River’s “garbageman” gives more than clean rivers

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KeeKee Pregracke, Chad Pregracke's mother, woke up to a phone call from her son Chad early Wednesday morning.

“Well mom, I won the deal, I won that thing,” said Chad.

That thing was CNN’s Hero of the Year, a national award with a $300,000 prize.

“I just said, Chad I am just so happy for you,” KeeKee said.

And during Chad’s acceptance speech, he made the startling announcement that he was donating $10,000 dollars to each of the nine contestants he defeated.

“He would have felt very guilty had he left with all the money and there was nothing left for the other people,” said KeeKee.

Chad’s mom says he has always loved giving to people. That includes giving people clean rivers.

He lived off the Mississippi River his entire life and every summer, he worked on the Mississippi.

Until one day, he decided to drop out of college and clean up America’s rivers full time.

“He said I have had enough. I am not living in a landfill another entire summer. I’m just going to go out and start picking up trash because apparently it’s not anybody else's job,” said KeeKee.

Chad has been cleaning rivers for fifteen years now, and it’s gotten him national attention.

KeeKee talked about her son’s work while showing News 8 pictures of Chad when he was just a child. Pictures of Chad with political figures like Barbra Bush and Al Gore were on display next to Chad’s baby pictures.

KeeKee pointed to the picture of Chad and Barbra Bush.

“That’s when he received the Franklin award,” KeeKee said with a smile on her face.

And during his most recent award, Chad bought a suit for the first time.

“He always just borrowed my brother’s suit,” said Keekee.

Chad may not be a suit and tie guy, but he is a true hero.

Now, Chad is CNN’s Hero of the Year, but he is still just Chad, a Quad City boy who is cleaning America’s rivers, one piece of trash at a time.