Durbin Honors 2013 CNN Hero Award Winner From East Moline, Illinois

[WASHINGTON, DC] – In a statement for the Senate record, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today honored Illinoisan Chad Pregracke, who was named a 2013 CNN Hero earlier this week. Pregracke founded the non-profit Living Lands & Waters, based in East Moline, Illinois, which organizes clean-ups of the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio River regions.


The full text of Senator Durbin’s statement for the record is below:


Senator Dick Durbin

Honoring 2013 CNN Hero Chad Pegracke

November 21, 2013

Mr. President, I rise today to honor the outstanding work of a great Illinoisan, Chad Pregracke, who has just been named a 2013 CNN Hero.


A native of East Moline, Illinois, Chad grew up knowing how important the Mississippi River was to his community.  He spent a lot of time on the river with his parents, KeeKee and Gary, and his older brother Brent.  Chad saw how badly the river was being polluted and knew something had to be done.  When no one else stepped up, he decided he would.


In 1997, he received a small grant and spent that summer cleaning up part of the river on his own, sorting through the trash on his parents’ front lawn.


In 1998, when he was just 23 years old, Chad founded his own non-profit --Living Lands & Waters.  The venture has now grown to a full staff and fleet of barges.  Living Lands & Waters relies on teams of volunteers throughout the nation, with a heavy focus on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio River regions.


Living Lands & Waters organizes about 70 cleanups a year in 50 different communities. Chad estimates that his group has worked with about 70,000 volunteers to remove more than 7 million pounds of trash from the nation’s waterways.  Among the trash they have pulled from river are more than 67,000 tires, 218 washing machines and four pianos.


Not all of their finds are the size of pianos.  Chad boasts an extensive collection of messages in bottles he has found over the years.  To date, Chad has retrieved 64 of these bottles, often hundreds of miles from their place of origin.  They include everything from love letters and lottery tickets to treasure maps and simple notes of good wishes.


Chad’s hard work has earned him significant recognition and praise, most recently being honored by CNN as one of its 2013 Heroes.   I am pleased to add my thanks to Chad Pegracke for working to improve our communities by saving our rivers.