The clock is ticking, so get those Charlie Smith Award nominees in

The Access Press Charlie Smith Award is a meaningful honor for Minnesotans with disabilities. Winners over the years have represented a […]

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank smiling.

The Access Press Charlie Smith Award is a meaningful honor for Minnesotans with disabilities. Winners over the years have represented a wide range of our community members. 

The nomination period continues through 5 p.m. Friday, August 11. Email the newspaper 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.  

Who can be considered for the Charlie Smith Award? Nominees can be one person, a group of people or an entire organization. Nominees must be active in and have strong ties to Minnesota’s disability community, and go above and beyond to improve the lives of Minnesotans with disabilities.  

Pete Feigl on a motorcylce.

This type of work can take many forms. The award can go to prominent leaders or to people who work quietly behind the scenes. 

Nominations can be made for organization leaders, staff, volunteers or groups. 
Nominees must be living at the time of the nomination and not be people who have passed away.  

Past winners cannot be nominated again. Past nominees who didn’t win the award can be nominated again. 

People cannot nominate themselves. 

The winner and all of the nominees are featured in our September issue. People who submit nominations must submit contact information in case Access Press has additional questions about a nominee. 

Please send a high-resolution digital photo or an actual picture of the nominee. Otherwise, be prepared to tell the editor where a high-resolution picture can be obtained. 

The newspaper board of directors chooses the winner, after reviewing all of the nominations. 

Smith founded the newspaper in 1990 and died in 2001. The first award was given in 2003 at the Como Lakeside Pavilion. That space was outgrown quickly so the event moved to various hotel banquet facilities. The event was dropped in 2018 due to cost and staffing considerations. It is time to bring it back. 

A diverse group of Minnesotans was honored over the years. Here is a list of the past

Charlie Smith Award winners:

  • 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, 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  

“The Charlie Smith Award has been given to a number of deserving and distinguished people who have created a better life for members of our disability community,” said Kay Willshire, president of the Access Press Board. “By nominating a person for this award you are not only recognizing that person for individual contributions to our community, you are also shining a positive light on our community as a whole.”

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