than an individual?
No. Businesses, including non-profits are not eligible for a Best of Humankind Award.
What information do I need to share during the nomination process?
Please share a detailed story of why this person should be considered for a Best of Humankind Award. Be as detailed as possible. Is there one moment you can share that personifies your nominee? Links to video moments and photos may also be required.
What happens if I am named a finalist?
A representative from the Humankind team will contact you for additional information. You may be interviewed on camera about your kindness.
When are winners announced?
Winners will be announced during a streaming broadcast of the Best of Humankind Awards this December. Watch Online at HumankindAwards.com, streaming on USA TODAY and Humankind Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and the USA TODAY Channel on ROKU and most Smart TVs.
When is the Best of Humankind Awards and how can I watch it?
The Best of Humankind Awards premieres this December. Check back at HumankindAwards.com for the streaming details as the date gets closer.