People and Places – April 2010

Polar Plungers end successful year The snow is gone and the ice is out on area lakes, which means the […]

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Polar Plungers end successful year

The snow is gone and the ice is out on area lakes, which means the 2010 Polar Bear Plunge season has come to an end.   More than 7,000 plungers took a chilly dip at one or more of the 13 events across the state, raising $1.4 million for Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Thousands of spectators turned out to see the events.   

Because of the outstanding success of the Polar Bear Plunge, Special Olympics Minnesota can continue to offer children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round sports training, competition, health and leadership programs. In a few short weeks, more than 1,600 athletes will attend state Spring Games, which features competition in basketball, swimming and powerlifting. This, along with more than 150 annual local, area, regional and state events, are just some of the many opportunities that Special Olympics Minnesota is able to provide because of the Polar Bear Plunge. Law enforcement agencies, the Minnesota FOP, Kwik Trip, Better Oats, Caribou Coffee, Culver’s and Opportunity Services; our Event Partners: Wal-Mart, TD Ameritrade, JNBA and United Healthcare; and media partners FOX-9 News, KDWB, KFAN, Cities 97 and AllOver Media also participated. See pictures and video of the events at


Digital Talking Book Players have arrived

The National Library Service digital players have arrived, according to the folks at Minnesota Talking Book Library. This equipment is replacing the old cassette players. To order your digital player, call the Communication Center at 1-800-652-9000 or the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library at 1-800-722-0550.

The digital players are portable and are only 6.2 by 8.8 by 1.7 inches. They have variable speed control without changing the reader’s pitch, and feature an easy-to-use book cartridge. That means no more cassette flipping or track switching. Most books fit on one cartridge, and play on either AC or batteries. Batteries play for about 35 hours and will last approximately four years before needing replacing. The advanced player also allows you to quickly flip through chapters and insert bookmarks.

Other features include easy-to-use audio instructions, available with the touch of a button. They also have a sleep setting for 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. The devices are water-resistant and can be used with headphones.


New name and Web site for canine organization

Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota is now Can Do Canines. The organization has also unveiled a new name for its web site, which is now www.     

 Can Do Canines is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or disabled by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs. Incorporated in 1987, Can-Do-Canines initially provided services for deaf clients only. Its first three teams graduated in 1989.  In 1995, programs were expanded to serve people with physical disabilities. In 2006, the service area was increased to include Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, and parts of Illinois. In 2007, an Autism Assist Dog program was launched to help young children with autism and their families. Can-Do-Canines is at 9440 Science Center Drive in New Hope. The phone number is 763-331-3000.


Volunteers donate to women’s shelters

 In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History month, thousands of women around the world participated in “Join me on the Bridge” events to demonstrate that women can build bridges for peace and development. More than 160 women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bridged gaps of age and nationality by donating items for women’s crisis shelters in St. Paul.

 At a church cultural hall in New Brighton, women chatted in Spanish, Hmong and English as they tied 40 fleece blankets and 15 quilts, decorated 90 flip flops and boxed more than 400 towels, 600 pairs of socks and 800 toothbrushes. They put together dozens of hygiene kits, bagged toys and filled two vans full of household items. The 60 boxes represent more than 700 hours of voluntary service. 

One of the volunteers is legally blind. She was among those helping to make more than 2,000 items March 8. With a dog guide at her side, Kathy Keenan prepared fabric for teddy bears. Though legally blind, Keenan, of Spring Lake Park, came to make toys and tie quilts for shelters like Women’s Advocates of St. Paul, a haven for women and children escaping domestic violence.

Barbara Smith, an organizer, said the event was an appropriate way to celebrate International Women’s Day as it “benefits women in all stages of life.” She said teenage girls learn not only how to tie quilts but also how to be good citizens.  


Parkinson’s book released

The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area announces the release of a new book, Caring with Courage and Compassion, written by Susan Hamburger, who spent nearly 30 years caring for her husband, Stanford, who had Parkinson’s Disease.  The book covers the Hamburgers’ life with Parkinson’s from Stanford’s diagnosis in 1980, until he passed away in August 2008.

More than 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic, progressive neurological disease for which there is no cure.  It is estimated that 60,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. “When my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1980, our lives changed,” said author Susan Hamburger.  “There was very little research on Parkinson’s itself, and even less information on how to care for someone with Parkinson’s. With time and experience, and a lot of love, I wanted to write this book to help others who are now going through what I spent twenty-eight years of my life doing—caring for someone in the true sense of ‘in sickness and in health’.”

“Giving support and care to someone with Parkinson’s disease can be one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling, roles a person can take on,” said Lou Nistler, PFNCA executive director.  “In writing this book, Susan offers her own shoulder for others to lean on.  She details the ups and downs a caregiver feels, shares her own personal experiences, and offers sound advice for those who care for someone with a debilitating illness or disability.  This book is not just for those who care for someone with Parkinson’s.  Anyone who offers support and care for another person can learn from Susan’s experiences,” Nistler added.

The book costs $15 and is available on, as well as by calling the PFNCA at (703) 287-8729.   Copies of the book are also available through the National Parkinson Foundation and the American Parkinson Disease Association web sites. For more information about the book, Parkinson’s Disease, or the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area, go to

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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