Lake Geneva's Sal Dimiceli with J.R. Martinez Sunday before the live All-Star Tribute show. (click for larger version)
(click for larger version)
December 14, 2011 | 08:06 AMThe two-hour live CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute show ended Sunday night with Lake Geneva's Sal Dimiceli, in his white suit, standing, award waving over his head, in the middle of the stage at the historical Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
He, along with nine others, stood in front of famous actors, star athletes and talented musicians who clapped and cheered for the average people on the stage who have done amazing things.
Dimiceli didn't win the 2011 CNN Hero Of The Year Award and the $250,000 that went with it, but the local who founded the Time Is Now To Help said he knows he has won so much more than that.
"I am not at all disappointed," he said Tuesday. "This was never about winning. We already have won. We are receiving attention from the world about those who are trying to survive in this recession."
After winner Robin Lim was announced, the remaining heroes were brought back up on the stage. Dimiceli, who has for more than 20 years helped the poverty-stricken battle to stay in their homes and put food on the table, was one of the first to congratulate the winner.
"How could you pick any one of us as the winner?" Dimiceli asked. "I am grateful for all those who voted for me. My thought is we're all being recognized for the good we do of taking care of each other. As Americans, that's what it's about."
Just minutes earlier, Dimiceli was on stage alone, accepting his award for being in the top 10 and recognition of the $50,000 for the accomplishment.
Dimiceli admitted he used to be uncomfortable speaking in front of crowds.
But Sunday night was different, even though he said he was somewhat intimidated by the number of seats, balconies and thoughts of people such as Betty Davis accepting their Oscar awards on the same stage.
"I have never been a public person. I was anonymous for 18 years," he said. "But, from my belief in helping people, there's a time you need to speak for them and this was it."
Dimiceli said as he walked up the stairs to the stage in front of thousands in the theater and millions watching around the world, he didn't think once about those watching his every move.
Instead, Dimiceli said he was focused straight on the people he and his organization has helped over the years.
"When I said this is for the true heroes, in my mind, I was visualizing hungry children, not the crowd," he said.
He also said the award was for the forgotten elderly and neglected veterans and handicapped. Those were the faces coming to his mind.
"I visualized them, the working poor I meet every day," he said. "That's who I saw."
Dimiceli said his brief speech was the most dramatic moment for him in an action-packed few days.
Dimiceli's whirlwind few days in Los Angeles began last Thursday, when he arrived in California.
"We hit the ground running," he said.
There were meetings with producers, preparations and practices all in an effort to ensure the live show went off without a hitch.
Red carpet events, interviews and chats with stars also were part of the event.
He was able to speak with CNNs Anderson Cooper, who Dimiceli said was cutting through the crowd and saw him.
"He came up and said, 'Oh, Sal, I love your work, I had to read it twice,'" Dimiceli said of Cooper. "We were talking and talking and he just had a genuine interest in what we are doing."
Dimiceli also had a few moments to speak with CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton, who actually sought Dimiceli on the red carpet.
"I told him this has been a real education," Dimiceli said. "I told him I always felt the media is a supporter of propaganda, mostly political. He looked at me. I said this experience has proven me wrong. He had a small smile then. For the media to come together to show there are solutions to poverty and these other problems, God bless you."
Dimiceli said Walton hugged him and said that's one reason CNN has the event.
"That was the other best moment," Dimiceli said.
On Tuesday, it was back to work for Dimiceli, who said he had some catching up to do.
His plans were to visit the rest of the week with families and individuals struggling. He was expecting the $50,000 to arrive shortly and that money will be put to use during this holiday season.