THE GIRAFFE HEROES PROJECT was born in the head and heart of Ann Medlock, a freelance editor, publicist, and writer living in Manhattan. She started the project as a non-profit organization in 1984 as an antidote to what she saw as: "the mind-numbing violence and trivia that pervaded the media, eroding civic energy and hope." Founder Ann Medlock believed then as she still does three decades later: "People needed to know about the heroes of our times, and all that they are accomplishing as courageous, compassionate citizens." The Giraffe Heroes Project has now honored over a thousand Giraffes, and reached over a quarter of a million kids in schools all over America and around the world. We honor the risk-takers: people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the United States and around the world. Join us today, and #StickYourNeckOut for the common good!

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STANDING UP FOR THE FALLEN, AND FOR THEIR FAMILIES “Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things anybody will ever go through, and to make it more difficult by showing a lack of concern for the well-being of not only the dead but the living was unconscionable.” So said Gina Gray, who ought to know. After working in Iraq as an Army contractor and Army public affairs specialist, Gray took on the job of Public Affairs Director at Arlington National Cemetery. In April 2008 she was present at the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. She knew that the soldier’s family had granted permission for press coverage, but for some reason the media were being kept 50 yards away from the service: no photographs allowed, no coverage allowed. Gray asked Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, who was also present at the funeral, why he had countermanded the family’s wishes; she got no satisfactory answer. “The stories need to be told,” she said. “The families have earned the right to have their loved ones’ story told.” Gray told Higginbotham he was wrong, refused to sign off on a report of the funeral she believed to be false, and soon thereafter began learning of other misdeeds by Arlington management. She went through the standard channels to complain: She told the commanding general of the Military District of Washington of her concerns, which included misplaced graves, mishandled remains, financial mismanagement, favoritism (the awarding of contracts, the granting of choice burial spots), and fraud. Two days later, she was fired. Soon after that, Gray passed along the relevant information to three different congressional offices. Those offices asked the Army what was going on; the Army said, Why, nothing, everything is just fine. Then Gray went to the media and to the Inspector General; eventually, the managers at Arlington, including Higginbotham, were fired. But that was too late for Gray’s career. Although she was officially designated as a whistle blower, the Inspector General’s report concluded that she wasn’t terminated because of her official complaints because management hadn’t known of those complaints when they fired her. Nonetheless, an internal document from the Pentagon asserts that Arlington National Cemetery management “demonstrated an obvious failure” when they fired Gray. Gray then filed a lawsuit but had to drop it because she couldn’t afford the legal fees. As Gray said, “Had I just gone along with it and not said regulations were being violated, I’m sure I’d still be there.” Gray thus joins the ranks of other Giraffe whistle blowers who sacrificed their livelihood to expose an injustice. And her motivation is very similar to the others’: “My parents raised me to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences, and that is exactly what I did.” Update: After spending several more years working for another federal agency, she became "fed up with the smoke and mirrors of Washington, D.C.," and moved to North Carolina to volunteer full time for a nonprofit organization that works to provide wounded warriors with top-level, professional rehabilitative training. "It is a rewarding and challenging endeavor, but one that is incredibly fulfilling,” says Gray. "I have yet to find employment, but am focusing on the positive aspects the move has given me: a healthier, well-rounded life surrounded by people I love."

A GIRAFFE HERO AT YOUR MOVIE HOUSE Fifteen years ago, we commended Coach Jim White as a Giraffe Hero. Now, his story is a new movie, McFarland USA, no doubt playing at a theater near you. The reviews are good, and it's certainly a great story. Here's his Giraffe profile... Jim White has coached so many state championship cross-country teams that he could have just about any job he wanted, like maybe a high-paying one at a cushy private school in a beautiful, rich town. But Coach White and his wife Cheryl are staying right where they are, in McFarland, where the high-school student body is mostly poor Latino kids from farm workers’ families. In the summer, his students may begin their days at 5 in the morning, harvesting fruits and vegetables until dusk. But when the temperature has finally dipped below 100° and the boys have finished their work day, they don running shoes, stretch their calves and hamstrings and, under the tutelage of the coach they call “Blanco,” they begin running, long and far. Seven times in 12 years, McFarland High School, enrollment 412, has won the California state boys’ cross-country championship. They’ve beaten the rich teams from Carmel, the surfer teams from Laguna Beach, the city teams from Los Angeles and San Francisco, the teams from prep schools and suburban schools and Indian reservation schools. They’ve beaten them all—repeatedly. No team in any sport from any California high school has ever had such a record. These winning athletes will tell you the secrets of their success are the coach and his wife. The Whites are surrogate parents to the team members. They visit the boys in the fields and in their homes. They counsel them on getting jobs, on going to college. The coach has worked in the fields with them to raise money for track shoes and for trips to meets. The Whites have taken the kids on weekend “vacations” with them and stood as witnesses at their weddings, and when a kid needs a place to go, he knows he can head for the White’s home. These days, alumni of earlier track teams assist the coach and act as mentors to the current team members. White turns down all offers from other schools, saying that McFarland’s kids need a chance to change their lives. He’ll show you a wall of trophies his teams have won and tell you, “A young kid can look up at that wall and dream.” As Blanco’s kids dream and win and move out into the world, they know how good they are and how right Jim and Cheryl White have been to believe in them. Age when commended: adult (20-64) Year commended: 2000 Occupation: Educator

I became more courageous by doing the very things I needed to be courageous for - first, a little and badly. Then, bit by bit, more and better. - Audre Lorde #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote #Quoteoftheday

Giraffe Hero Itai Dzamara was abducted from a barber shop in Harare, Zimbabwe last night by four men in a white unregistered Isuzu truck. Dzamara, a journalist, has been an active critic of the Mugabe government and was seriously beaten by security agents last year, when he led a protest march against the president. His friends and allies are sure the men who abducted him yesterday were state security agents. YOU can help ensure his safety and his release. Mugabe is Chair of the African Union--he doesn't want a world-wide uproar against his actions. Add your voice. Contact,, and Tell them Dzamara must be released, unharmed. Let's rescue a hero!

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. - Maya Angelou #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote #Quoteoftheday

I never thought much of the courage of a lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people ~George Bernard Shaw #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote #Quoteoftheday


It's a from-afar shot but I guarantee this is me, speaking to a full house in Singapore about living a life of purpose. The massive image behind me is our meme of Albert Schweitzer's great quote: "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." That's why we tell stories at Giraffe Heroes--to give people those examples of meaningful lives. #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #AnnMedlock

A post from Giraffe founder Ann Medlock...

Lots of corporations have offices in booming Singapore; their Corporate Social Responsibility execs were invited by Mayor Phua to do some Giraffe visioning during our week of talks there--all part of the Mayor's drive for creating a caring community.

Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding. - Dorothy Thompson #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote #Quoteoftheday

Last night of the Singapore visit, a public presentation in a huge theater that was standing-room-only for talks by Giraffe Founder Ann Medlock, then Giraffe Heroes International Director John Graham, followed by a Q&A with Mayor Denise Phua.

Courage to do the right thing in public office is often at the price of the office. - Adlai Stevenson #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut #Quote #Quoteoftheday

Recent Giraffe Heroes


This is Sister Megan Rice, a nun for most of her 80+ years and a peace activist since the 1980s. She had been arrested more than three dozen times and had done time twice when she and two other peace activists performed what was called the most serious security breach in the history of US...


Andy Hall, a Brit, works for Finnwatch, a world-wide nonprofit that spots human abuses around the world and works to stop them. When Hall called out Thailand's National Fruit Company for the way it treats its workers, he asked to work...


This is Catherine Hamlin MD, who left her home in Australia in 1959 to provide gynecological care to poor women in Ethiopia. At 90, she's still doing that, focusing on one of the most distressing medical/social issues imaginable: obstetric fistulas.

This is an injury that women can...


This is Hanna Hopko. She braved snipers' bullets in Kiev during a citizens' uprising that brought down a corrupt government there. Now she's leading a rapidly growing citizens' movement that's doing more than rising up and demanding...


Imagine you're 11 years old and your body is twisting from scoliosis, causing you constant physical pain and making you look very different from other kids. You're scheduled for surgery to straighten your spine and your mom takes a "before" picture so you'll have a history of how you once...


Bob Bajek, a reporter on a small-town newspaper in Illinois, came up with a Big Story: the town's recreational lake, where residents fished, swam, and boated, was highly toxic--a now defunct military base had dumped Agent Orange in the water....


There were no protections for whistle-blowers in South Africa when businesswoman Wendy Addison reported her own corporate bosses for breaking the law. She was fired, got death threats, and was blacklisted, even in England, where she took her...


This is veteran environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. He's 12. And he's been working to save his beloved Colorado for half of his life. It started when he saw that the forest near his home was changing. Trees were dying, plants...


Allan Adam is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan nation, whose lands lie within Alberta, Canada. These First Nation people have formal treaty rights that protect their lands from being taken or used by outsiders, but that treaty has been...


Sangduen Chailert, known as "Lek," puts in 18-hour days caring for sick and injured elephants in a protected reserve she co-founded, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The dwindling elephant population is a world-wide...