Dr. Kwane Stewart, The Street Vet, Is CNN’s Hero of the Year · The Wildest

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Dr. Kwane Stewart, aka The Street Vet, Is CNN’s Hero of the Year

It’s a well-deserved honor for the vet who cares for the pets of unhoused people.

by Sio Hornbuckle
December 11, 2023
Dr. Kwane is CNN Hero of The Year 2023.
Photo Courtesy of CNN.com

If you ask us to define a “hero,” we’ll just point to Dr. Kwane Stewart, aka The Street Vet, who gives free veterinary care to the pets of unhoused people throughout California. Last night, CNN announced that Stewart, who goes by Dr. Kwane, isn’t just any hero, he’s the new organization’s Hero of the Year.

Dr. Kwane has been providing his services for over a decade now. Back in 2012, he was working at a shelter where they were euthanizing dozens of animals a day, and he just couldn't take it anymore. “It just starts to destroy your soul after a while,” he told The Wildest last year. “This was never what I dreamed of doing when I was a child wanting to get into this profession. There was this week I just said, ‘I can’t go to work.’”

Then, coming out of a 7-Eleven, he passed an unhoused man who he had seen several times before. This time, Dr. Kwane noticed the man‘s dog had a skin condition. He decided to help. “It was flea treatment, $3 out of my pocket. Ten days later the dog was transformed, wagging his tail,” Dr. Kwane said. “The man, sitting in the same spot, looked up, and he was crying and said, ‘Thank you.’ That was the moment. It was hugely rewarding, and I felt like I was getting back to saving animals on my terms.”

This event inspired him to change his path and he began to care for the pets of unhoused people full-time. “At the time, it saved me,” Dr. Kwane said. “I was isolating myself and cutting people off in my life. My mom would call, for example, and I wouldn’t return her call for days. I was slowly pulling away, and this brought me back. That’s why I keep doing it.”

In 2020, after years of helping pets with funding out of his own pocket, Dr. Kwane officially started a non-profit called Project Street Vet and launched an ongoing GoFundMe. For years, Dr. Kwane and other volunteers have walked the streets to identify pets they can provide care for without charging a dime. 

Dr. Kwane was nominated as a Top 10 CNN Hero by CNN’s audience and won the title of Hero of the Year via an online vote. His win was announced Sunday evening by Anderson Cooper and Laura Coates on CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.

“I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian my whole life, since I was a child,” Dr. Kwane said in his acceptance speech. “If I, as a child, could dream of doing something that was impactful, then I think I found it — or it found me — and I’m so lucky to be doing what I’m doing.”

He continued: “As I get older I start thinking about those big questions in life: ‘Why are we here? What defines us? Why are we human?’ And I think the answer — at least for me — the answer is in the question: ‘What does it mean to be human?’ And I believe it’s humanity. It’s looking out for each other, believing in each other, helping one another. And all these people embody that.” 

Then, in true Street Vet fashion, Dr. Kwane did something spontaneous and very generous. The CNN Hero of the Year honor comes with a $100,000 reward (plus $300,000 in funding and resources from The Elevated Prize), and the vet decided to share the wealth, literally. “This part certainly wasn’t planned, but the hundred thousand I want to celebrate with all of you,” he said to his nine fellow nominees. “It splits evenly ten ways pretty nicely, so it is my contribution to all of us. I want to say I’m honored to know you.”

For a more in-depth look at Dr. Kwane’s work, see our full interview with him and follow him on social media. You can donate to his ongoing GoFundMe here; the Elevated Prize Foundation is matching donations up to $50,000 for each of the 10 nominees through January 5th.

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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