Chad Pregracke

  • Founder & President, Living Lands & Waters
  • CNN Hero of the Year
  • Author of "From the Bottom Up, One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers"

Chad Pregracke is living proof that an average person can make a big difference. He holds the title of 2013 CNN Hero of the Year. He is also the Founder & President of the internationally recognized not-for- profit organization, Living Lands & Waters. In addition, Chad is a professional public speaker, sharing his stories at many of the world's largest corporations and most prestigious universities. His adventures and challenges translates to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, leaving them inspired to take action. Chad exemplifies how one person can make a difference in the world.

Growing up 30 feet away from the Mississippi River, Chad became very familiar with the majestic waterway. Spending up to 10 hours a day in the depths and current of the pitch black water, he worked as a Commercial Shell Diver during his teenage and college years. Over a six year period, he crawled 150 miles of the river bottom. He gained a new perspective on the river, looking at it from the bottom up. Chad was both marveled by the river's beauty and frustrated with its plight due to years of neglect. The river and its shores were littered with thousands of barrels, tires, cars, campers, plastic bottles, appliances, and much more.

At the age of 17, he set out on a mission to do something about the disregarded river. Since 1998, when Living Lands & Waters was established, over 8 million pounds of garbage has been removed by Chad, his crew, and over 70,000 volunteers. Over 730,000 trees have also been planted through the MillionTreesProject, started in 2007. Furthermore, thousands of students have been educated aboard his floating classroom on the barge he and his crew live on up to 9 months of the year. Chad is accomplishing his mission to clean up America's rivers and launched a social movement that engages people and betters the world in the process.

Chad's sense of humor, passion, and enthusiasm help carry the message that we can all make a difference by amplifying his story and entertaining his audiences. His vision and leadership have been recognized through countless awards and honors. A few include CNN's Hero of the Year Award, the Jefferson Award for Public Service (America's version of the Nobel Prize), and being recognized at the Points of Light Tribute in front of all four living former U.S. Presidents. They even gave him a standing ovation for his inspirational message on dreaming big, taking action, persevering, leading, and collaborating. He was also named "America's Hardest Working Person" by a competition hosted by Mitchum. Chad's non-stop work ethic and determination have also been featured in major media outlets, such as CNN, the Discovery Channel, Time, People, NBC Nightly News, CBS Sunday Morning, the Chicago Tribune, and Outdoor magazines. In addition, Chad authored a book about his journey titled "From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers", published by National Geographic in 2007.

Chad currently lives and works with his wife Tammy, dividing their time between life on the Teamwork Barge and their home in East Moline, IL.

To book Chad Pregracke call Executive Speakers Bureau at 901-754-9404.

See Below for Full Bio

  • Speaking Topics:

    Attitude, Environment, Going Green, Motivation, Philanthropy & Volunteerism

  • Travels From:

    Illinois

  • Price:

    $5,000 - $7,500

    Notes on Fees

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  • Full Bio
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Chad Pregracke - 2013 CNN Hero

Executive Speakers Bureau Chad Pregracke, Founder of Living Lands & Waters

Chad Pregracke

Chad Pregracke

Chad Pregracke is living proof that an average person can make a big difference. He holds the title of 2013 CNN Hero of the Year. He is also the Founder & President of the internationally recognized not-for- profit organization, Living Lands & Waters. In addition, Chad is a professional public speaker, sharing his stories at many of the world's largest corporations and most prestigious universities. His adventures and challenges translates to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, leaving them inspired to take action. Chad exemplifies how one person can make a difference in the world.

Growing up 30 feet away from the Mississippi River, Chad became very familiar with the majestic waterway. Spending up to 10 hours a day in the depths and current of the pitch black water, he worked as a Commercial Shell Diver during his teenage and college years. Over a six year period, he crawled 150 miles of the river bottom. He gained a new perspective on the river, looking at it from the bottom up. Chad was both marveled by the river's beauty and frustrated with its plight due to years of neglect. The river and its shores were littered with thousands of barrels, tires, cars, campers, plastic bottles, appliances, and much more.

At the age of 17, he set out on a mission to do something about the disregarded river. Since 1998, when Living Lands & Waters was established, over 8 million pounds of garbage has been removed by Chad, his crew, and over 70,000 volunteers. Over 730,000 trees have also been planted through the MillionTreesProject, started in 2007. Furthermore, thousands of students have been educated aboard his floating classroom on the barge he and his crew live on up to 9 months of the year. Chad is accomplishing his mission to clean up America's rivers and launched a social movement that engages people and betters the world in the process.

Chad's sense of humor, passion, and enthusiasm help carry the message that we can all make a difference by amplifying his story and entertaining his audiences. His vision and leadership have been recognized through countless awards and honors. A few include CNN's Hero of the Year Award, the Jefferson Award for Public Service (America's version of the Nobel Prize), and being recognized at the Points of Light Tribute in front of all four living former U.S. Presidents. They even gave him a standing ovation for his inspirational message on dreaming big, taking action, persevering, leading, and collaborating. He was also named "America's Hardest Working Person" by a competition hosted by Mitchum. Chad's non-stop work ethic and determination have also been featured in major media outlets, such as CNN, the Discovery Channel, Time, People, NBC Nightly News, CBS Sunday Morning, the Chicago Tribune, and Outdoor magazines. In addition, Chad authored a book about his journey titled "From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers", published by National Geographic in 2007.

Chad currently lives and works with his wife Tammy, dividing their time between life on the Teamwork Barge and their home in East Moline, IL.

To book Chad Pregracke call Executive Speakers Bureau at 901-754-9404.

From the Bottom Up  
Chad's unique presentation takes his audience on an adventure where they learn the value of hard work, perseverance, and big ideas while engaging in an interactive talk with Chad.     

From the darkness of underwater shell diving to the brightness of a community river clean up, Chad's tale epitomizes the importance of setting ambitious goals, staying determined when the going gets touch, and creating a solid team dynamic even in the most difficult environments.   

Chad's sincere enthusiasm creates an uplifting wave for audiences of all ages as he portrays his personal convictions and struggles to clean up America's rivers. 

Take Away Points:

  • How an average person can make a big difference
  • How to create and lead a vision that inspires people to take action
  • How strong leadership and teamwork can effectively solve a problem, no matter the size
  • How to inspire people to work together towards a single vision
  • How philanthropic organizations have enhanced their roll from simply providing funding to empowering employees to champion a cause
  • How to creatively solve problems, like how to steer a 350-ton barge with a bicycle chain

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DIGITAL GOVERNMENT

Chad Pregracke will readily tell you that changing the world is a team effort but his individual spark of dedication and commitment ha ignited a flame fueling the efforts of over 70,000 volunteers who now share his vision for cleaner and healthier waterways and public lands. His is the story of how one man, who without mandate, permission or government grants, developed down and dirty work of river cleanup fun and rewarding. With humor and sincerity, he shared his story with our group of state and local government officials, rekindling their dedication to public service and reminding them why they do what they do.

SR. VICE PRESIDENT, QUAD CITIES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

“Chad Pregracke is recognized as our “home town hero” in the Quad Cities. Our region’s CEOs, President, and business owners were inspired and moved by Chad’s presentation to our Executives Club. His delivery is passionate. His is a message of innovation, entrepreneurialism, perseverance, motivation, commitment and a strong moral conviction to cleanup America’s rivers, including own Mississippi. Chad’s energy is contagious, he had our Executives laughing and reminded that one person can make a difference.”

DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY, TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY - KINGSVILLE

"WITH HIS GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT AND UPBEAT HUMOR, CHAD PREGRACKE BROUGHT HIS PASSION FOR ACTIVISM FOR NATURE AND PEOPLE TO OUR CAMPUS AS THE FINAL LECTURER IN THE ANNUAL TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY KINGSVILLE PRESIDENTIAL LECTURESHIP SERIES, AND AS KEYNOTE SPEAKER FOR EARTH DAY 2013. OVER A THREE-DAY RESIDENCY, HIS MANY INTERACTIONS WITH STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF HAVE SUPER-ENERGIZED OUR CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM."

SENIOR GLOBAL DIRECTOR, ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV

"Chad's story gets you moving and doing. To hear what one person has created and how he has impacted the world around him makes all things seem possible - especially when it comes from a down-to-earth straight shooter with a great sense of humor. When I hear Chad speak, I look around the room to see the reaction of others… and every person is on the edge of their seats listening to his story. I've rarely seen this happen with anyone else."

John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Chad is a genuine American hero single-handedly fighting to restore our country's great natural legacy."

Rivers' garbageman named CNN Hero of the Year
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Editor's note: "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" airs Sunday, December 1, at 8 p.m. ET.(CNN) -- Chad Pregracke, an Illinois man who has dedicated his life to cleaning the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways, was named the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year on Tuesday night.

Pregracke organizes community cleanups across the country through his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters. About 70,000 volunteers have pitched in, helping Pregracke collect more than 7 million pounds of trash in the past 15 years."The garbage got into the water one piece at a time," Pregracke said earlier this year. "And that's the only way it's going to come out.

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