People and Places – September 2009

Courage Center Names 2009 Phillips Award Recipients  Courage Center, a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center, has announced its 2009 Jay […]

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Courage Center Names 2009 Phillips Award Recipients 

courage-awards1Courage Center, a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center, has announced its 2009 Jay and Rose Phillips Awards winners. The awards are presented annually by Courage Center to people with disabilities who have achieved outstanding vocational and community success. Courage Center also presents a Caregiver Award, which acknowledges and honors a behind-thescenes caregiver vital to the success of a person with a disability.

Each winner received $2,000 and was feted at the Medtronic Celebration of Courage Gala Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Depot in Minneapolis. This year’s Phillips Award recipients are: 

Employment awards

Barbara Barr, Edina, Commercial Lines Underwriter, Employers Mutual Companies, Minnetonka. These days, not many employees can say they’ve been with a company for 46 years. Barbara Barr can. But when she first arrived in Minneapolis from Breckinridge in the early 1960s, people with disabilities were considered “unemployable.” “Business after business turned me down until I applied at Employers Mutual Companies,” said Barr. In her current job she works with a safety dividend program for bulk oil dealers providing loss control measures.

James Hegstrom, River Falls, Wis. Placement Coordinator-Rehabilitation Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Blaine. Hegstrom is a true role model for the people with disabilities with which he works. As a placement coordinator with DEED, he matches peoples’ skills with job openings. In addition to this one-to-one job placement, Hegstrom works to create relationships with businesses to in to help people with disabilities compete and interview for employment.

Susan Maus, Burnsville. IT Solutions Strategist, Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis. In June 2000, Maus was involved in a car crash, which resulted in a spinal cord injury. During her rehabilitation, she worked hard and learned what tools would provide her the greatest independence. Prior to her injury, she worked for Fairview Health Services. Following rehabilitation she returned to Fairview part-time as a lead business analyst for information technology solutions. In 2008, she was promoted to her current, full-time position.Claire and Warren Braun, Mounds View. Those who know Claire and Warren Braun marvel at how they manage their household and lives. Through competence, compassion, perseverance and phenomenal scheduling feats, they keep their large family immersed in church and community events as well as school and extra-curricular activities. The couple made a choice to care for special needs children after the birth of their first child, more than 30 years ago. Since then they had three biological children, adopted six children and took care of 73 foster children. Soon, two more will be adopted by the Brauns. Currently, 12 family members live at the Braun home while four more children are adults, living independently. Their goals were simple: provide a family who loves them, meet all their physical needs, provide education and advocate for each so they can become productive and welladjusted adults.

Caregiver Award

Courage Center is a Minneapolis-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. The Phillips Awards are made possible by a grant from the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation and is open to residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North and South Dakota whose physical disability is of such severity that successful employment during the last three years represents a significant accomplishment.


Braille instructor dies 

Sandra J. Emslander, a longtime Braille instructor at Vision Loss Resources, passed away Aug. 21 after a battle with breast cancer. She was 62 years old and lived in Minnetonka. Emslander taught at Vision Loss Resources for 39 years, where she changed and improved countless lives. She is being honored by Vision Loss Resources on its Web site.

Many people wrote in Emslander’s guest book at Washburn-McReavey Edina Chapel, which handled her services. They described her kindness, her infectious laugh and constant presence at Vision Loss Resources. “Sandy was always able to see people with her heart-she never needed her eyes,” said Terri Steinhoff of Jordan, “She touched souls with her compassion and sense of humor.” “Sandy will always be with us,” said Mary Barlow of Richfield. “She never wanted to leave Vision Loss Resources and she won’t.”

She was preceded in death by her mother, husband Lawrence and an infant twin brother. She is survived by her father, Robert Peternell, sisters Kathy and Cheryl, nephew Mark and his family; and many other relatives and friends.


Rise award winners named 

Rise hosted its annual Celebrate Rise! The event, which pays tribune to the men, women, businesses and partners who help the organizations.

Rise is a human services agency that supports people who have disabilities and other barriers to employment and housing. Its clients are in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. Award winners are Housing Partner of the Year: New Pathways, Cambridge and Salvation Army Harvest Corps, Coon Rapids; Community Partner of the Year, Susan Anderson, Caring Connection, Greater Twin Cities United Way; Corporate Community Leader of the Year: Sue Puva, Cummins Power Generation; Business Partner of the Year: HOM Furniture, Coon Rapids; Employer of the Year: Doubletree Guest Suites, Minneapolis and Fulfillment Distribution Center, St. Cloud; Business Partner of the Year: Print Craft, St. Paul.

Rising Stars were also honored for their extraordinary attitudes, achievements and perseverance. The honorees are Nikki Anselment, Community Integration Program- Coon Rapids; Julie Embree, Anoka County Mental Health Housing Supporters; Peter Holmberg, Anoka County Mental Health Housing Supports and Job Placement; Greg Kelly, Mental Health Treatment Study; Robert McKay, Community Integration Program- Coon Rapids; Troy Ostriech, Community Integration Program-Coon Rapids; Ryan Templey, Supported Employment Services, Hennepin County and Marcus Williams, Community Integration Program, Anoka. Another group of honorees are champions of the mission, who are Rise, Inc. staff members.

The honorees are Derek Haug, service team leader, Central Minnesota Works; John Leggate, service team leader for transportation services; Jean Stephenson, receptionist at Rise’s corporate offices and Maureen Trost, service team leader with Data-Ability.


National Courage Award to Jordan Thomas

Jordan Thomas has been honored with Courage Center’s National Courage Award. The annual award recognizes an individual’s contributions to the health, welfare and rehabilitation of people with disabilities. The award was presented during the Medtronic Celebration of Courage Gala Aug. 15.

Four years ago, at the age of 16, Thomas was scuba diving in the Florida Keys with his family when the boat’s propeller struck him. He lost both of his legs from the calf down.

After a period of therapy and rehabilitation, he returned to high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., rejoining his teammates on the golf and bowling teams for his senior year. He will soon begin his junior year at the College of Charleston.

While hospitalized after his injury, Thomas was touched by the kids he saw who would never be able to achieve their dreams because they did not have the money to continue their recovery and rehabilitation. Part of the reason, he discovered, is that the current way insurance companies pay for prosthetics and orthotics does not begin to cover the costs, especially for growing children. Thomas wanted to help these children, so with the help of his family, at just 16, set up the Jordan Thomas Foundation to raise money for disadvantaged children with traumatic injuries who needed prosthetics and orthotics.

Now, at age 20, Thomas is making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children. To date, his foundation has raised $350,000, which is changing the lives of three children. He is also active in advocating for change in the way insurance companies cover prosthetics and orthotics. His advocacy has been instrumental in bringing the issue to national attention. New Jersey Congressman Robert Andrews has introduced the Prosthetics and Orthotics Parity bill. “To be included in this remarkable company of prior winners is a tremendous honor,” said Thomas. “I am grateful to Courage Center for this award and furthering the recognition of the foundation and its mission to help kids in need of prosthetic devices.”

In addition to the National Courage Award, this year Thomas was named Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). A recent CNN interview features Noah Parton, one of the children his Foundation is helping.


PACER, teen star target bullying 

Hollywood Records pop music sensation and Disney Channel star, Demi Lovato recently announced a partnership with PACER Center’s National Center for Bullying Prevention to help champion their anti-bullying movement. With this announcement, Lovato, whose new album “Here We Go Again,” skyrocketed to the #1 position on the Billboard album charts earlier this year, now has a platform for a cause she cares about deeply.

It might be hard to imagine that Demi Lovato was the target of bullying when she was younger, but she was and she now has joined forces with the Minneapolis-based PACER Center. Lovato will support the non-profit national center by appearing on PACER’s new Web site. Teens Against Bullying is an innovative bullying prevention educational resource where teens themselves participate in the creative process of developing concepts, content, artwork and the voice for the site.

“We are so fortunate to have Demi join our Teens Against Bullying movement,” said Paula F. Goldberg, executive director and co-founder of PACER. “Our mission is to engage, educate and empower teens to care about the issue and Demi will certainly raise the level of awareness of the importance of bullying prevention. Her personal experiences with bullying have made her passionate about educating others about this cause.”

Families, students, schools, organizations and other groups can partner with PACER (at to prevent bullying in several ways. Activities and materials such as contests, toolkits and online bullying prevention training will be available at on August 8th and are already available online at (for elementary school kids).

According to a recent study by The National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, 160,000 kids of all ages stay home from school every day to avoid the stress that comes from being confronted by a bully or bullies.

For more info, visit, TeensAgainst, KidsAgainst or call 952-838-9000.

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