People and Places – May 2011

Minnehaha Falls Park to get universal access playground   Falls 4 All, a volunteer group, is raising money to enhance […]

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Minnehaha Falls Park to get universal access playground


Falls 4 All, a volunteer group, is raising money to enhance accessibility of planned playground improvements at Wabun Picnic Area in Minnehaha Park. Falls 4 All has teamed up with People for Parks, to raise money. The goal is to build the first universally accessible playground facility in the Minneapolis Park System. People for Parks is a group affiliated with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB).

The partners want to create a playground where children and adults, both with and without disabilities, can explore, interact and play with independence and dignity on universally accessible playground equipment.

“The Park Board has committed $300,000 to the Wabun project and we’d like to raise an additional $700,000 to make this a true universal access playground,” said Peggy Halvorson, leader of Falls 4 All.

“The additional funds can provide items such as ramped wheelchair access to the highest platforms, specialized wheelchair-accessible playground surfacing, dual slides that allow a caregiver to slide with their child, and harnessed swings that hold children securely.”

“All Minneapolis children deserve a safe, supportive place to play, and the proposed Wabun playground helps to ensure more children will have that opportunity,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. “We’re delighted to partner with Falls 4 All and MPRB on this project,” said Jeff Winter, President of People for Parks. “It will be the first playground of its kind in the Minneapolis Park System and provide a model for other communities to emulate.”

The playground site is east of Minnehaha Falls and just north of the Veterans Administration campus, on a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River. The goal is to incorporate design features that will make the playground fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, while also supporting innovative recreational activities for people without disabilities.

Improvements completed at Wabun include four new accessible picnic shelters, a new restroom building, a zero entry depth wading pool, reconstructed parking lots, a disc golf course, a volleyball court, and a new bike/pedestrian trail. These improvements have all been designed to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The history and beauty of this area and the easy access from highways draws families from miles away and international visitors.

Children with disabilities face many challenges affecting their interpersonal relationships including limited integration in play activities with peers. Universally accessible play equipment helps children with disabilities gain self-confidence and physical skills, and provides more opportunities for play, social interaction and respect for physical differences.

“As the MPRB upgrades playgrounds, it designs them to meet all current accessibility requirements established by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The funding raised by Falls 4 All will be used to increase the level of accessibility for children and adults,” said MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, “and we appreciate Falls 4 All and People for Parks’ efforts toward making this playground a state-of-the-art resource inviting and available to every park visitor.”

Fundraising for renovation of the Wabun playground is underway with design development of the new playground facilities expected in 2011 and site work in 2012. Public meetings will be scheduled for the playground renovation as part of the schematic design process.

For information about the universal access playground, visit




MINED ARTS group awarded grant Walker Community


UMC and MINED ARTS are a 2011 recipient of a Partners in Arts Participation

Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. The grant will be used to support artists, through publication of a chapbook and an art exhibition. MINED ARTS is an arts organization of, by, and for those who have experienced mental illness/emotional disturbances (self-described).

The work is funded, in part, by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the Legacy Amendment approved by the state’s voters in November 2008.

A writing group and an art group: Expression for Wellness and Effectiveness will each meet Mondays in the L’Orange Gallery (unless otherwise posted) from 7-9 p.m. at Walker Community UMC, 3104 16th Ave. South for nine months to prepare, share and critique participants’ work. First, third and fifth Mondays will be writing group facilitated by James Livingston, editor of MINED and founder and for 12 years facilitator of Southside Writers’ Studio, Eagan. Drawing/ art will be on second and fourth Mondays facilitated by artist Janet Court, President of MINED ARTS. The group won’t meet on Memorial Day or the July 4th holiday.

A chapbook will be published in December and a gallery exhibition of at least 12 works will be presented in L‘Orange Gallery in November. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 31. A maximum of 2 pages of 12 point type or drawings/photographs of one page or less only could be accepted for the magazine. Larger works are welcome in the gallery. Participation in groups is not necessary, but may be helpful. Mail submissions to MINED c/o Walker Community UMC, Box 7588 MPLS MN 55407. For more information call MINED ARTS or 612-721-9284 or email [email protected]




St. Thomas students silence the R-word


An estimated 100 students and faculty at St. Thomas University went silent May 4, but it’s not because they have nothing to say. Their silence is intended to spark conversation on a specific type of bullying— the pejorative use of the R-word, retard(ed). The day of silence is part of a week-long Spread the Word to End the Word campaign asking students to pledge that they will stop using the R-word and replace it with a new R-word, respect.

The campaign is organized locally by the St. Thomas Special Olympics Club, a group of student advocates who are working to create a more inclusive environment for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This is the second year that St. Thomas University has conducted an R-word campaign, and the day of silence was inspired by this year’s campaign theme, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“Our club has five members who have brothers and sisters with intellectual disabilities, and each one of those siblings has been called or hears the R-word on a daily basis. Our job is to put a stop to the word ‘retard’ so that they never have to hear it again,” said Addison Farrell, a senior at St. Thomas University and president of the school’s Special Olympics Club.

“It is amazing how many beautiful things are said and done by those with intellectual disabilities. They think, speak, and love with respect and we only ask that the rest of the world do the same.”

In addition to the day of silence, club members invited their peers to take the R-word pledge by setting up a pledge station in their cafeteria and grill over lunch and speaking in their classes during the weeklong awareness campaign, May 2–6. Those participating in the day of silence will only speak as part of class, when required for a job or in the event of an emergency.

Spread the Word to End the Word is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics and Best Buddies International to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.



Upstream Arts marks five years


Upstream Arts is celebrating five years of enhancing the lives of adults and youth with disabilities through the power of arts. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit hosted STOP. LOOK. SEE. on April 18. The benefit event featured a photography exhibition and a performance showcasing some of the Twin Cities’ most exciting artists. The event was held at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.

Upstream Arts Program Director Matt Guidry and Board Member Peter Vitale led the performance, which told the story of Upstream Arts and featured some of the professional artists who teach with the organization. Dirk Anschütz’s photography exhibition, Upstream, features portraits of young adults who participate in Upstream Arts Program. “Our goal for this event is not only to showcase the fabulous artists that we work with from our performing and visual arts community, but also to bring together our larger community that supports and participates alongside Upstream Arts,” said Upstream Arts Executive Director Julie Guidry. “One of our goals as an organization is to create opportunities to develop social and communication skills, so I can think of no better venue than a celebratory event to practice those skills but also to have the chance to really recognize and put a value on why those skills are so important.”

Matt Guidry is an actor, director, producer, choreographer and educator. He has extensive Twin Cities theater experience, including the Burning House Group Theatre Company, and has appeared with Ten Thousand Things (currently in Man of La Mancha), the Guthrie, History Theatre, and Pillsbury House Theatre.

Vitale provided the soundscape for the performance, as he has done for more than 20 Ten Thousand Things shows. Sara Richardson, Matt Sciple and Charles Fraser were among the Upstream Arts Teaching Artists who appeared in the performance.

Dirk Anschütz is a German-born, New Yorkbased photographer whose work has appeared in magazines and ads throughout the world. His clients include BMW, Adidas, Merck, Time, Stern and Fortune magazine.

Upstream Arts was founded in 2006 to enhance the lives of adults and youth with disabilities by fostering creative communication and social independence through the power of arts education. Teams of professional artists lead interactive, multidisciplinary activities in music, dance, visual arts, poetry and theatre that explore emotion and examine the successful elements of social interaction and effective communication.

The model has proven successful in giving youth and adults with disabilities much needed exposure to the arts, while nurturing their ability to positively express themselves, participate in a group and socially interact with peers, supervisors and family members.




Project finished at Mpls Vets Home


Rebuilding Together Twin Cities and partners, including Sears Holdings Corp Heroes at Home Program, Tee It Up for the Troops, DayCo Concrete Company, Cemstone and community volunteers teamed up April 23 for a project to lay a cement patio at the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

“On behalf of the nearly 400,000 Veterans in Minnesota, I want to thank our community partners, especially Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, for their dedication to this project,” said Commissioner Larry Shellito with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. “This sends a resounding message of support to all the Residents at the Minneapolis Veterans Home—our nation’s heroes.”

Representatives with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, partners and volunteers with the 934th Airlift Wing and the 96th Associate Squadron gathered outside building 15 to break ground while residents watched the progress.

“The Minneapolis Veterans Home project really captures the spirit of what we do,” said Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, Kathy Greiner. “By working together with all of these great partners, we will be able to make a difference in the lives of many veterans in our community.”

The concrete pad will be used for various recreational activities with Residents throughout the year, including the upcoming “Fishing Opener Event” May 7 and Memorial Day Ceremony.

For a list of additional upcoming Home Repair Projects for Veterans, visit



Advocate for blind remembered


Longtime supporter and advocate of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book, Andy Virden, is being remembered for his work with numerous disability service organizations. Virden, 83, was struck and killed by a vehicle in Waite Park in March.

Virden was born in Waite Park. He graduated from St. Cloud Technical High School and St. Cloud State University before becoming the owner of Virden’s Vending and Concession at the St. Cloud Post Office lobby. He operated that business, an affiliate of State Services for the Blind’s Business Enterprises Program for decades before retiring in 1994.

He was a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and Past President of the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB. He was also very active in a number of fraternal and charitable organizations in the Waite Park community. Virden was committed to services for the blind, having served as an active member of the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and on its Communication Center Subcommittee. He was a tireless advocate for the RTB, spending untold hours talking to people in central Minnesota about Radio Talking Book.

Minnesota Northern featured at Frozen 4


The Minnesota Northern, a sled hockey team comprised of players of differing abilities, including paraplegics, amputees, and able-bodied players, capped a successful season with an appearance at the Frozen Four in St. Paul last month. They demonstrated the sport to visitors at the national collegiate college championships.

Sled hockey is known as an ability equalizing sport, as all players use the same equipment, and rules only slightly modified to regulation ice hockey. The Northern are a part of USA Hockey – Minnesota, and are a part of the Minnesota Sled Hockey Association, 501(c) (3) nonprofit based in the Twin Cities area. Players come from all over the state to compete within the Midwest League, and at the National level.

Seven rookie players began the year with the Northern, including Paralympian and Gold Medalist Taylor Lipsett. Returning members included Wendy Richter, who also played with the USA Women’s’ Sled Hockey team during the competition. First-year goalie Judd Yaeger beat out his Paralympian counterpart Steve Cash and Midwest league rivals St. Louis in the championship game, with a score of 2-1. After the first game in the series resulting in a shootout, the Northern went on to outscore their competitors 14-5 and win the Open A division of the tournament at the USA Disabled Hockey Festival on April 3, held at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Teams from across the country played sled, special, and deaf/hard-of-hearing hockey, with the Northern beating out teams from St. Louis, Indiana, and Tampa Bay.

“With this being the rookie year for more than half of the Northern players, the word that comes to mind is ‘miracle’, but that word has already been used,” said left wing Aaron Holm.


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