Save the date: Consider making your nominations for two awards from Access Press

Save the evening of Friday, November 1 and make plans to attend the annual Access Press Awards celebration. Minnesota’s disability […]

Self-advocate Karen Loven congratulated U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank after he received the Charlie Smith Award.

Save the evening of Friday, November 1 and make plans to attend the annual Access Press Awards celebration. Minnesota’s disability news source invites everyone to submit nominees for our two awards.  A regular event guest, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, always uplifts  those who attend the event and all Minnesotans with disabilities who support Access Press.  Last year she said, “You are all here because you believe in standing up for people with disabilities and you believe in freedom of the press.” 

The award event began in 2003. After a hiatus of five years, the event returned in 2023. About 250 members of Minnesota’s disability community enjoyed a festive evening hosted by the Access Press Board with staff and community partners including the University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration. 

Nominations are due   

This year’s event location will be announced soon. In the meantime, the Access Press Board and its event committee urge everyone to submit worthy nominees for the Charlie Smith Award and the Timothy Benjamin Award  Access Press Board of Directors President Jane Larson encourages everyone to consider nominees for the two awards. 

“This November, Access Press will present the 17th Charlie Smith Award and the second Tim Benjamin Award at our annual celebration,” she said. “ Of course, we skipped a few years since the first Access Press awards event in 2003. But in 2023, we decided to bring it back and we are doing it again. While we honor all of you for your contributions, the awards is our opportunity to give a spotlight to people and organizations who have made an exceptional contribution to our community.”  “You can help by nominating a person or organization for an award. This is a wonderful way to honor a friend or colleague for a job well done. You will be giving credit to someone who deserves a boost, perhaps motivation to continue what they do, and give recognition. Other than time and effort, the nomination is free. It may even inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”  Larson added, “We at Access Press look forward to your nominations, and our learning about programs and activities we were not aware of. To celebrate one is to celebrate all.”  The event is also a celebration of Access Press. “And we hope you can join us as we celebrate the 34th anniversary of Access Press. We celebrate our community but we also celebrate Access Press. This is a unique and important resource for Minnesota’s disability community. We ask your support to keep this available to those who need it. Thanks for your support,” she said. 

Editor Jane McClure said it’s always gratifying to see the nominations as they come in. “It’s amazing to the see the many things Minnesotans with disabilities are doing, to make the community a better place,” she said. “Reading the nominations and putting together our stories about these people and groups is an annual highlight for me.”  The awards honor different roles that an individual or group has played in outstanding service to Minnesota’s disability community.   The Charlie Smith Founders Award honors those who have founded or were innovators in an organization or movement that benefited Minnesota’s disability community. The Charlie Smith Award is named in honor of the late Charlie Smith, founding editor of Access Press. He was a well-known Minnesota disability rights advocate. Smith died in 2001.  The Timothy Benjamin Sustainers Award honors those who have sustained an organization or fostered the growth of a movement benefiting Minnesota’s disability community. The late Tim Benjamin was editor and executive director of Access Press from 2001 to 2021.   The Access Press Board of Directors reviews nominations and chooses the award winner.  

The nomination period is open and continues through midnight, August 10, 2024. Email us at [email protected] to receive a form. A link to the form is also on the website,  If help is needed with a form call 651-644-2133 ext. 1 for assistance or accommodations.  The award winners and finalists will be honored in the September issue of Access Press.   A diverse group of Minnesotans has been honored over the years. Benjamin was honored with the first award in his name in 2023. 

Here is a list of the past Charlie Smith Award winners: 

2023 – U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank 

2017 – Mark Braun, Paralympian 

2016 – Cliff Poetz, Institute on Community Integration 

2015 – Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Minnesota Commission for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing 

2014 – Christine Marble and Wendy Devore, Career Ventures 

2013 – Cal Appleby, Augsburg College 

2012 – Charles “Chuck” Van Heuvel, St. Paul School District 

2011 – Jeff Bangsberg, Minnesota Department of Health 

2010 – Steve Kuntz, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development 

2009 – Anne Henry, Minnesota Disability Law Center 

2008 – Pete Feigl, Co-Founder of Tilting at Windmills 

2007 – Jim and Claudia Carlisle, People Enhancing People 

2006 – John Smith, University of Minnesota ICI 

2005 – Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) 

2004 – Rick Cardenas, Co-Director of Advocating Change Together (ACT) 

2003 – Margot Imdieke Cross, Minnesota State Council on Disability 

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