People and Places – April 2012

Mustangs, Robins are winners Anoka-Hennepin and Robbinsdale/Hopkins/ Mound-Westonka successfully defended their titles in the 2012 Minnesota State High School League […]

Mustangs, Robins are winners

Anoka-Hennepin and Robbinsdale/Hopkins/ Mound-Westonka successfully defended their titles in the 2012 Minnesota State High School League Floor Hockey Tournament. The tournament was held March 16-17 at Bloomington Jefferson High School. Floor hockey is the winter sport adapted for Minnesota prep athletes with disabilities.

For the Robins of Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound-Westonka, it was the eighth state title in the Physical Impairments or PI division. The Robins came into the tournament as the top seed in the South Division and never looked back as they won games over the Wayzata/Minnetonka, South Suburban and Dakota United. It was an all-bird final as the Robins topped the Dakota United Hawks, 7-2.

 Photo courtesy of Robbinsdale Schools

The Robins have a long history of adapted floor hockey success. The team won as Robbinsdale in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and as Hopkins/Robbinsdale/Wayzata in 2001. In 2002, they won as Hopkins/Mound-Westonka/Robbinsdale, and they claimed their last two titles under their current name in 2009 and 2011.

The Robins had a regular season record of 12-0-1 and were the top seed in the North Division. The team scored 101 goals this year while their opponents scored only 17 against them. Junior Mike Madson scored a team-high 37 goals for Robbinsdale/Hopkins/ Mound-Westonka this year, and sophomore Joe Dubisar added 22 assists. Charlie Wittmer, a junior, guarded the Robins’ net in every game and he has a .950 save percentage.

The Mustangs of Anoka-Hennepin came into the Cognitive Impairments (CI) tournament as the two-time defending champions. The team, the top seed in the North Division, had a perfect regular record of 13-0.The Mustangs defeated Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville in the first round, and then topped North Suburban to advance to the championship against the St. Cloud Area Slapshots. Anoka-Hennepin won the title game decisively, 13-3.

Anoka-Hennepin also won a state CI title in 1996. This year’s team outscored its opponents 187 to 43 during the regular season. Senior Tyler Kurkowski scored 52 goals for the Mustangs this year and also had a team-high 23 assists. Senior Zach Theroux was the second-leading scorer for Anoka-Hennepin, adding 40 goals and 14 assists. Junior goalie Jeff Shogren played in every game this year, allowing only 43 goals.

 Photo courtesy of David Banks Studio

Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville Blazing Cats bounced back to win the consolation title. Dakota United Hawks claimed the third place crown in CI.

The Anoka-Hennepin Mustangs claimed third place in the PI division. The Brainerd/Pillager Warriors won the consolation title.



Opportunity Partners a hit with Twins

The Minnesota Twins have asked nonprofit Opportunity Partners to help prepare promotional giveaways for fans during the 2012 baseball season. Sixty thousand official Minnesota Twins schedule posters were rolled, banded and boxed by adults with disabilities at Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka, where Minnesota’s disabled community can find employment, training and residential programs. The posters, sponsored by the Star Tribune, will be given to the first 20,000 fans at each of the home games against the Texas Rangers on April 13, 14 and15 at Target Field.

“The Minnesota Twins selected Opportunity Partners once again to help prepare promotional posters for the 2012 season,” says Luis Lozada, purchasing manager for the Minnesota Twins. “We were so pleased with their dedication to quality and efficient turnaround last year, coupled with the fact that their goal is to provide work opportunities and independence to Minnesota’s disabled community, that the decision to use them again was an easy one.”


U of M graduate student is arts intern

Kaitlyn Mielke of Victoria is spending a seven-month internship at VSA Minnesota, the state organization on arts and disability based in Minneapolis.

She will work as a community engagement specialist to involve more people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the arts. The funding for her internship is provided through The Rosemary Kennedy Internship Initiative at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which conducts disability-related internship, apprenticeship, training and mentorship projects.

Mielke served as Miss Deaf Minnesota in 2009-2011. She holds a B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota and is now a student in the University of Minnesota’s Master of Liberal Studies—arts management program. She is an enthusiastic patron of the arts and an advocate for making the arts accessible to everyone. As a wrap-up to her internship, she will attend a national conference in Boston in late August, the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts & Disability, which trains arts administrators from across the country to make their programs and facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.

She has worked as a director of artistic sign language, translating scripts and educating theater organizations on how to create an enjoyable experience for theater patrons who are Deaf who attend musicals and plays. Her background also includes acting, directing, and coaching interpreters.

Millions of viewers saw Mielke on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She said, “I can fingerspell ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ forwards and backwards, much to the woe of fellow ASL interpreters and people who caption.”


American Kidney Fund poster winner

The American Kidney Fund has announced the winners of its 17th annual Calendar Kids Art Contest and online voting for the cover art of its 2013 Calendar. The 13 winners— children who live daily with challenges that include diet restrictions, frequent dialysis, or complicated transplant procedures— were selected from nearly 150 entries.

The winners of the 2012 Calendar Kids Art Contest, whose artwork will appear in the 2013 AKF Calendar, include Ali Gratz, 16, of New Hope. She and other winners will receive a $500 gift card and a savings bond. The American Kidney Fund calendar is distributed nationwide to help raise awareness of kidney disease and the importance of prevention and early detection. More than 6,600 children in the United States have kidney failure, which can only be treated by dialysis or transplantation.

“The American Kidney Fund is thrilled to recognize these gifted young artists and it is our great pleasure to present a celebration of their talent,” said LaVarne A. Burton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Kidney Fund. “The online voting contest for the cover art is a great way to get the public involved in supporting these amazing kids, who face great hardships with a positive spirit.”


Sack wins consumer award

The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) recognized Michael Sack as Transition Consumer of the Year for 2011. The award recognizes a young man who has made significant strides in the last few years. Sack received his diploma from Minneapolis South High School and Minneapolis Transition Plus in 2011. Not surprising to those that know him, Sack gave the commencement speech at his own graduation.

Two years ago he started a blog with his friend Sam Graves on Minnesota Twins baseball, Target Field and accessibility: TwoMen On. Since its inception, their blog has more than 37,250 views.

Sack, is now enrolled in his second semester at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He was recognized for his determination to go after what he wants, his ability to advocate and continually seek out more information. These traits set him apart from crowd.


Edina attorney honored for settlement

Shamus O’Meara, Partner with the law firm of Johnson & Condon in Edina, was among those honored at The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Recognition Event on March 7at the Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville. O’Meara was lead counsel in a court settlement that ended abusive practices at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) facility in Cambridge.

“The Arc Minnesota is proud to honor Shamus O’Meara and the plaintiff families for their advocacy and courage,” said Steve Larson, The Arc Minnesota’s Public Policy Director. “Because of them, hundreds of Minnesotans with disabilities have received justice, and a dark chapter in our state’s history will, we hope, never be repeated.”

Colleagues at the March 7 event praised O’Meara’s determination and passion. Colleen Wieck, Executive Director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, said O’Meara had to “challenge persistent and pervasive old ways of thinking and deep seated prejudice,” and “fight against a collaboration of indifference.”

O’Meara and three Minnesota families reached a landmark class action settlement with the State of Minnesota in June, 2011. They had filed a lawsuit against the state for widespread restraint and seclusion of several hundred Minnesotans with developmental disabilities at the METO campus, located at the former Cambridge State Hospital. On December 1, 2011, the Minnesota Federal District Court approved the June, 2011 settlement, with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank presiding over the settlement hearing.

The settlement stopped the state’s use of handcuffs.

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