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Chad Pregracke      

Founder of Living Lands & Waters, CNN's Hero of the Year for 2013, Environmental Speaker & Bestselling Author

Chad Pregracke is the internationally named 2013 CNN Hero of the Year, founder and president of Living Lands & Waters; a nonprofit river cleanup organization, author and professional public speaker. He is proof one person can make a difference.

Best known for starting out as a young man in East Moline, Illinois wanting a cleaner waterway, Pregracke has become the champion for the Mississippi River. Growing up on its banks, he worked as a commercial shell diver during his early years, experiencing the river from the bottom up. Sometimes spending 10 hours a day in the depths and current of the pitch black waters, he crawled nearly 150 miles of the river bottom over six years. Pregracke saw its beauty and was frustrated by the neglect. At the age of 17, he decided to clean it up. Twenty-five years later, Pregracke and his Living Lands & Waters crew have organized and led over 1200 community cleanups on 23 rivers in 21 states and removed over 12.8 million pounds of garbage. Pregracke had an idea that evolved into a movement that has helped to restore one of America’s greatest icons, the Mississippi River.

Pregracke has been recognized by former President, George W. Bush as a national “Point of Light.” He received a standing ovation at the Kennedy Center from all four living former U.S. Presidents for his inspirational message on dreaming big, taking action, persevering, leading and collaborating. He has been the keynote speaker for college graduations, business conferences and events, classrooms, nonprofit organizations and more. Named “America’s Hardest Working Person” by Mitchum, Pregracke’s enthusiasm, sense of humor and passion amplifies his story and entertains audiences. Ultimately, his message inspires people to believe they can make a difference.

Pregracke currently lives and works with his wife Tammy dividing his time between life on the Teamwork barge and their home in East Moline, IL.

Speech Topics

Results, Not Rhetoric: How to Mobilize Your Team

Pregracke has learned to navigate political as well as physical landscapes, responding to challenges and opportunities with grace and precision. Recounting his personal journey from wide-eyed teenager to entrepreneur, he shares the pitfalls and serendipity he encountered while creating a mobilizing, one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization.

From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers

In this inspirational story, Pregracke takes us from the pitch-black depths of the Mississippi to its surface. His personal journey to restore pride in one of our nation’s greatest treasures motivates others to do the same.


'River's Garbageman' plants 1 million trees -
2013 CNN Hero Chad Pregracke and his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters, planted their 1 millionth tree; Dan Wallrath, a 2010 Top 10 CNN Hero, celebrated the ...
2013 CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke
Chad Pregracke's nonprofit, Living Lands and Waters, has removed millions of pounds of waste, trash and toxic chemicals from rivers across the US.

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