People and Places – March 2011

Freezin’ for a reason: Polar Bear plunge for Special Olympics Brave Minnesotans around the state are jumping into frozen water […]

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Freezin’ for a reason: Polar Bear plunge for Special Olympics

Brave Minnesotans around the state are jumping into frozen water to raise funds for Special Olympics Minnesota as part of the Polar Bear Plunge. As of March 1, more than 6,500 Plungers had already taken the icy dip, together raising more than $1.2 million. An additional 3,000 Plungers have already registered online for the remaining four Plunges and have so far raised an additional $335,000. Coordinated by law enforcement, the 14 Polar Bear Plunge events statewide provide fun-loving adrenaline junkies an opportunity to be “freezin’ for a reason”—and to have a blast in the process. Plungers can still register online at  and the last 2011 plunge will be held March 12.    

Polar Bear Plunge fundraisers help Special Olympics Minnesota offer year-round sports training and competition to more than 7,100 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In 2010 more than 7,000 valiant individuals took the plunge to support Special Olympics Minnesota, together raising more than $1.4 million. Participants often plunge in teams of coworkers, friends or club members and raise money by asking for pledges. Each participant must raise at least $75.    

Polar Bear Plunge events have already been held in 2011 in the following Minnesota communities: White Bear Lake, Willmar/Spicer, Maple Grove, Rochester, St. Peter, Prior Lake, Duluth, St. Cloud, Alexandria, and South Metro. Plunges were to be held March 5 in Brainerd and Minneapolis, and March 12 in Eden Prairie and Grand Rapids. For more information on Polar Bear Plunge or to register, visit www.plungemn. org or contact [email protected] or 800- 783-7732.    

Polar Bear Plunge events are organized by Minnesota law enforcement as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics in the world. With a mission to raise funds for and awareness of the Special Olympics movement worldwide, law enforcement officers and personnel from all 50 United States, 10 Canadian provinces and territories and more than 35 nations carry the “Flame of Hope” in honor of Special Olympics athletes in their areas and around the world. More than 1,200 law enforcement officers and personnel representing more than 75 agencies throughout Minnesota participated with the Torch Run initiative in 2010. The Torch Run is an actual running event in which officers and athletes run the “Flame of Hope” to the Celebration Ceremonies of Special Olympics competitions. The Torch Run is also a diverse initiative encompassing a variety of fundraisers, including the Polar Bear Plunge.

Checking for cystic fibrosis

A dozen public safety hockey teams from the Twin Cities metro area took to the ice February 27 to will raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis (CF) at the Second Annual “Checking for CF” hockey tournament at Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine. This tournament was started by Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) paramedics Andy Peter and his wife, Jamie, whose 5-year-old niece was diagnosed with CF. They wanted to do something to raise awareness and help find a cure.    

As a native Nebraskan who moved to Minnesota, it was always Peter’s dream to play hockey.  “One day a light bulb went off in my head, and I knew what would get people excited about raising money for CF.  We live in Minnesota, the ‘state of hockey.’  I didn’t play hockey, but I wanted to – and I was sure we knew a lot of cops, medics, and firefighters who would probably play hockey. Why not put on a public safety hockey tourney to support CF?”   

That’s how the Hennepin Generals and the other public safety hockey teams in the metro area were formed. The event included hockey games as well as raffles and a mustache contest. In 2010 the tournament raised $10,000. About half of that came from the Hennepin Generals. The goal for 2011 is $25,000. A final total wasn’t available when Access Press went to press.   

“We decided if we weren’t going to be the best skaters out there, we might as well be the best at fundraising,” said Peter. Joining the Hennepin Generals in the 2011 tournament were HealthEast EMS, North Memorial EMS, Allina EMS, St. Paul Police, Minneapolis Police, Eagan Police, Roseville Fire, New Brighton Fire, Woodbury Police/Fire, Excelsior Fire and Superior Fire.    

For more information, go to the Hennepin Generals web page at 

Sled hockey tourney held 

The Minnesota Northern Sled Hockey team hosted the Minnesota Wisconsin Sled Hockey League Tournament on February 11-13 in Richfield. Teams from Chicago, St. Louis, San Antonio, Colorado, and Phoenix competed, in the last games will before the Midwest League‘s Wirtz Cup tournament, in March.    

Many teams have returning Paralympians, including the Northern, fresh off the 2010 gold medal national team win in Vancouver. The team is proud to play hard against the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey team, a tough-as-nails competitor comprised solely of wounded soldiers, and supported by Operation Comfort.   

The Minnesota Northern is a team comprised of players of differing abilities, including paraplegics, amputees, and able-bodied players. Sled hockey is known as an ability equalizing sport, as all players use the same equipment, and rules only slightly modified to regulation ice hockey. The Northern were the 2009 National Disabled Hockey Festival Division B champions, held in Buffalo, NY. The Northern are also proud to introduce player Taylor Lipsett, a two-time Paralympian and gold medalist, to Twin Cities fans. The Northern are a part of USA Hockey – Minnesota, and are a 501(c) (3) nonprofit based in the Twin Cities area. Players come from all over the state to compete within the Midwest League, and at the National level.   

After the March 18-20 Chicago tournament and the Wirtz Cup, the Northern are anticipating playing host to over 30 teams from across the country for the USA National Hockey Disabled Festival, April 1-3. The games will be played at the National Sports Center’s Schwan Super Rink complex, and features all aspects of Disabled Hockey disciplines. The National Festival is the premier sled hockey event, and it rotates between cities throughout the country each year.

Employees are honored

Midway Training Services of St. Paul employs more than 70 people in its various branches and divisions.  Recently MTS recognized several employees who exemplify high standards in assisting consumers, collaborating with partners, sharing enthusiasm, and demonstrating team work.       

The Advocate of the Year is Keeyana Harper, for her excellent  efforts in promoting self-advocacy skills, supporting the consumers she works with so they continue to grow and achieve, and advocating on their behalf.   

Driver of the Year is Frances Lawson, for her tremendous safety record, flexibility, organizational skills and compassion in meeting the needs of MTS consumers.   

Coach of the Year is Nick Winkel, for his “above and beyond” efforts in supporting a company work crew, charged with cleaning the Metrodome.   He started his day when most of us were sleeping, communicated well with our business partners, and taught the jobs to our crew which met the standards of the job.    

Co-employees of the Year are Ki Lewis and Brad Wire, for their initiative in operating our Chore Services, flexibility in schedules, teamwork, teaching our consumers and demonstrating a constant “can do” attitude in performing all their duties.

Special Olympics Minnesota athlete in funding fight

On March 2, Special Olympics Minnesota athletes and Best Buddies participants, along with coaches, program leaders and family members from around the country will converge on Capitol Hill to fight for the passage of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act of 2011—important funding to support sports, education, recreation and healthcare programs through the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and State.  The delegation from Special Olympics Minnesota included athlete David Hill of Welch, President and CEO David Dorn and Vice President of Area Programs and Initiatives Michael Kane.   

“We really appreciate the opportunity each year to have a chance to meet with Members of Congress in person as part of the nationwide Special Olympics movement. Although we know that our representatives are aware of our program, when they have a chance to speak directly with an athlete, we know that it makes quite an impact,” said Dorn. “What many people do not know is that we train some athletes to be self-advocates and public speakers, and Capitol Hill Day gives them a chance to bring their message to people of influence.”   

Throughout the day, participants met face-to-face with member of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation. In addition, they saw Special Olympics Virginia athlete David Egan testify to the importance of both organizations to the personal development and employment potential for people with intellectual disabilities in front of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Later that evening, participants attended a reception to honor Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) for their leadership in passing the historic Rosa’s Law, which replaced “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” within federal legislation.                

Special Olympics first organized Capitol Hill Day for its constituents in 2005, and Best Buddies joined them for the first time last year. Together again this year, the organizations advocated for continued support of programs designed to aid people with intellectual disabilities such as Healthy Athletes, Special Olympics Project UNIFY® and numerous Best Buddies initiatives. These specific programs—rooted in education and health—are currently at high risk of being lost without the necessary funding.

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