People and Places – December 2012

  Rise program director wins regional award Joan Distler, Rise, Inc.’s director of Customized Employment for the Twin Cities area, […]

Generic Article graphic with Access Press emblem


Rise program director wins regional award

Joan Distler, Rise, Inc.’s director of Customized Employment for the Twin Cities area, received a regional award. Distler was honored with the Skip Kruse Memorial Return to Work Award from the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s Region V based in Chicago. SSA Area Director Jay Druckrey made the presentation to Distler at Rise’s corporate offices in Spring Lake Park last month.

Each of the ten SSA regions present this prestigious award annually to individuals or teams who have made outstanding contributions to SSA’s goal of assisting beneficiaries who are disabled and want to return to work. The SSA’s Region V includes Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Access Press Executive Director Tim Benjamin is a past winner of the Skip Kruse Award. Distler has worked at Rise since 1989. She was honored for her work with Rise’s Ticket to Work program which offers people who have disabilities currently receiving Social Security Income customized career planning, job placement, and follow-up support services. The program’s goal is to help reduce clients’ dependence on government resources by finding and maintaining suitable employment.

Distler also manages Rise’s Midwest Ticket to Work Partnership program. Through this program Rise develops interagency partnerships with other community rehabilitation programs throughout Minnesota and other states. Rise staff offer assistance in billing and administration to those agencies which haven’t been able to administer the program on their own. That allows more people to benefit from the employment program.

Circle of Health, Housing Access Service among honorees

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson presented the second annual Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Awards Dec. 3 in St. Paul. Jesson honored seven organizations that have made outstanding contributions to human services program clients in 2012.

The honorees include programs that service people with disabilities. The Circle of Hope, a Yellow Medicine County chemical dependency treatment program; and The Arc Minnesota’s Housing Access Program, which provides housing for people with disabilities, are two programs honored. Other honorees include the Hennepin Health integrated care system partnership and Wellness Preferred Integrated Network—Medica Health Plans and Dakota County, a physical and mental health services partnership

Fraser names new board member

Fraser, a Minnesota nonprofit serving children and adults with special needs, recently welcomed Jim Sathre onto its board of directors. Sathre is the market manager at BMO Harris Bank.

“It’s important to have people with a variety of backgrounds and occupations on our board because it offers a diverse range of advice. I look forward to the expertise and knowledge Jim will contribute,” said Diane Cross, Fraser President and CEO. “Fraser is very blessed to have this exceptional professional join our board of directors.”

Fraser is Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism services. Fraser also serves children and adults with more than 60 types of mental and physical disabilities. Our programs are nationally recognized for their high quality, innovation, and individualized, family-centered approach. For more information, call 612-861-1688 or visit

NAMI of Minnesota presents honors

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota presented awards at its annual conference in November in St. Paul. Bob Collins of Minnesota Public Radio was honored with the Media of the Year Award. The award recognizes an individual or organization instrumental in reporting on the needs of people with mental illness or effectively portraying the stories of people living with a mental illness and their families.

“NAMI members know Bob best through his online blog called NewsCut,” said NAMI Executive Director Sue Abderholden. “In that blog Bob has reported on the high rates of suicide in the military, has questioned the decision to cut funds for child protection, discussed Gov. Dayton’s revealing that he had depression, and more. In a recent post he looked at the new inpatient unit at Regions Hospital highlighting the privacy, windows and even access to fresh air and summed it up, ‘They’re patients, not prisoners.’”

Collins was also recognized for his work in informing people of threatened cuts to mental health programs. He was involved in the MPR series “A Bad State of Mind: Minnesota’s Fractured Mental Health System.”

John Horner, manager of the Burlington Coat Factory in Maplewood was honored with the Employer of the Year Award. The award recognizes an employer that has demonstrated support for hiring and retaining people with mental illnesses, providing education about mental illness or created a supportive workplace for families who have a loved one with a mental illness.

“Burlington Coat Factory and John Horner have worked closely with Guild Incorporated’s Individual Placement and Supports (IPS) supported employment program. John recognizes that everyone has strengths and he works hard to match people’s strengths to a job,” said Abderholden. “He focuses on abilities, not barriers and seeks to find positive solutions to any problems. ‘Win-Win’ is how Guild’s Peggy Darmody describes the relationship, because John has quality employees and people with mental illnesses are given a chance to work. “

Robins win fifth straight title

The Robins of Robbinsdale-Hopkins-Mound Westonka flew to a state-record fifth consecutive state championship in the Physically Impaired or PI division of Minnesota State High School League adapted soccer. The team topped the Hawks of Dakota United, 5-2, Nov. 17 in the title game.

Robins junior Tyler Sarff scored twice in the title game, continuing a scoring streak that served the team well during the regular season when he scored 15 goals. Senior Charlie Wittmer stopped 21 shots in the title game. The team finished its season with an 11-0 record. The Robins are likely to be strong in the future as 13 of 21 athletes are sophomores or younger. The team beat St. Paul Humboldt in the semi-finals of the tournament.

Anoka-Hennepin topped St. Paul Humboldt, 6-3, for third place. South Suburban beat Park Center, 5-3, for the consolation title. The Dakota United Cognitive Impaired (CI) team captured a state title with a 6-1 win over Mounds View-Irondale-Roseville 1. It was the Hawks’ second CI title. Two seniors, Ricky Arends and Joe Sandey,each scored twice. Junior Saibian Ben Harmon made14 saves.

The Hawks topped Park Center, in the semi-finals and North Suburban in the quarterfinals, to get to the title game. Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville defeated Park Center, 13-11, for third place. Burnsville-Farmington-Lakeville knocked off defending champion Anoka-Hennepin in the tournament’s first round. North Suburban defeated South Washington County, 5-4 to win the consolation title.

The Minnesota Association for Adapted Athletics was originally organized for students with physical disabilities. Indoor floor hockey competition began in 1975. The CI Division was added in 1990. The MAAA modeled its program after that of the Minnesota State High School League for non-disabled athletes.

The League’s Representative Assembly in November 1992 approved adding the adapted athletic activities of indoor soccer, floor hockey and indoor softball. Since then adapted bowling has been added as a fourth activity and the only individual activity.

This is the 20th year for the Minnesota State High School League’s program for athletes with disabilities. Athletes with varying disabilities compete coeducationally and one team often represents multiple school districts.

  • "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."

Access is Love. Celebrate Pride with MCD. June 29 & 30.
Many former refugees are helping to make Minnesota a better place for all. Learn how at