Charlie Smith Award banquet is Nov. 5; come and join us

Plane tickets, collectibles, sports memorabilia, art prints, theater tickets, tasty treats and much more will be up for grabs at the Access Press Charlie Smith Award banquet 5:30-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5. The second annual silent auction and raffle has lots of great prizes. Last year banquet-goers had fun competing for their favorites, and bidding against each other. Some items became the subject of good-natured bidding wars as people vied for prizes.

Proceeds from the silent auction and raffle go to Access Press. What better way to do your holiday shopping, pick up some unique and fun gifts, and help the newspaper at the same time?

Tickets are still available for the banquet at the Airport Marriott in Bloomington. The banquet, hosted by Access Press, is a great way for members of Minnesota’s disability community to get together and celebrate our accomplishments. It will also be fun to honor 2010 award winner Steve Kuntz, who has done so much for so many people, and to salute the other award finalists. Come and honor those who have given so much of their time and talents to help our community.

Previous winners of the Charlie Smith Award will also be recognized. They are: 2009—Anne Henry, of the Minnesota Disability Law Center, 2008—Pete Feigal, Co-Founder of Tilting at Windmills, 2007—Jim and Claudia Carlisle, People Enhancing People, 2006—John Smith, University of MN, 2005—Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD), 2004 —Rick Cardenas, Co-Director of Advocating Change Together (ACT), 2003—Margot Imdieke Cross, Minnesota State Council on Disability.

Tickets are $45 per person or $325 for an 8-person table (save $35). Buying tickets as a table ensures you will be able to sit with your friends, or that you and co-workers can sit together. If you would like to help someone else attend the banquet, ask about sponsorships or consider sponsoring a person who is in need.

Anyone wanting tickets can call Dawn Frederick at 651-644-2133 or email dawn@accesspress.org You can mail your check for tickets to Access Press, Attention: Dawn, 1821 University Av. W., Suite 104-S, St. Paul, MN 55104 or drop off a check during newspaper business hours.

The highlight is the award given in honor of the late Charlie Smith, founding editor of Access Press. A delicious meal, musical entertainment by Larry McDonough, a raffle and silent auction are also part of the event. Enjoy social time before the meal and catch up with your friends.

Thanks go to banquet sponsors. Editor-in-chief sponsors are Courage Center and In-Home Personal Care. Proofreader sponsors are Rise, Inc. and NHHI. Keyliner sponsors are Handi Medical and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. Please thank these sponsors when you see them, as they help make the banquet possible.

Contact Dawn at 651-644-2133 if you have other questions about the banquet.

Many deserving people were nominated for the 2010 Charlie Smith Award. Here is information about some nominees.




Jolene Thibedeau Boyd & Megan Zeilinger Henjum -Community Involvement Programs, Bloomington

From the nomination:

Jolene and Megan have transformed a former “day program” to a program that offers inclusive, integrative and person centered employment services. CIP is now a leader in employment services for adults challenged by disability. The organization is 100% community based, with no in-house, enclave, or sub-minimum wage work accepted.  

Jolene Thibedeau Boyd is the Director of Employment and Community Supports, a division of Community Involvement Programs (CIP). Megan Zeilinger Henjum is the Employment Supports Program Manager. The Bloomington-based program is committed to connecting clients with people in their communities in the most natural settings possible. For people who choose to work part-time, or are currently seeking employment, a strength-based approach to facilitate each person’s involvement in his or her community.

Together, the two women lead a team with a mission to advance employment opportunities for persons living with developmental disabilities. Boy and Henjum believe that all people have unique talents and abilities, and that all people have something positive to contribute to our workforce.  CIP supports 130 people in finding and maintaining employment in their communities. Approximately 70% of the clients are employed by businesses in their communities.

When Boyd and Henjum joined CIP, only one or two people in the program had jobs. Many were part of enclave and in-house crews. Today, 70% of the people supported by CIP are working in real jobs, paid real wages for real work.  CIP helps people pursue their individual goals.

They have directed and trained staff to utilize the Discovery Process. CIP is the first Minnesota organization to successfully utilize the Discovery Process as a method to find employment and career opportunities. The process leads to career igniting jobs that are based on the uniqueness of the individual.

By leading CIP, Boyd and Henjum are setting a standard for other service providers in Minnesota. The old model, the “day program” or “workshop”, is no longer acceptable. Persons challenged by disability don’t just want jobs; they want enriched lives and meaningful work. These women are teaching other service providers how to offer services that will lead to these outcomes. Both women work to share the mission of CIP with parents and families of children who face challenges of disability. They are influencing parents to have high expectations for their children. They are advising parents to demand more from educators and other service providers. Boyd and Henjum train their staff to support people in finding their own voices. Programming includes self-advocacy class, taught by peers. This type of programming will lead us in to a future in which people with disabilities are the ones making decisions about what services should look like.

CIP was transformed by the hard work and dedication of the two nominees. The organization is constantly challenged by budget reductions and the stressed economy. They have stayed focused on the mission, and their dedication has truly transformed the lives of the people of CIP.



Tom & Mimi Fogarty – Camp Courage North

From the nomination:

The unique blend of combined, professional abilities and their personalities made Tom and Mimi the perfect fit to be leaders for Courage Center and directors at Camp Courage North. The activities at camp would have continued without them but the energy and dedication that Tom and Mimi brought with them was extraordinary and the results were extremely successful camp programs that had a marked, positive impact on the lives of many people, within and without the disability community.

For more than 40 years, Tom and Mimi Fogarty have been involved with Camps Courage and Courage Center. Since 1985, they were directors and staff residents at Camp Courage North at Lake George, responsible for running the summer and off-season camp programs and maintaining camp facilities year round. The energy they have given to the Courage Center organization (MSCCA before that) and the disability community far surpasses what could be expected of any typical employee.

Mimi will retire at the end of 2010 and Tom is eligible for retirement soon. Year ago Tom was Access Press founder Charlie Smith’s PCA while both attended St. Cloud State University.

Their camp work was not just a job but a lifestyle. They went above and beyond what any organization could expect from employees, on the job 24/7/365 for many years. They were Mom & Dad, friends and mentors to campers of all ages, camp staff, and neighbors.

They were outstanding ambassadors for Courage Center and the disability community through their personal involvement with the local communities of Maple Lake and the area near Camp Courage and Lake George, Park Rapids and Bemidji.

 Tom Fogarty was introduced to camp as a child camper with a hearing disability, became a staff member as a teenager in the late 1960s and never looked elsewhere for a career. His upbringing on a nearby farm made him a perfect fit to run the Camp Courage farm program, which he did for many years. Mimi Fogarty joined the staff as a teenager in 1970 and during and after her college years continued to work there.

Their kind and compassionate work has improved the quality of life for countless people with myriad disabilities who attended camp. People who participated in their camp programs came away from the experience healthier on many levels and happier as individuals. The people who participated in these programs at some time during their lives make up a significant part of the disability community in Minnesota. Tom and Mimi were role models and mentors to many young people who worked at Camp Courage and have gone on to careers in disability-related fields.

The Fogartys raised three children at Camp Courage North, and the children worked there. One daughter is a certified sign language interpreter and, with her new husband, will work at Camp Courage this season. One son is currently directing a camp program for another disability organization. In addition to their own personal contribution, by their example, the Fogartys have left a legacy of caring and compassion in their children that will benefit the disability community for years to come.



Melvin Haagenson – Community volunteer

From the nomination:

Melvin Haagenson is literally always there when the disability community or the self-advocacy movement need his support. He’s not one to sit back and let others do the work. He has been known to wear a T-shirt that says, ‘I speak for myself’ and that has been his mantra for many years. He is the unwavering voice of self-advocacy and the personification of involved citizenship. 

Haagenson is regarded as one of the unsung heroes of Minnesota’s disability activist community. He is a former board member of Arc Greater Twin Cities and is currently active in its Public Policy Action Networks, He has been active in a number of self-advocacy organizations including People First Minnesota, where he served on the board and worked on more than 10 self-advocacy trainings throughout Minnesota. He has served on the board of Advocating Change Together (ACT) and played a key role in the formation of Self-Advocates of Minnesota (SAM). At SAM he served several terms on the leadership team and is currently an alternate for the metropolitan region.

In addition, he has been active in many projects relating to disability and self-advocacy. He worked tirelessly on Remembering With Dignity, an effort to mark the graves of people with disabilities who lived and died in state institutions. During the past year he worked to get funding for the program restored in state legislation. He worked on the Institute on Community Integration’s “Offense Taken” video, which educated the community on the power of language. He has also worked on Self-Advocacy online, a national self-advocacy Web site.

He has served as a volunteer with an impressive array of organizations. He is also a deeply committed public policy advocate. He has participated many times in Arc’s Disability Day at the Capitol, and this year he participated in a new event, Tuesday at the Capital. He has developed strong relationships with his elected officials and meets regularly with key legislators.

Haagenson combines his commitment to self-advocacy with another one of his passions: Minnesota Twins. He shares his love of baseball at the annual People First Minnesota Twins game and picnic, where self-advocates from around the state gather for a tailgate party and ball game. Haagenson plays a vital role in this event because he is well-known at the Twins’ ticket office and get the best deals on tickets for fellow self-advocates. 

The nomination stated that, “When it comes to being active and being involved in the community, Melvin Haagenson practically wrote the book. Whether he is advocating for disability rights and services in the political arena, helping build the self-advocacy movement or volunteering with disability organizations, M<el; demonstrates a level of community involvement few people of any ability could top. During the most recent legislative session, one Minnesota senator was heard to say, ‘I can’t make my decision until I hear from Mel.’ What better example of the power of one person’s voice could there be?”



Marjorie and Betty Lou Hammargren – Community volunteers

From the nomination:

These women always say, “Look beyond the cane, look beyond the crutch, look beyond the wheelchair and you will find a person capable of doing many things.”

Marjorie and Betty Lou Hammargren are residents of the Highland area of St. Paul. They are longtime community advocates for people with disabilities, working with a theme of ‘Access and Acceptance.’

They are well-known in the home community for their work on a wide range of disability issues. They have pushed hard for improved public accommodations, such as installations of needed hand railings, restroom improvements, creation of safer ramps and other accessibility features in publicly owned and private buildings. They have also lobbied for improved public access at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and St. Cath-erine’s University. Marjorie Hammargren has also given talks on accessibility issues and written articles as an advocate.



Alan M. Peters – Can Do Canines

From the nomination:

Alan Peters has continued to ensure that at its core every member of CanDo Canines upholds the standards of respect for each individual and personal accountability for outcomes. He continues to pursue economic avenues that ensure all clients, regardless of the ability to pay, will receive these highly trained dogs, veterinary care until placement, individual training, and necessary supplies free of charge.  

 Beginning in 1987, Peters dedicated his life to creating mutually beneficial relationships between people with disabilities and specially trained dogs. What began as a program to train homeless dogs to become the ears for people who were deaf or profoundly hard of hearing has into an organization that envisions a world in which every person who wants and needs an assistance dog can have one. Peters and his team now train assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities, diabetes, seizure disorders and autism.

In 2010 the organization changed its’ name to from Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota to Can Do Canines to better reflect the range of clients, volunteers, donors and team members necessary to create these successful partnerships. 316 individuals and dogs have successfully completed the training to become certified assistance dog teams.

Peters continually dedicates his personal time and resources to the organization. Leading by example, he continues to look beyond limitations. If it is a client turned down by other assistance dog organizations, a dog abandoned at a shelter, or the economic climate, he works to find a solution for each situation. His unwavering sense of responsibility lends itself to continual growth and leadership in the assistance dog industry

Clients appreciate what Peters has done. Ken S. said, “When you are in a wheelchair people look through you, not at you. Now that I have “Calvin”, my Mobility Assist Dog, they talk to me. I don’t feel invisible now. Calvin has increased my physical mobility, my social interaction with people, and my mental attitude.”

For Nick and his parents, their world had become smaller since his diagnosis with autism. “Our life had become a prison,” said Linda, “day to day things that everyone takes for granted like going to the grocery store had become such a traumatic experience because Nick would yell, throw things, and meltdown, that it had become impossible for us to do.” Then entered Autism Assist Dog “Fischer”, and the changes were remarkable. “I never in a million years dreamed that a dog could make such a difference in Nick’s life and ours,” said Linda. “Our lives are so different because we are not prisoners anymore. We have freedom I never knew was possible. We get some sleep at night and have some safety knowing that Fisher and Alex are together. I can’t even put it into words how much this has changed our life.”

Peters leads the only organization accredited by Assistance Dog International (a trade organization) in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa or Illinois that provides hearing, diabetes, seizure, autism, special skills, or facility-based assist dogs.



Steve Thovson – Southwestern Center for Independent Living

From the nomination:

Steve works with a group of people that society sometimes is not nice to. He treats everyone who has a disability, big or small, everyone is treated alike.

Steve Thovson is executive director of the Southwest Center for Independent Living, based in Marshall.  The center offers a wide range of independent living services that assist people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining the greatest control over their lives. The SWCIL service area includes 10 counties of southwestern Minnesota: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock, Redwood, and Yellow Medicine.

One of the huge challenges for Thovson and the SWCIL staff is the higher level of isolation rural people with disabilities may face, due to a smaller population, lack of transportation and lack of services.

Often, a child or adult with a disability may be the only person with that disability in his or her community. This sense of isolation can be difficult for children where conformity is the key to popularity and success and difference means inferiority.  One way to reduce the isolation and lack of support experienced by many rural residents with disabilities is through recreational services. Thovson has had to educate local officials about their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to offer accessible services to the community. One of his goals is to see more accessible sports in his area.

One of the SWCIL’s great success stories is the Challenger baseball team.  The Challenger baseball team is a way to reach children with disabilities not old enough for transition services. When the program first started, center staff and volunteers, along with parents, directed the baseball team.

Because the program was so successful, the Marshall Parks and Recreation Department agreed to take the team several years ago. But when staff of the center first broached the subject of a Challenger baseball team, the initial response was disappointing.  The department didn’t have the staff, funds or time to offer the program.  They provided the team with some old equipment and use of a baseball field when it was not otherwise in use.  However, this situation has changed, thanks to Thovson, other staff and families, and a more supportive city department.
Thovson is well-liked and well-respected by co-workers and agency clients. The nomination form described him as “the type of person who people go to when they want this done. He has the personality that makes him the great director that he is. Steve is the ‘go-to’ man that you can count on.”

Thovson is persistent in seeking resources for SWCIL clients and to fighting for their inclusion in community activities. One of the many constituencies SWCIL is serving under Thovson’s leadership is veterans with disabilities. He recently obtained an outside grant to provide additional services for veterans. Thovson himself is a Vietnam War veteran.

Thovson is a co-founder and past president of the Minnesota Association of CILs. He has been active with NCIL, serving as Region V Representative, on the Rehab Act Subcommittee, and the Veterans Subcommittee.

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