Finding the Right Spot Can Make a Difference

Linda Baune recently won the 2006 Judd Jacobson Memorial Award. I had a chance to have lunch with her last month to talk about her life and achievements. Linda walked into Perkins with enthusiasm, smiled warmly and introduced herself. She seemed to bring the September sunshine inside with her. After politely ordering her chicken quesadillas, Linda chatted about her life.

Linda Baune attended St Cloud State University. She tried speech therapy classes and got hooked. Unfortunately, she had to fight to get in and stay in the speech program, because some professors thought she wouldn’t make it. Instead of focusing on her abilities, those instructors could only see her disabilities. They also didn’t realize that telling Ms. Baune she would fail only made her more determined to succeed. In 1992 she graduated with a master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology.

After graduation Ms. Baune worked as a speech therapist. Today she is a co-owner of SPOT Rehabilitation in St. Cloud and plays several roles, including Vice President of the Board, Director of the Speech Pathology Department and Speech Language Pathologist. She feels that her own personal struggles with cerebral palsy and severe back pain have made her a better therapist. She says, “The kids who come through the door are the reason I get up and go to work everyday.”

Ethan, a teenage client with autism, usually comes to SPOT with his aunt. When Ethan started with Ms. Baune, he was ten years old and could only say one or two words. His aunt had a hard time understanding his speech. After working with Ms. Baune twice a week for four years, he now talks extensively. Today when his aunt calls Ethan, she sometimes can’t tell if it’s him or his brother on the phone. Ethan’s aunt says, “Linda has been so instrumental in getting him where he is.”

Last month Linda Baune was honored with the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award, which recognizes a person with a disability for an entrepreneurial endeavor. The award is in memory of Judd Jacobson, who became a quadriplegic at age 16 after a diving accident. In 1970, Jacobson and his wife Barbara opened Travel Headquarters and Flying Wheels Travel, a national travel agency for people with disabilities. Jacobson also served on the Courage Center Board. Courage administrates the Judd Jacobson Award, which is funded by Jacobson‘s friend Daniel J. Gainey. He was with Judd the day of his accident, and they supported each other in a lifelong friendship.

Founded in 1992, the Jacobson Award has helped and encouraged many entrepreneurs with disabilities. Among the many honorees is 2004 winner Pete Feigal. “I’m speaking full time around the country and last year was on the road 300 days, doing over 200 programs for churches, schools, police departments, prisons and corporations. The Judd Jacobson Award and the Courage Center have had so much to do with my success. I speak from the personal point of view of living with two illnesses, depression and MS, and what has helped me in my recovery. People need to hear that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, many times IN the tunnel.”

The 2006 Judd Jacobson Memorial Award luncheon was held on Wednesday, October 11th at the Golden Valley Country Club. Linda’s mom and step-dad came to celebrate with her. During lunch Linda’s friends and family reminisced and joshed with her. Linda’s mom remembered once telling Linda not to attend a cousin’s wedding, because the trip would be too hard on her. Linda said goodbye to her mother, hung up the phone, packed her suitcase, and drove to the wedding. Linda’s friends talked of working with her at SPOT, and how often she works with extreme pain.

Jan Malcolm, Courage Center CEO, opened the award program. She stated that Judd Jacobson and Linda Baune were both trail blazers for opportunities in Minnesota. Barbara Jacobson presented Ms. Baune with her award and $5,000 check. In her acceptance speech, she said “The rewards of my job are endless.” She went on to mention some examples: a child saying their first word, a stroke patient learning to communicate better or relearning to swallow. Ms. Baune outlined her plans to use the award money for training and materials, so she can better help her clients. She closed by gracefully thanking the committee, her friends and family.

Perhaps Linda Baune’s own words best capture the spirit of the Jacobson Award, “Disabilities are handicaps only when situations and attitudes make them so.”