CCM alumna Amy Wright accepting recognition as CNN's Hero of the Year for 2017. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN.

CCM alumna Amy Wright accepting recognition as CNN’s Hero of the Year for 2017. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN.

CCM alumna Amy Wright (BFA Musical Theatre, 1993) was named CNN’s Hero of the Year for 2017 during a special televised ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 17. Introduced by hosts Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper, Wright received the honor thanks to her ongoing work as an advocate for disabled people.

Wright’s advocacy comes in the form of a coffee shop in Wilmington, North Carolina. After Amy and her husband, fellow CCM alum Ben Wright, spent time performing on Broadway and in various film and TV projects, Wright opened Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in January 2016, named for two of her children who were born with Down syndrome.

Working with the knowledge that over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed nationwide, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee created a path for people with these disabilities to become more valued, accepted and included in the community. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee has grown to employ 40 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has been featured on The Today Show, Rachael Ray, CNN, Harry, Good Morning America, HLN, People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine.

While accepting her CNN Hero of the Year award, Wright commented, “I am bringing this home to the 40 employees who work at Bitty & Beau’s because they are my heroes. And most of all to my two youngest children, Bitty and Beau, who are my inspirations. I want you to know, because I know you are watching, that I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.” You can view more of Wright’s acceptance speech at .

With this award, Wright will receive $100,000 to grow her cause. All of the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2017 will receive a $10,000 cash award. Donations made to the designated nonprofit organization of each Top 10 CNN Hero, via CNNHeroes.com and crowdrise.com/cnnheroes, will be matched up to $50,000 through January 7, 2018.

“My employees are not broken; 200 million people across the world living with an intellectual or developmental disability are not broken,” Wright said on Sunday night. “What is broken is the lens through which we view people with disabilities.”

Now in its 11th year, the Peabody Award and Emmy-winning “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” has profiled more than 300 heroes and has received upward of 85,000 nominations from more than 100 countries.

Please join us in congratulating Amy Wright on this much-deserved award!

You can learn more about Bitty & Beau’s Coffee by visiting www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com.

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