People and Places – March 2014

Snowmobilers raise funds and hopes along the trail Snowmobilers of the 26th Annual Northland 300 not only had pristine riding […]

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Snowmobilers raise funds and hopes along the trail

Northland 300Snowmobilers of the 26th Annual Northland 300 not only had pristine riding conditions, they exceeded the $4 million mark while raising funds for Special Olympics Minnesota. The event was held in January along Minnesota’s North Shore. The event is limited to 125 snowmobilers.

Special Olympics Minnesota provides year round sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities that contribute to lifelong physical fitness, personal growth and achievements. This year’s Northland 300 honored longtime snowmobiler Billy Meister. Just weeks after participating in the 2013 Northland 300, Meister died in a snowmobile accident on the St. Croix River. His father, Bill “Pooker” Meister, carried a torch dedicated to his son. Meister and Special Olympics athlete and fellow Northland 300 snowmobiler, Steven Eull, lit the “Flame of Hope” on a new cauldron built by Northland friends. The lighting was part of the opening ceremony January 23.

Kathy Karkula, volunteer event director, led the opening ceremonies. Participants were greeted by Mayor Randy Bolen and President of Two Harbors Chamber of Commerce Gordy Anderson. Special Olympics athlete Louis Nosan sang the national anthem, with the Two Harbors American Legion Color Guard.

After the ceremony snowmobilers left Superior Shores in Two Harbors, traveling more than 300 miles to Grand Ely Lodge in Ely. Cold weather didn’t deter the riders as they enjoyed excellent snow conditions and trails groomed by the Voyageurs Snowmobile Club and the Ely Igloo.

At Grand Ely Lodge another ceremony was held, with speakers Denise Jordan, manager of Grand Ely Lodge; Ely Mayor Ross Petersen; the VFW/American Legion Color Guard, Deacon Greg Hutar of St. Anthony Catholic Church and Ely resident Jay Mackie, who sang the national anthem.

After a free day of riding January 24, the snowmobilers traveled back to Superior Shores for a banquet and awards ceremony January 25. The group celebrated the raising of $167,139 ($105,486 cash plus $61,652 in-kind donations). This brings the all-time total to more than $4 million for Special Olympics Minnesota.

The Baker’s Dozen or top 13 fundraisers brought in $55,596. Pooker Meister, Rob Dombrowsky and Mike Townsend raised funds in memory of Billy Meister.

Several awards were presented, including a new award honoring Billy Meister. Dombrowsky won the Billy Meister Newbie Award, for the participant who demonstrates outstanding contributions in his or her first or second year. Chuck Munson won the John Marschall Tough Luck Award for tough luck, but not stupidity. Bob Parker won the Tom Patterson Northlander of the Year Award for going up and beyond the call of duty. Jason Reinsch won the Steve Jaeger Spirit Award for believing in the team spirit.

Dave Clausen won the CJ Ramstad Unsung Hero Award for the participant who quietly does good for the ride. Janel Vorel won the Old Into Gold Award for turning in the most used cell phones as part of the fundraiser. Many prizes were awarded during a raffle, including a new snowmobile, resort and fishing vacations, cash and gift cards and certificates.

To learn more about the Northland 300 and Special Olympics Minnesota, visit and Facebook – Northland 300.



Hennepin County, VEAP celebrate human services center opening

Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) and Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) held a joint grand opening ceremony February 4 to celebrate the two organizations’ collaboration in the new service center at 9600 Aldrich Ave. S., Bloomington.

Residents on the southern end of the county can access a range of county human services, as well as the community resources and connections VEAP has offered for more than 40 years.

“Hennepin County is proud to partner with VEAP,” said Fifth District Hennepin County Commissioner Randy Johnson. “Offering all of Hennepin County and VEAP’s resources under one roof, in the community, will help Hennepin County clients to get the help they need more quickly, and achieve independence that much sooner.”

VEAP is a multiservice human services organization established in 1973 by a group of churches in Richfield. VEAP serves residents of Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and a portion of south Minneapolis, with the largest food pantry in Minnesota, transportation for low-income seniors and an array of additional social services.

“VEAP could see that the need in our community was growing, we had to take action to ensure that the people who were struggling would get the help they needed,” said Susan Russell Freeman, Executive Director of VEAP. “This meant purchasing and renovating our new community service center, inviting Hennepin County to join us, and partner with us in deepening all areas of service to the community. We are very pleased with what we’ve all been able to accomplish even in the first month of service.”

The VEAP Community Service Center is part of the county’s human services regionalization plan, which moves human services delivery from one downtown facility to six locations around the county, closer to where clients live, work and attend school.

The new location in Bloomington is the second human services hub to open. Another office opened in October 2012 with Community Emergency Assistance Programs and the Osseo Public Schools, at the Northwest Family Service Center in Brooklyn Center.

Four more offices are scheduled to open over the next two years, in Hopkins, north Minneapolis, downtown Minneapolis and south Minneapolis. The county’s main human services office at Century Plaza closes for good after that, most likely in 2015.

For more information about the Hennepin County regionalization plan, visit .



Playground drive moves ahead

Turtle Lake Elementary PTA Playground Leadership, a group working to raise money and build an accessible playground in Shoreview, has received a $10,000 investment from Mattamy Homes. A Canadian-based homebuilder with operations across Canada and the United States, Mattamy Homes is the builder for the new North Oaks Charley Lake Preserve community.

“Mattamy Homes is pleased to make a gift to ‘A Playground for Everyone.’ We take exceptional pride in building homes for families and this same pride extends to supporting initiatives that enhance the quality of life for a community. This project reflects many of the same values our company embraces, both in business and philanthropy—values of innovation, inclusion and the spirit of community,” said Steven Logan, Division President.

The Turtle Lake Elementary Playground Committee has secured $132,904 toward the campaign goal to raise $280,000 by April 1. For information on this project and the benefits of inclusive play, or to make a contribution, visit



One Minnesotan on Paralympics team

Aaron Pike at the 2012 London Summer Games.  Photo from

Aaron Pike at the 2012 London Summer Games. Photo from

The 2014 Paralymics Winter Games in Sochi will feature one Minnesota athlete. The games began March 9 and continue through March 17. Aaron Pike of Park Rapids will compete in alpine skiing. He competed in the 2012 London Summer Games in track and field.

The U.S. team, which includes six guides for visually-impaired athletes, is comprised of 22 women and 58 men. The team features 32 returning Paralympians who have won a combined haul of 50 Paralympic medals.

“It is a very exciting time for the Paralympic Movement, and we are honored to announce the largest team we have ever sent to a Paralympic Winter Games,” said United States Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun. “I am confident that this group of talented athletes is going to represent our country well both on and off the ice and snow. With the expanded platform of television coverage provide in partnership with NBC, these athletes are not only going to captivate the country, but also inspire the next generation of athletes following in their footsteps.”

The winter games include five sports. The sports are sled hockey, wheelchair curling, alpine skiing snowboarding, biathlon and cross-country skiing. There will be 72 medal events, with 34 apiece for men and women and four for mixed teams. Athletes will use five venues. Almost 700 athletes from around the world are expected to take part in the 10 days of competition.

Fifty athletes represented Team USA at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Notable increases came from the addition of 10 athletes competing in the debut of snowboard cross at the Paralympic Winter Games and from the Nordic skiing (biathlon and cross-country skiing) team tripling in size over the past four years.

The Sochi Games are the first Olympic or Paralympic Games (either summer or winter) for the Russian Federation.



Photo courtesy of Autism Society of Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Autism Society of Minnesota

He’s AusM

Harrison Heinks, a 15-year-old Edina student who has autism, wore his design for the 2014 Steps of Hope event T-shirts in early March.

His design was selected by the Autiusm Society of Minnesota because it best captured the look and feel of their family fun walk.

On his design submission form, Heinks stated that “Shoes are a perfect example of the journey we all go through—especially a person who has autism.”




Fraser, Opportunity Partners are grantees

UCare’s UCare Fund awarded grants recently that support the efforts of two organizations working to improve the health and well-being of Minnesotans with disabilities. The UCare Fund is a community-directed initiative of UCare, the fourth-largest health plan in Minnesota.

Fraser was awarded a $44,059 grant to support, enhance, and extend the significant first-year momentum of Fraser’s innovative wellness initiative for adults with disabilities who live in five independent living program apartments. Fraser is in Minneapolis.

Opportunity Partners, was awarded a $10,000 grant to support the purchase of specialized training and the development of supplemental internal curriculum for “Safe Boundaries,” a program to support open communication, positive work relationships, anti-bullying, and healthy self-concept to help deter physical, emotional, and social harm for adults with disabilities. Opportunity Partners is in Minnetonka.

“UCare has long valued partnerships with counties, agencies, and providers to extend our mission to improve the health of Minnesotans, especially those who are underserved,” said Ghita Worcester, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing, UCare.

“We are excited to award UCare Fund grants in 2012 to public health, nonprofit, and community-based organizations working to improve health outcomes.”

In 2012, UCare distributed 31 community grants totaling $1,065,944 and three research grants totaling $197,592 to Minnesota organizations working to improve the health of people of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities.




Fraser School awarded Parent Aware 4-star rating

Fraser School was recently awarded a 4-star rating from Parent Aware. Parent Aware wants all Minnesota children to be ready for kindergarten, providing free, research-based tools and resources to make informed choices about high quality early learning opportunities. This quality rating is valid for two years.

Fraser School is a childcare center and preschool known for its inclusive environment, where children with typical needs and children with special needs contribute to each other’s development in unique and life-changing ways. Parent Aware evaluates and rates child care and early learning programs.

“It took a lot of hard work and dedication from our staff to be awarded this type of rating,” said Deedee Stevens-Neal, Fraser School Director. “Fraser School is honored to be given a 4-star rating from Parent Aware.”

Fraser School is a division of Fraser, 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. For more information, visit:



Hofmeister at helm at Tamarack

Joe HofmeisterJoe Hofmeister is the new chief executive officer at Tamarack Habilitation Technologies, Inc. Hofmeister now assumes Tamarack’s day-today management responsibilities, and will lead the medical technology innovator’s strategic commercialization efforts.

Located in Blaine, Tamarack Habilitation Technologies, Inc. is a medical technology product development and manufacturing company specializing in ankle-foot biomechanics, friction management technologies and wheelchair seating.

Marty Carlson, Tamarack’s founder and former chief executive officer, will continue to maintain an active role at Tamarack, working as the company’s chief engineer. Tamarack will continue to be a family-owned business.

Carlson is enthusiastic about Hofmeister’s new senior leadership role. “Joe’s background matches Tamarack’s existing opportunities perfectly. We have a large and growing backlog of innovative intellectual property (IP) in the arenas of orthotics & prosthetics, rehab technology and wound prevention & healing,” he said. “Joe’s experience spans the spectrum from IP licensing for a university to coordinating the global commercialization of emerging medical technologies. He has worked with and for small and large corporations and, at mid-career, is taking this top management role in a small technology company with a potentially big future. I am very happy to have Joe ‘on board’ and anxious to see what he and the team accomplish.

Hofmeister brings a unique perspective and business acumen to Tamarack that will help fuel the company’s product development and commercialization plans. Formerly working as the senior manager of strategic marketing and business development for coloplast, a Minneapolis-based medical device manufacturer, he also brings other experiences. He previously worked for the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization, spent 10 years in marketing, product development and business development leadership positions with American Medical Systems, and also worked in East Asian technology and business development roles with Muranaka Medical Instruments. Murananka is Japan’s largest medical instruments company.



Vinland Winter Walkabout a success

The Vinland Winter Walkabout, Vinland Center’s fifth annual 3K snowshoe walk, was a success. Despite wintry weather February 22, many people turned out for the event in Loretto. More than $50,000 was raised, exceeding the fundraising goal. Participants enjoyed a walk and were able to warm up in Vinland’s lakeside chalet for fun and prizes.

Proceeds benefit Vinland Center and the people with disabilities it serves. Platinum sponsors were Bremer Bank, Kraus Anderson and New Horizon.

Gold sponsors were Restart Inc. and Robert S. Starr Foundation. Silver sponsors were AIS, the Larkin Hoffman law firm, Loretto Lions Club and Visions.

Bronze sponsors were Access Press, Dominion Diagnostics, Hanratty & Associates, Midwest Sound, Minnesota Recovery Connection and Torké Coffee.





  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.
  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!

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