Governor Quinn Salutes “CNN Heroes” Awardee PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment, Weather & Nature
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Monday, 02 December 2013 13:22

Declares Sunday “Chad Pregracke Day” to Honor Illinois River Advocate

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn declared today “Chad Pregracke Day” to salute the East Moline man who was named “CNN Hero of the Year” for his efforts to clean up America’s waterways. Chad Pregracke will be honored in a CNN broadcast hosted by Anderson Cooper tonight at 7:00 p.m.

“Chad Pregracke personifies stewardship of our rivers, a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ tenacity and the volunteer spirit that makes Illinois special,” Governor Quinn said. “Having known Chad for years, I believe CNN made the ideal choice for ‘Hero of the Year’. This man has truly made a difference and we are extremely proud of him.”

Governor Quinn noted that in an act of uncommon generosity, Pregracke said he will share part of his $300,000 prize with the other nine finalists of the CNN Heroes initiative.

A former commercial shell diver, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters in 1998 to remove mounds of debris he saw on the river bottom near the Quad Cities. Since then, he has been responsible for removing 7 million tons of trash from 23 waterways including the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. In 2005, he partnered with then-Lieutenant Governor Quinn to clean up the Illinois River’s Plum Island, now an eagle sanctuary.

“I am honored to have a day named after me,” Pregracke said. “I don’t know who is more excited, me or my Mom! I think one my biggest accomplishment is encouraging others that they can make a big difference in this world. I am proud to say I’m from Illinois, and want to thank all the people of Illinois that voted for me and cleaner rivers. This has allowed me the privilege and opportunity to be named 2013 CNN Hero.”

Pregracke and his crew spend nine months a year living and working on a barge, organizing riverbank cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives and invasive plant removal. He is halfway to his goal of planting one million trees along Midwestern shorelines.

Pregracke is instilling a passion for stewardship to a younger generation, as well, with an “Alternative Spring Break” and “Floating Classrooms.” In 2013, Floating Classrooms were conducted on Living Lands & Waters’ boats moored at Alton, Cave-in-Rock, Chester, Grafton, Quincy, Rock Island and other Illinois riverfront communities.

During the past 15 years, more than 70,000 volunteers have participated in Pregracke’s projects. The Living Lands & Waters staff has grown to 12, and its fleet includes 15 boats, six trucks and a crane. Pregracke has been called “the garbageman of the rivers”, and Living Lands & Waters is known as the most “industrial strength” river recovery project on earth.

In his Proclamation, Governor Quinn said that Pregracke is a model for the 3,000 AmeriCorps members in Illinois and embodies the mission of the Governor’s Serve Illinois Commission to instill an ethic of service.

This is the 7th year CNN has conducted its search for “CNN Heroes.” This year’s top ten were nominated by a global audience and profiled earlier this year on CNN. Pregracke received the most votes in the five-week online election. Other 2013 “Hero” finalists included an Iraq war vet who builds homes for other disabled veterans, an urban gardener who created an oasis in a food desert and a Florida retiree who invested her savings into transforming a bus into a mobile computer lab for inner city children.

A free viewing party for the airing of CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute will be held tonight at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center beginning at 6:00 p.m.

To learn more about Chad Pregracke or to volunteer on a Living Lands & Waters project, visit

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