People and Places – May 2010

Love is in the air for senior couple  UCare and Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly hosted a wedding May 1 […]

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Love is in the air for senior couple 

UCare and Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly hosted a wedding May 1 at UCare’s center in Minneapolis. Bob Gremer, age 84, married Anna Lamb. The two met at the Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly Thanksgiving dinner in 2006 and were engaged six months later. This is Gremer’s first marriage. Gremer has been involved with Little Brothers for 21 years, as a volunteer, donor, and now a client. Lamb has been a Little Brothers client since about 2002.

The wedding took place at UCare’s 9th Annual Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly party. About 75 guests were invited to the wedding, with family members arriving from California and Arizona.

UCare has hosted a party for homebound seniors with the Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly organization every year beginning in 2002. It’s one of our community outreach/employee involvement opportunities.


STAR winners announced

Fourteen Minnesota citizens, educators and organizations were recognized April 13 in a state capitol ceremony as champions of removing barriers to independence for people with disabilities. The fourth annual Minnesota STAR Program’s Awards for Excellence in Assistive Technology honor individuals and groups for championing removal of barriers to independence through use of assistive technology. This is any device that maintains, improves or increases function at home, school, work and in the community. Examples range from a pencil grip and a desk riser for accommodating a wheelchair to a communication device that generates speech, controls appliances and performs computer tasks.

Recipients include pioneers in the field of assistive technology, educators, professionals and consumers who promote the use of assistive technology. The 14 recipients of this year’s awards, by category, are:

• Consumer: Gae Skager, Minneapolis: Tom Reed, St. Cloud
• Service Provider: Underwood Lions Club, Underwood
• Innovator: Roger Upcraft, Maple Lake
• Advocate: Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope; Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St Paul: Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson: Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis and Rep. Torrey Westrom,R-Elbow Lake
• Educator: Carol Nelson, Caledonia; Michael Piersak, Chaska
• Lifetime Achievement; Steve Quinn, Brooklyn Park: Marie Swanson, Moorhead: Jerry Hagen, Minneapolis
• STAR is Minnesota’s Assistive Technology Act Program, administered through the Minnesota Department of Administration.

For more information about assistive technology and the STAR Program, visit the STAR website at


Courage Center Rolling Timberwolves win third national title

Courage Center’s Junior Rolling Timberwolves basketball team won the team’s third consecutive national wheelchair basketball title in the Varsity Division. The talented youth athletes competed at the 2010 National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) National Championships in Denver in April.

The Junior Rolling T-Wolves became the first team in NWBA Varsity Division history to “three-peat” after knocking off the Rancho Renegades from California, 70-32 in a battle of number one and two seeds.

“This is such a great group of kids,” said Mike Bauler of Minneapolis, head coach. “They are best friends on and off the court. These kids practice 10-12 hours a week together and countless hours on their own. Their hard work and the support of Courage Center is the secret of our success, no question.” New Brighton resident Robby Wilhelm led all scorers in the championship game with 32 points. Joe Dixon of Lakeville pitched in 17.

Courage Center sent three other teams to the NWBA tournament. Courage Center’s Rolling Rowdies finished 4th in the Prep Division (ages 6-12). Other highlights from the tournament include:

• Robbie Wilhelm—MVP, Varsity Division Championship Game and Tournament MVP
• Wilhelm and Derrick Bisnett, First Team All-Tournament Team
• Joe Dixon, Second Team All-Tournament Team
• Rose Hollerman, Girl’s All-Tournament Team

In addition, seven players from the Rolling T-Wolves and Rolling Rowdies were named to the NWBA’s Northern Division All-Academic Team. Players include Dixon, Derrick Bisnett, Bismarck, N.D. and Mark Braun, Mounds View of the Junior Rolling Timberwolves and Sabrina Braun, Mounds View: Abby Donkers, Farmington: Jonathan Laing, Lakeville, and Dan Kosanda, Maple Grove of the Rolling Rowdies.

Members of Courage Center’s 2009-10 Jr. Rolling Timberwolves team are:

• Derrick Bisnett of Bismarck, N.D., a junior at Century High School
• Jon Bluem of Eden Prairie, a senior at Eden Prairie High School
• Thomas Bowlin of Eagan, a senior at Eagan High School
• Luke Braun of Mounds View, a sophomore at Irondale High School
• Mark Braun of Mounds View, a sophomore at Irondale High School
• Joe Dixon of Lakeville, a junior at Lakeville North
• Robert Doyle of Eden Prairie, a junior at Eden Prairie High School
• Rose Hollerman of Elysian, an 8th grader at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown School
• Guthrie Lindquist of Mankato, a sophomore at Mankato West High School
• Josh Scanlon of Delano, a senior at Watertown-Mayer High School



George Klauser named new CEO at Opportunity Partners

Longtime Opportunity Partners Board member and business executive George Klauser is the new chief executive officer at Opportunity Partners, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization providing job placement, training and residential programs for people with disabilities.

Former President and CEO Jon Thompson will retain the title of President, focusing on fundraising, business contact development and legislative advocacy. Klauser most recently was vice president of Xiotech Corporation. He has more than 30 years of experience in the information services and technology field. He also has a long history of community service.

At Opportunity Partners, Klauser has served 12 years on the organization’s board of directors, including board chairman, vice chairman, and secretary. He has been a volunteer for programs including the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, United Way and Courage Center. Klauser is also a permanent fellow of the Walter Mondale policy forum at the University of Minnesota/Carlson School of Management.

Having a grown daughter and a grandchild with special needs, Klauser cares deeply about providing quality services that help people with disabilities build their talents, lead rewarding lives and experience greater independence.

“My vision is to provide participants of Opportunity Partners the ability to make a difference in society and participate at a level consistent with their desires, goals and aspirations in building a satisfying and rewarding quality of life,” he said. “I look forward to working with staff to achieve goals that will both empower staff and serve our participants now and in the future.”

“I am excited about what George will bring to Opportunity Partners,” said Opportunity Partners Board Chair Hank Blissenbach. “His proven leadership and operational skills, his business acumen, his dedicated history with our organization and his passion for advancing the skills of people with disabilities will serve us well.”


Benefit aids disabled veterans

Minnesota Music Café in St. Paul hosted a concert in April to benefit disabled veterans. The concert, which featured groups including Badfinger, was part of a series of events by the “Rolling Dutchman.”

Robert William Van Vranken II, aka the Rolling Dutchman, uses music and outreach as a way to help disabled veterans. In June 2007, the Rolling Dutchman, an above the knee amputee, embarked on a five month journey from Minneapolis to New York City. He pulled a bicycle trailer carrying his tent and sleeping bag. This he did to raise awareness for wounded veterans. And with that rise in awareness came funds to pay for their care and needs. These brave Americans gave up a large portion of their future lives to preserve our freedom, and the freedom of our children.

On June 1, 2010, to again raise awareness and funds for veterans with mobility issues, the Rolling Dutchman will embark on another journey Across the United States, north to south, traveling Highway 61, and using the Mississippi River as his guide. This trip will originate at the mouth the Mississippi at Lake Itasca, near the Canadian border, and will end with the front wheels of his wheelchair in the Gulf of Mexico.

This seven month, 2000+ miles journey will take him through St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and many small river towns and communities along the way. To donate to the Disabled American Veterans please Please go to the link The Rolling Dutchman. Walmart gives to The Arc.

With a $3 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, The Arc of the United States (The Arc) is awarding grants to 45 local chapters across the U.S. in support of a new initiative designed to help youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The grants are being awarded as part of the Walmart Foundation School-to-Community Transition Project.

The project’s intent is to increase transition outcomes and to build inclusion and involvement of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in independent living, employment, post-secondary education or vocational training, and community, social and civic affairs.

“The Sub-Grants for the Walmart Foundation School-to-Community Transition represent dynamic, new and innovative projects of chapters of The Arc – they will set a high standard in best practices for youth to adult transition initiatives for years to come,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

The Arc of the Greater Twin Cities is one of the grant recipients.


Culture Club announced

Upstream Arts, Highland Friendship Club and the St Paul Jewish Community Center are joining forces to offer Culture Club, an exciting arts program for teens and young adults with disabilities. A Cultural Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) grant from City of St. Paul allows the organizations to offer an exciting cultural and educational enrichment program for teens and young adults with disabilities, so they can experience St. Paul’s arts community.

Each week on Sundays, participants will attend a theatrical, dance or music performance, or visit a cultural institution in the heart of St. Paul’s renowned Cultural District. The next day they will meet at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center to discuss and reflect on these arts experiences, and participate in interactive arts activities led by a team of Upstream Arts’ professional artists. Participants will learn how to appreciate and enjoy many different art forms while getting out into the community and socializing with peers.

The program began in April and continues through June 14.


Arts organizations funded

Eight Twin Cities arts organizations were awarded a total of $89,437 for projects to make arts more accessible to people with disabilities. Funding for these ADA Access Improvement Grants for Metro Arts Organizations is from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, which voters approved in 2008. VSA Minnesota administers this program for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

Park Square Theatre, St. Paul, will use $15,000 to create elevator access to the mezzanine level of Park Square’s auditorium, allowing for new additional wheelchair seating and making its control booths accessible for staff.

The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, will use $15,000 to build a new accessible entrance to the galleries. The entrance will have an auto-opener and be at level grade.

Textile Center of Minnesota, Minneapolis, will use $4,500 to make upgrades to its sound system. This will make programming more accessible to patrons with hearing loss. The new access service will be promoted broadly to the public through print and electronic communications and facility signage.

History Theatre, St. Paul, will use $15,000 for additional equipment for audio enhancement and audio description, as well as a portable sound system. The theater will also hire additional ASL interpreters and deaf/blind tactile interpreters; hire a consultant to advise and train the organization on accessibility-related planning, and conduct other activities.

Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, Minneapolis, will use $15,000 to add a lift to its new facility, enabling access for all students to both main-floor shop for large-scale metalworking and a mezzanine for glass and jewelry. This nonprofit organization focuses on art forms involving heat, spark and flame. Sample Night Live! St. Paul, will use $15,000 to make its monthly performance sampling become more accessible to the deaf community by providing ASL interpretation, discounted ticketing, an accessibility concierge and additional audio enhancement equipment. It will add hours to its marketing and communication team and its community liaison to communicate services to disability communities.

Minneapolis Musical Theatre, Minneapolis, will use $5,000 to increase its outreach to persons with disabilities by providing a block of free tickets and additional discounted tickets for the American Sign Language-interpreted and Audio Described performances for three 2010-2011 productions.

DanceWorks Repertory Ensemble, Lakeville, will use $4,937 to provide an adaptive dance program for young people with physical or learning disabilities to participate in basic dance and moving to music instruction.

A second round of grants (up to $15,000 each, application deadline May 21) will provide up to $130,000. Two more rounds of grants will be available in 2011. Guidelines and application forms are available at

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