Beliefnet.com Announces This Year's Nominees for Most Inspiring Person of the Year

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From the Amish of Nickel Mines to Warren Buffett, 12 unforgettable stories top a year of remarkable and life affirming choices.

Beliefnet.com, the leading online community for inspiration and spirituality, announced today its nominees for the Most Inspiring Person of the Year 2006. After a process that combines user voting and editor selections, Beliefnet will announce the final Most Inspiring Person of 2006 on December 13th.

This will be the seventh year Beliefnet has honored the Most Inspiring Person. The 2006 people's choice vote will recognize 12 extraordinary candidates who have risen above expectations, countered stereotypes and demonstrated courage, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and love under difficult and challenging circumstances.

Beginning today and continuing for two weeks, voting will take place in rounds with two different nominees featured every day. Visitors can watch videos and read about the accomplishments of each nominee at Beliefnet.com. After readers winnow the field to three finalists, editors will make a final selection.

"Rather than honoring the sexiest or most powerful, we honor the people who give us hope," said Steven Waldman, Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet.com. "Their stories encourage us to do more for others, to stand strong in the face of adversity, to strive in spite of personal tragedy, or simply make us want to be better people ourselves."

From Bindi Irwin, the 8-year-old "wildlife warrior," and Elissa Montanti, who works miracles for children maimed in war; to the Amish community, which forgave the killer of innocents, and Charles Moore, a homeless Good Samaritan -- Beliefnet's list of 12 extraordinary nominees proves the unforgettable resilience and goodness of the human spirit.

The twelve nominees are:

  • The Amish of Nickel Mines, PA -- Inspiring for the incredible spirit of forgiveness they immediately extended to a gunman who killed five young girls in a tragic school shooting this fall, the Amish community of Nickel Mines, PA, showed the world how to forgive and live in peace.
  • Bindi Irwin -- Bindi, the daughter of Steve Irwin -- the beloved "Crocodile Hunter" who lost his life earlier this year when his heart was punctured by a stingray -- is continuing her father's work in wildlife conservation.
  • Elissa Montanti -- Dubbed "The Saint of Staten Island," Montanti has been a miracle worker for many war-maimed children, bringing them to the U.S., enlisting airlines, hospitals and a prosthetic manufacturer to donate services to provide medical care they desperately needed. Montanti founded the Global Medical Relief Fund, a nonprofit that works to get free medical help for children hurt or maimed in war or natural disasters.
  • Warren Buffett -- The second richest man in the world and the most generous philanthropist pledged this year to give an estimated $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, doubling the foundation's assets. He is doing so in honor of his late wife, Susan Thompson Buffett, who shared his belief in the philosophy that all great fortunes should be used to benefit others.
  • Jason McElwain -- An autistic boy who broke the boundaries of his disability to shatter a school record for 3-point shots, McElwain holds on to an unwavering belief in his own abilities and determination to push boundaries. "Never give up," Jason told Beliefnet. "Keep dreaming, and if you don't dream it, you can't become it. That's it."
  • Adam Zuckerman -- A young man from Maine who was moved by the atrocities committed in Darfur, dedicated himself to being an activist for the victims of the genocide. Zuckerman is considered one of the most outspoken advocates of the Darfuri cause in the U.S. He has spoken before the Maine state legislature, lobbied Congress and continues his good deeds beyond Darfur -- he traveled to Honduras to help build a local water system and to Costa Rica to participate in a program on endangered wildlife and reforestation.
  • Lance Corporal Todd Corbin -- As a U.S. marine fighting in Iraq, Lance Corporal Corbin embodies the essence of what it means to be a hero. One brutal day on the battle field, his troops came under fire; they were hit by a suicide bomber, followed by intense gunfire. Under the severe attack Corporal Corbin carried his wounded men off the field to the safety of their vehicle. His valiant act, for which he received the Navy Cross, meant that not one marine lost his life after the initial attack.
  • Kathleen Traylor -- Having been inspired at a young age to act, Traylor refused to let her disabilities -- double leg amputations, scoliosis and a disfigured heart -- stand in the way of her acting. Partnering with several former classmates, Traylor co-founded the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League, and went on to perform numerous plays and musicals throughout the last two decades.
  • Charles Moore -- A homeless man from Detroit who found savings bonds worth over $20,000 in a trash can and turned them in to the local shelter so they could be returned to the rightful owner is a prime example of selflessness. Moore's actions show that character and principles cannot be broken, regardless of hardships and misfortunes.
  • Reverend Richard Cizik -- Vice President for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, Cizik is a Washington lobbyist for "Creation Care," the philosophy that caring for the Earth and all it holds is a biblically mandated duty.
  • Russell Simmons -- A hip-hop mogul, and chairman for the Foundation of Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), a non-profit organization that works to eradicate racism and build understanding between ethnic groups, Simmons is behind the foundation's National Ethnic Tolerance campaign. He is also the chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, co-founder of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, a member of PETA and was recently named a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
  • Immaculee Ilibagiza -- a Rwandan holocaust survivor, she was forced to hide from her attackers in a 3' x 4' bathroom, with seven other women, for 91 days. She emerged from her asylum to find that she had lost her parents, grandparents and three brothers. Immaculee did not let rage, grief or desire for revenge take over her life. Instead she found only forgiveness in her heart for her enemies and prayed for the redemption of their souls.

Recognizing that everyone has local heroes who inspire them everyday, Beliefnet asked readers to send in personal stories and photos of people who helped them with struggles or became exemplars of grace and strength. Visitors to the site can add their own inspiring stories by clicking on The Hero in My Life.

Beliefnet's Most Inspiring Person of the Year 2006 will be announced on December 13, 2006.

About Beliefnet

Beliefnet is the largest spirituality online community, attracting more than 3.1 million unique visitors per month according to Media Metrix (August 2006). More than 9 million people subscribe to Beliefnet's daily email newsletters, accounting for more than 16.5 million subscriptions. Beliefnet won the Online Journalism Award for General Excellence Online, the highest honor given by the Online News Association, the Webby for best Spirituality Website and has three times been named a finalist for the National Magazine Award. Beliefnet editors or writers have also won awards for best analysis and commentary. Some of Beliefnet's major content areas include Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam; however, the company is independent and not affiliated with a particular religion or spiritual movement. Beliefnet, Inc. is a privately held company funded by employees, individual investors, Softbank Capital and Blue Chip Venture Company. For more information please visit http://www.Beliefnet.com

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