Several Minnesotans, organizations, businesses and a ballpark were honored at The Arc Minnesota Annual Awards Banquet Nov. 16 at the Crowne Plaza Suites Airport in Bloomington. The banquet was part of The Arc Minnesota’s annual state conference. Rena Sarigianopoulos, weekend anchor for KARE-11 TV and co-host of “KARE Saturday”, emceed the event.
The honorees were recognized for outstanding work which furthered The Arc’s mission of promoting and protecting the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. (The winners were selected by The Arc Minnesota’s Awards Committee from nominations submitted from around the state.)
The Andrew R. Richardson Advocacy Award went to Kristine Goodrich and Press Publications, for coverage of a wide variety of stories about individuals with disabilities in the White Bear Lake area and the activities that promote inclusion and respect for them.
The Betty Hubbard Family Advocacy Award was given to James and Lorie Jensen of Little Canada. The Jensens were recognized for advocacy that helped end abusive treatment of their son and others at the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in Cambridge.
The Bill Sackter Citizenship Award was given to Carrie Varner of Mankato, for her leadership in self-advocacy and disability rights organizations at the local, state, and national level and her successes in speaking up for herself and others.
The Community Innovator Award went to Target Field. The Minneapolis ballpark was cited for its many features and programs that make the ballpark accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities. Target Field designers actively sought input from the disability community when designing the stadium to ensure it met the needs of people with disabilities.
The Employer of the Year Award went to Torgerson Properties in Fairmont, for their consistent support for 24 years in providing people with disabilities employment at their hotels and restaurants, their dedication to keeping people with disabilities on the job and their outreach to students looking for work.
The Frances Klas Johnson Spirit of Giving Award went to TSE, Inc. of Roseville, for its consistent support for The Arc Minnesota through gifts of time, talent, treasure, and advocacy. TSE has provided financial support, volunteers, volunteer leadership and strong participation at The Arc Minnesota’s public policy events.
The Irving Martin Professional of the Year Award was given to Mary Ann Erickson of Rise, Inc. in Spring Lake Park. For 24 years, Erickson has worked successfully with hundreds of people with disabilities who wanted employment in the community, engaging in creative problem-solving and advocacy to make those successes possible.
The Luther Granquist Systems Change Award was given to two individuals. Charles Van Heuveln of St. Paul was honored for his tenacious and persistent advocacy which resulted in policy changes in Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD), the state’s health care program that serves people with disabilities who are working. Jon Tevlin, columnist for the Star Tribune, was honored because his stories about Van Heuveln helped raise public and legislators’ awareness of the need to make policy changes to prevent him and others on MA-EPD from having to impoverish themselves and lose their disability supports at age 65. Van Heuveln was also honored by Access Press earlier in November 2012 with the 2012 Charlie Smith Award.
The Membership Award was given to The Arc Kandiyohi County, for achieving the largest percentage increase in membership growth of any local Minnesota chapter of The Arc. Since the beginning of 2012, the chapter’s membership has grown by 45%.
The Teacher of the Year is Karen Bendtsen of Eagan. She was saluted for her 30 years of successes in educating developing the gifts of her students with disabilities in Intermediate School District 287. Bendtsen started an innovative art garden program so 150 students could express themselves through creation of mosaics, sculptures, pathways stones, and other visual media.
The Volunteers of the Year are Don and Gail Larsen of Laporte. The Larsons were honored for their donation of many hours of time, talent, and energy to The Arc Minnesota conferences, other disability advocacy events, and the People First chapter in Bemidji.