People and Places – April 2014

West Metro Miracle League launches 2014 season West Metro Miracle League is preparing for expanded offerings during the 2014 season. […]

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West Metro Miracle League launches 2014 season

West Metro Miracle League is preparing for expanded offerings during the 2014 season. The West Metro Miracle League is a charitable organization providing children in the west metro area. Participants range from age three to 19, and are athletes with cognitive or physical challenges. The young athletes enjoy the opportunity to play baseball. The league is located and fully integrated in the Bennett Family Ballpark in Minnetonka, home of seven baseball diamonds accommodating tee ball though Little League and Babe Ruth League.

“In a league where everyone hits, everyone gets on base and everyone crosses home plate, there is a great deal of fun to be had by all the players and volunteers involved,” said Tim Hawley, West Metro League Athletics president. Hawley is a resident of Deephaven and vice president of marketing and communications at International Dairy Queen Corporation, a longtime team sponsor. “As a parent of a special needs child, there is no greater satisfaction than witnessing the joy these children experience as they play baseball side-by-side with their buddies.”

Registration closed March 30 for the 2014 baseball season. The league started its season at Minnetonka High School’s Tonka Dome with a pre-season clinic. Parents can check to see if there are still any openings, Everyone is welcome at games and there are many volunteer opportunities.

With games every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday during May and June at Bennett Family Park, players are paired with a volunteer buddy for a fun-filled season of baseball on the official Subway Restaurants – Harmon Killebrew Field. The field features a special rubberized surface enabling athletes of all ages to safely navigate the bases.

In an effort to expand the league’s offerings to an even more diverse range of children and youth with special needs, West Metro Miracle League will introduce a new “Player’s League” this season. This is a league for athletes requiring only minimal help from buddies.

Families travel from as far as 25 miles away to participate in Miracle League games, and come from places including Hutchinson, Shakopee, Edina and Maple Plain.

From humble beginnings on a dirt field with just four teams of 33 players, and 250 buddies and volunteers in 2008, West Metro Miracle League in 2013 fielded 150 players on 12 teams, with more than 1,000 buddies and volunteers.

Hawley, who has one child who plays in the league and another two children who volunteer as buddies looks forward to the league’s baseball season each year. “It’s such a positive environment for everyone involved. Every child, no matter the physical or cognitive challenge, can come out and have a great time.

It’s all about the smiles on everyone’s faces,” he said. Hawley has plans to expand the league in the future, with the hope of one day building a home where kids with special needs can live when they become independent adults.

The cost to register a player is $75 per child; families with more than one child receive a discount of $5 per child when registered at the same time. To see if there are openings go to and click the registration tab, For more information call Tonya Andruskiewicz, league communications director, at 612-396-1256.



Stranksy retires after 40 years with Rise

In her 40 years with Rise, Director of Human Resources Mary Stransky was part of tremendous change and growth, not only within Rise, but in the disability employment services field. Stransky retired from Rise in March.

Mary Stransky“Mary has been a wonderful colleague and friend for many years,” said President Lynn Noren. “She has led our efforts to support the Rise staff team, continually improving our human resources practices as we have grown. Looking back, it is amazing what Mary has accomplished.”

While working in an internship toward her B.S. degree in social work from what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato, Stranksy assisted a young woman who was moving from St. Peter State Hospital to the Anoka County area for residential and day programming services. Stransky brought the young woman to Rise for a tour. Upon college graduation, Stransky was offered a job in the position known then as work activity supervisor.

“It was a different world back then,” Stransky said. “There were ten people on Rise’s staff working with about 30 people who had developmental and physical disabilities. We offered two programs, vocational evaluation and sheltered employment. Our work and office space was a converted utility truck garage. Everything was pretty low-tech.”

Stransky worked with clients on Rise’s production floor, did skills training and led discussions on current social topics. “We knew we were doing important work and were especially excited when we were able to help get someone a job in the community,” she said.

Rise faced organizational and financial challenges in its early years, Stransky said. “Rise went through some key leadership changes in the summer of 1976. It was like working at a new place. We started doing things programmatically that none of us knew were possible. Things started changing quickly and along with my co-workers, I felt energized with a renewed commitment and passion. It was really exciting for all of us.”

Over time Rise added staff and programs. When a human resources department was added, Stransky became the director.

“I think the primary reason for Rise’s success is the synergy our staff has had,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate to have really talented, committed staff who complement and balance each other. We have visionaries who create great programs as well as people who can provide the nuts and bolts to build and maintain effective services.”



Robins set a floor hockey record

The high-flying Robins of Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka made history at the Minnesota State High School league adapted floor hockey tournament in March, winning a record fourth straight state title in the PI or physically impaired division. The state tournament was held at Bloomington Jefferson High School. The Robins defeated the Minneapolis South Tigers, 10-0, in the opening round. Then they defeated the Rochester Raiders, 13-2.

For the third straight years the Robins faced the Hawks of Dakota United for the state title. Five Robins scored goals in the 8-3 win.

The Robins became the first team in PI adapted floor hockey history to earn a four-peat. The Robins finished the season with a perfect 16-0 record. It was the Robins’ 10 PI title overall. Dakota United is a cooperative that includes Apple Valley, Eagan, Eastview and Rosemount high schools. The Hawks were 14-2 this season, with both losses to the Robins.

Brainerd-Pillager won the third place crown, defeating Rochester. In the consolation round, Anoka-Hennepin defeated South Suburban, 9-6. The other team in the PI tournament was Wayzata-Hopkins.

A new champion was crowned in the CI or cognitively impaired division. A cooperative of New Prague/Tri-City United/LeSeuer-Henderson/Belle Plaine/Jordan claimed the state CI title with a 9-7 win over the Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville Blazing Cats in the finals. It was the first-ever state title for the Trojans, who finished 12-0 for the season.

The Trojans defeated South Suburban, 13-4, and Anoka-Hennepin, 15-1, en route to the title game. The Blazing Cats finished 10-2.

North Suburban, the defending state champion, won third place, 12-4, over Anoka-Hennepin. Dakota United won the CI consolation trophy, 6-3, over Owatonna. The other school in the tournament was Maple Grove.



Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Golden Valley wins top ranking

The Transitional Rehabilitation Program at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Golden Valley campus (also known as Abbott Northwestern Courage Residence) was named one of the top performing skilled nursing facilities recently by U.S. News and World Report.

“Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute’s Transitional Rehabilitation Program is honored to be recognized as one of America’s Best Nursing Homes. This honor validates the exceptional care and service that the staff, employees and volunteers provide, and confirms our commitment to the delivery of comprehensive, integrated and person-centered rehabilitation,” said Transitional Rehabilitation Program Direct Matt Kinne.

The complete report is can be found here.



Hurley leaves MN Recovery Connection

After more than four years, Nell Hurley is leaving as executive director of the Minnesota Recovery Connection.  She has accepted a position at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and starts there in April.

The organization’s board of directors has started a search for a replacement. Board Chairman Judson Kim Bemis will step down from the board leadership post and will serve as interim executive director. Bemis has almost 30 years’ experience with nonprofits.

“I am very proud of the work I (and we) have done at MRC since the organization started in 2010 and for the opportunity to lay the foundation from which MRC will continue to grow and expand,” said Hurley.

“It has been an honor to work with so many passionate recovery advocates and I have tremendous gratitude for each and every one of you—whether you are a volunteer, family member, donor, a professional in the field, or another ally—thank you for supporting MRC’s mission of strengthening the recovery community through peer-based recovery support, public education, and advocacy.”

Minnesota Recovery Connection’s mission is to strengthen the recovery community through peer-to-peer support, public education, and advocacy. The organization works with people who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.



Praise for puppy raisers

Can Do Canines recently recognized two of its long-time volunteers, who won a Congressional honor. Mike Ferber and Betty Otto of Eagan were honored at the recent ‘Star of the North’ award ceremony with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Congressman John Kline.

Ferber and Otto received the award in recognition of their outstanding and invaluable service to the community for volunteering as puppy raisers at Can Do Canines. Counting fosters and puppies, more than 35 dogs have been helped over the years of service from their own home alone.

Minnesota Congressman John Kline honored resi- dents and organizations with Congressional Certificates of Special Recognition at the eighth annual “Star of the North” ceremony last Thursday at Kenwood Trail Junior High School in Lakeville. More than 400 people attended the ceremony.

“One of my greatest honors is the chance to recognize the generosity by many of Minnesota’s selfless individuals who are willing to step up to address the needs they see in our communities,” Kline said.  “These ‘Stars of the North’ stepped forward to make life better for someone beyond themselves—volunteering, offering a helping hand, reaching out to a neighbor to ask, ‘what can I do for you?’”

  • "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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