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Chad Pregracke      

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

Chad Pregracke is a modern day leader and proof that one person can make a difference. What started as one man's crusade at age 23 to clean up the Mississippi River, has evolved into a cultural movement that had resulted in over 8 million pounds of garbage being cleaned out of America's rivers. The vision and leadership skills that Chad possesses have inspired more than 70,000 people to volunteer their time and resources. Chad has always loved the water, growing up in Hampton, Illinois with the Mississippi River literally in his backyard. His family spent the majority of their time on, in and around the river. Chad's first jobs were working on the river, as a commercial shell diver, commercial fisherman and barge hand. Working on the river gave Chad a first hand and close up look at the shores that were littered with toxic trash.

At age 17, Chad began calling government agencies to tell them about the problem. None of his calls resulted in government action and the trash problem seemed to be escalating every year. Chad decided that it was up to him to make a difference and clean the rivers.

At age 23, Chad founded Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving our nation's rivers. Chad worked tirelessly calling businesses to ask for an appointment just to tell the story of what he was seeing along the banks of the river. Chad heard no during every phone call and was near emotional bottom. After begging with a receptionist at Alcoa, Chad finally secured his first appointment. Alcoa took a chance on the young river kid and gave him his first check for $8,400, enough to cover expenses for his first clean up project.

Since 1998, the organization has grown to include over 10 full-time employees, a fleet of 4 barges, 2 towboats, 1 crane, 6 workboats, 2 skid steers, 5 work trucks, and a large box truck to haul trash. Chad remains the driving force behind the organization and still jumps in the water, gets his hands dirty and tosses trash into the boat. His efforts have earned him global notoriety.


Chad Pregracke: From The Bottom Up
added almost 3 years ago
Chad Pregracke: Speaking Sample
added almost 3 years ago

Speech Topics

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.

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.


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.

'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 ...

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