Here are the 2008 Minnesota State Council on Disability Award winners:
Legislative Appreciation Award
Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, for helping to obtain funding for a dental clinic in Bemidji that provides services and dental supplies for people with disabilities on Medical Assistance.
Margot Imdieke Cross, a 20-plus year MSCOD employee, who has been the agency’s point person on accessibility issues, including improvements to buildings, curb cuts, transportation and parking permits.
Community Living Award
Heather Marx and Audra Quandt, of Red Wing, who helped plan and build an accessible universal playground at Colvill Park.
Distinguished Volunteer Award
Melissa Arnold of Savage, who has a son with autism. When she saw the play “Autistic License” at the Illusion Theater, she worked with the playwright to have it performed for students and teachers around the area.
Small Employer Of The Year
Earl Harrison of Handy Tech in New Brighton, a company that hires people who are visually impaired and uses vendors who are blind in its assistive technology business.
Leading By Example Award
Shelly Hoyt, a special education teacher in Cold Spring, for her positive attitude and her calm and patient demeanor when caring for students, particularly at the Knowledge Bowl and Special Olympics.
Outstanding Entrepreneur Award
Aaron Peterson, of Warren, Minn., is a pilot and aerial applicator—or crop duster— who lost his hearing at an early age. He obtained a pilot’s license in 2004 and now has his own aerial application business, with one plane and one pilot.
Mark Rosen, WCCO-TV sports anchor, for sensitive and informative stories on athletes living with brain injuries. He won a local award for stories about Justin Greenwood, a college football player who suffered a brain injury and now volunteers for the Brain Injury Association.
Sports Innovation Awar
The Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, in Erskine, for its five miles of accessible trails, remodeled visitors’ center, observation platform and restrooms that make it easier for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. Refuge officials also organize annual deer and prairie chicken hunts for hunters who are disabled.
The Hrbek-Sing Communication and Assistive Device Program, available through the Minnesota Chapter of the ALS Association, helps offer independence those with ALS who have lost their ability to communicate verbally with equipment that controls computer access and environmental devices. The name sounds familiar because former Minnesota Twin star Kent Hrbek and his wife, Jeannie, supported the program after Kent’s father died of ALS in 1982.
Transition To Work Award
North Branch High School and Principal Brad Windschill for showing commitment to students with disabilities. The school provides office space for career counselors and unlimited access to teachers and students, phone and data lines, computer access and training on special education issues to make it easier to develop vocational and career plans.
Danielle Liebl, a determined member of the Rocori High School girl’s swim team, for organizing a golf tournament to support the school’s Special Olympics team while dealing with the struggles that come with cerebral palsy.
Chair’s Youth Award
Stephanie Krause of Dodge Center, who won several awards with her beef cattle this summer, in her first year of 4-H competitions. She spends most of her daytime hours using a wheelchair to deal with mobility issues caused by cerebral palsy, and handled her heifer, Patches, and her steer, Ben, so well that she won awards at several events, including two Grand Champion Awards.
Outstate Access Award
The Thief River Falls Government Joint Use Facility, which —thanks to great planning, design and execution, is easily accessible to everyone—in the building and on the grounds.
Community Access Award
The Super 8 Motel in St. James for its well-planned access for those who use wheelchairs. Its employees also were noted for their respectful attitude to all customers, including those with disabilities.
Kinglsey Commons, a Minneapolis housing development with accessible apartments, allows residents to live independently with special design features like low, crank windows for a better views, wide doorways and adequate maneuvering room, along with a wheelchair washing station to clean up before entering the apartments.
Above And Beyond Veterans Employment
Les Goodwin, of the Polk County Veterans Service Office in Crookston, was honored for excellent service to veterans from earlier wars, as well as those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s an advocate who coordinates well with other agencies on behalf of veterans who have disabilities.
Jean Martin, director of the Minnesota Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Faribault has developed programs for students. Many of her strategies have been duplicated around the country. She retires this fall after many years in the public schools and the Department of Education.
Joe Kimball is a longtime Twin Cities journalist and former Star Tribune columnist who also wrote a history of the MSCOD. His work can currently be seen at www.minnpost.com