Time is running out: Vote Mary Cortani for CNN ‘Hero of the Year’

Mary Cortani, founder of Operation Freedom Paws, speaks to the crowd after receiving $3,320 during the annual meeting and charitable giving presentation of the Gilroy Foundation at the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust. Also on stage is Operation Freedom Paws

Those who want to see a local nonprofit organization doing great things in South County get a $250,000 grant have approximately nine days to squeeze in as many votes possible for Gilroy dog trainer Mary Cortani.

The Army veteran of 14 years and former Army Master Instructor of Canine Education recently made the top 10 cut for CNN’s “Hero of the Year,” and the window to vote on her behalf officially closes Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Being in the top 10 comes with a $50,000 award – and a chance at an additional $250,000 grant – that will go toward Cortani’s exponentially booming organization, Operation Freedoms Paws.

Founded by Cortani in 2010, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowers wounded veterans and others with mental/or physical impairments to not only train their own service dogs, but ultimately function with the help of their service dogs at home and in society.

Voting is easy:

-Go to the CNN Heroe’s website.

-Click “vote now.”

-Select Mary Cortani as your choice.

-Enter your email and click “vote.” You’re allowed to vote 10 times a day.

The “Hero of the Year” is decided by a public vote. Rules allow one person to vote up to 10 times a day, every day through Nov. 28. All 10 heroes will be honored during an annual tribute show hosted by Anderson Cooper Dec. 2 on CNN. The winner will be announced at that time and receive an additional $250,000 to continue their work. CNN does not reveal the current tally of votes in real time, so the current candidate with the most votes is a mystery up until the very end.

Since its inception in 2007, “CNN Heroes” has received more than 45,000 submissions from more than 100 countries and profiled more than 180 heroes. Approximately 24 people were profiled by CNN this year. That group was then whittled down to 10 people.

Cortani was one of them.

If she wins, the money will go toward finding a permanent home for OFP. The program currently operates out of the large warehouse at 8425 Monterey St. (also occupied by the Gilroy Compassion Center), where Cortani spearheads a 32-week training regimen for human-dog teams.

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