For supporters of the mission and vision of the Anne Carlsen Center
Spring/Summer 2016 www.annecarlsen.org
M E S S A G E
the Path for the and the for the
Child Child Path
F R O M
s the snow melts and winter subsides, spring cheerfully greets us everywhere we turn: soft blades of new grass, bathing in the sunlight…white water from tumbling rivers, roused from an icy slumber… serenades from returning songbirds, saluting the new season. Spring, indeed, has sprung, and with it comes the undeniable signs of change. Our mission at the Anne Carlsen Center embraces these lessons nature affords us. For nearly 75 years, we’ve been dedicated to not only change the lives of those we serve, but to also change the perceptions and expectations of the world that will soon receive them. To “Prepare the Path for the Child…and the Child for the Path.” With the faith and trust of supporters like you, the Anne Carlsen Center is eager to embrace the challenge, wherever that opportunity takes us. That’s why in this issue of The Ambassador, we’re very excited to introduce you to Annie’s House, home of our one-of-a-kind Adaptive Recreation Program. Inspired by the unshakable hope of a remarkable young woman, the origin of this special place is itself a mosaic of renewal and redemption. Ann Nicole Nelson was a 30 year old bond broker working on the 104th floor in Tower One of the World Trade Center. A gentle, adventurous native of Stanley, North Dakota, she was the only person from our state to perish during the terrorist attacks on September 11th. After Ann’s young life came to an end, a “bucket list” detailing her personal goals and aspirations was discovered. In 2012, the seventh goal on Annie’s List—to build a home in North Dakota— was realized. Organized by the “New York Says Thank You Foundation,” a coalition of New York City firefighters, Ground Zero construction workers and 9/11 family members joined local volunteers to create a stunning, state-of-the-art center for adaptive recreation and education in the Turtle
T H E
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Mountains of North Dakota. The Anne Carlsen Center was honored to be selected to operate the adaptive recreation program, to provide year round inclusive pursuits for person’s for all abilities, including families and military veterans. These confidence-building, community-engaging activities are an incredibly important part of what we do. And from the slopes to the sketchbook, the Anne Carlsen Center is excited to integrate another splash of recreational fun to our palliative palette: a partnership with VSA North Dakota, a distinguished advocate of art education for individuals with special needs. Leveraging the leadership and resources of VSA North Dakota, we’ll be able to offer high-quality art experiences to more individuals across the state, providing the physical, social, and therapeutic benefits uniquely acquired through artistic expression. Read our interview with Linda Olsrud, Executive Director of VSA North Dakota, and you’ll discover the majestic scenery of the Bottineau foothills aren’t the only landscapes that can take your breath away. And if you ever find yourself in Annie’s House— pausing to reflect on her lifelong wishes, proudly painted on the exposed rafters above—you’ll uncover something else: the boundless power of a dream, reborn to offer hope and new possibilities for thousands of deserving individuals across the region. It’s another powerful gift you help us provide to those we serve, throughout every season of life. Gratefully yours,
Eric M. Monson Chief Executive Officer Anne Carlsen Center
R E D E F I N I N G R E C R E AT I O N An Inspired Vision of Hope and Possibility
n the business of nurturing abilities and changing lives, numbers are very important. Whether it’s a research study about the impacts of our services on an entire community, or a behavioral assessment of a single child, we trust the data to give us information to make wise decisions. But the numbers can’t counsel us on things they can’t measure. And the time spent, the memories made, and the experiences shared while we enjoy our recreation time isn’t meant to be recorded on a spreadsheet. But if a calculation is still required, here’s one I made after spending a weekend at Annie’s House, home of the Anne Carlsen Center’s Adaptive Recreation Program: you can never underestimate the importance of fun. There is, however, one number you’ll want to pay attention to. That’s the number seven. A House Built on a Dream Sunlight rolls off the modest Fox Trail slope, bursting from the panoramic windows and illuminating a tier of pine boards secured to the exposed rafters. Written on them are the lifelong goals of Ann Nichole Nelson, a determined, adventurous Stanley North Dakota native who perished on the 104th floor of the North World Trade Center Tower on September 11th. She was 30 years old. Several years after her tragic death, Ann’s mother Jenette uncovered a document on her daughter’s computer. It was Ann’s “Bucket List”: 36 goals revealing a young woman’s purposeful commitment to friends, family, personal growth and adventure. Number seven on that list was to “Buy a House in North Dakota.” Or perhaps build one.
Inspired by the New York Times piece, in 2012, a coalition of 9/11 family members, Ground Zero construction workers and New York City firefighters journeyed nearly 2,000 miles west to make Ann’s dream a reality. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with volunteers in Bottineau, they constructed an 11,500 square foot ski lodge, adjacent to the existing Bottineau Winter Park Chalet, specially designed to accommodate individuals with special needs. Annie’s House was born. With the new facility came unprecedented opportunities to serve. Bottineau Winter Park
Unbreakable bonds: Ann Nelson with mother Jenette.
For such a thoughtful and introspective person, Ann would have never dreamed that her private goals would be shared with the world. But there they were, in a May 2006 article of the New York Times, unedited and (as NYT author Dan Barry puts it), “humanly incomplete.” The list speaks
“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” 2–
more than the article ever could. It sheds light into the kind of woman Ann was, and the values she embraced during her short and consequential time here. But something else began to unfold after Ann’s list became public; like the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill, those dreams began build momentum…setting into motion a chain of events so breathtaking that the landscape of this sleepy remote town would never be the same.
Moved by Ann’s list, and a powerful book of poems written by her mother Jenette, Jeff Parness of the “New York Says Thank You Foundation” rallied volunteers throughout the nation to build Annie’s House. After the site was determined, Jeff worked together with Gary and Jenette Nelson and Superintendent of 9/11 Clean Up Charlie Vitchers to organize experts in the field of design and adaptive procedures, incorporating their innovative concepts into the build.
A labor of love: New York Says Thank You volunteers admire their progress during the construction of Annie’s House
recognized that potential, and found a partner worthy of the legacy Ann left behind. In 2013, they opened their doors to the Anne Carlsen Center, furnishing Annie’s House with the leadership and resources for a season-round adaptive recreation program with a full-time coordinator on site.
Grasping their golden shovels, a group of special education students from the GriggsSteele-Traill Unit break ground for the construction of Annie’s House in May of 2012. Organized by Mary Stammen, Director of Special Education for GST Multidistrict, these enthusiastic trailblazers travelled to Bottineau at 5 a.m. for an exciting day of hiking, paddle boating, and celebrating the state’s first adaptive ski facility. Mary still conducts workshops on Ann’s story, and is a valuable ambassador for the recreational programs offered at Annie’s House.
And here’s where another young woman whose passion for adventure comes in.
Outfitted for Adventure “Our clients are so used to their regular routines” Rachael says. “Going to physical therapy appointments, managing self-cares, maintaining personal budgets…I wanted to give them the chance to just have fun.” For nearly four years in Grand Forks, Rachael and her staff did just that, working closely with community groups and other agencies to ensure the goals of their clients and families were being met, while still enjoying the many occasions for fun the Anne Carlsen Center provides.
Making Annie’s House Home Rachael Buss is not afraid to take risks. Energetic, witty, and exceedingly approachable, the Anne Carlsen Center’s new Coordinator of Adaptive Recreation at Annie’s House in Bottineau embodies the qualities that make this program such an important resource to those we serve. Her responsibility here (to put it plainly) is to ensure visitors are having fun in an enriching, safe environment. And to that end, Rachael is perfectly suited for the job.
The Adaptive Recreation program at Annie’s House is the focal point of those efforts. Nestled in the scenic Turtle Mountains, Annie’s House sits at the doorstep of hiking trails, camping areas, and scenic Lake Metigoshe, offering a variety of different outdoor activities for every season. At the top of the list of these inclusive recreation opportunities is the adaptive ski program, and for good reason: it’s the only kind like it in the state. Not only does Annie’s House provide ski equipment and instruction for the neurodiverse, they also offer the same accommodations for wounded warriors, who may return Maneuvering the bi-ski with from battle challenged straps tethered to his steady with physical disabilities.
“My mom would always tell me, ‘If you’re going to go knee-deep, you might as well jump in.’” That piece of advice that did not fall on deaf ears; whether it’s skydiving or traveling to Africa on a medical mission, seizing opportunities is a rule Rachael lives by. As a recreation and tourism major in college, Rachael knew she was driven to create fulfilling experiences that enhance the health and wellness of others. But it wasn’t until she began her career as a Program Coordinator for the Anne Carlsen Center’s Community Based Services Program in Grand Forks that she realized how important those activities are, particularly for individuals with special needs. Annie’s House Heroine: Rachael Buss
Rachael demonstrates the high-performance, all-terrain adaptive track chair, provided by the generous support of veterans’ groups.
This incredible piece of equipment is offroad capable and can hydraulically move to a vertical position, allowing wounded warriors to navigate the trails and stand upright for fishing or hunting activities.
hands, Dan gives Jackson an unforgettable ridedown the Pony Slope.
See the “The Tank” in action: annecarlsen.org/tank
Over 20 volunteers from surrounding communities (some of whom helped swing a hammer during the original construction of Annie’s House) are certified to instruct adaptive skiing. New volunteers continue to sign up for an invigorating summer of unique outdoor activities.
To be sure, the outreach of the community here is incredible. “You aren’t going to meet anyone as willing to help as you will in Bottineau” Rachael says. Still, making the decision to move from Grand Forks was a difficult one. But Rachael had an extraordinary experience to help guide her. “I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason” Rachael says. “The same day I found out my dad’s cancer had returned, my grandmother passed away. It was also the same day that Laurie (Skadsem, Director of Special Education Adaptive students can ride the Recreation) “Magic Carpet,” a offered me mobility-friendly treadmill this job. that ushers riders up the hill to the next run.
The Adaptive Recreation Program at Annie’s House is blessed with many volunteers. We’re so grateful to those who donate their time and talents so that those we serve can experience all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Ski Sisters: Adaptive ski instructor Alyssa and Rachael strike a pose next to a sign welcoming visitors to Annie’s House.
My grandmother was always putting smileyface stickers on everything, to brighten my day. That afternoon, I was drinking a glass of water while I was trying to process all of this. I poured out the water into the sink, and for one unbelievable moment I saw the water pool up into a smiley face before it disappeared. Two weeks later, I moved up here.” Looking at all the smiling faces here now, it’s hard not to believe that this vocation was destined for Rachael. In a A dream fullfilled. place inspired by the dreams of one remarkable young woman, the promise of memories and joy are secured by another. Connecting them both, a sign celebrating Annie’s number seven wish hangs proudly overhead, looking down upon a class of exhilarated special education students, fresh off the tubing trail.
Alyssa is an impressive young woman…both on and off the slopes. This Bottineau High School senior has been skiing since she was in the third grade, and volunteers every weekend in the winter to impart her passion to scores of adaptive skiers who benefit from their instructor’s warm personality and considerable expertise. Even better, after Alyssa graduates with a nursing degree from the University of Jamestown, she plans to continue nurturing abilities right here at the Anne Carlsen Center.
“I want to take something that I really love, and light that fire in other kids. It’s my favorite thing. I love it.” ALYSSA
communicative and social benefits to recreation and leisure activities. The Anne Carlsen Center is that: • Builds confidence and
“We’re so fortunate to have this incredible place in our back yard.” RACHEL
social skills • Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle • Establishes discipline and the practice of turn-taking • Gives access to a variety of communication
After the snow melts, the timbered hills surrounding Annie’s House come alive with the familiar sights and sounds of returning wildlife. Emily, a former parks worker with experience in marine science, is excited for the transition. Spearheading hands-on discovery activities like bird watching, geocaching and “What’s in the Water?” programs, Emily hopes to encourage adaptive recreationalists to appreciate the wonder of the natural world by studying the ecology of its systems.
There are many emotional,
proud to develop programs
Like so many others, Rachel’s dedication to the individuals we serve here was inspired by Ann’s story…and a love for the sport. A busy mother with a background in social work, Rachel still discovers new perspectives while instructing adaptive skiers. “I had one child- who uses a wheelchair—who was absolutely having the time of his life on the bi-ski. It was so rewarding to watch him. Later, he told me it was the closest he’s ever been to snow.
Beyond Just Fun
partners • Allows individuals to
“The people are so happy it's contagious.”
contribute and feel a sense of belonging and accomplishment
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
to Washington”, he said. “Why?” Then he confessed—“I’m afraid to meet the President.” Now that the Anne Carlsen Center has partnered up with The State Organization on Arts and Disability of North Dakota (VSA for short), we’re able to offer the resources and instruction to develop the creative gifts of those we serve. We sat down with Linda Olsrud, Executive Director of VSA North Dakota, to discuss how this program will impact the community. What services are provided by VSA North Dakota? We go into the communities and provide arts instruction and experiences for people of all abilities. These are inclusive classes. People with disabilities truly are underserved, so it’s our mission to make the arts accessible, available and affordable for everybody. How did the Anne Carlsen Center become involved? My husband is a member of the Bismarck Lions Club. During one of their meetings, Michelle Walker from the Anne Carlsen Center spoke to the group. He told me about the presentation, mentioning the wonderful work the Center does for people with disabilities. I said “John, did you by chance mention the VSA North Dakota to her?” He said “No” (a bit sheepishly), “but I have her card.” I contacted Michelle, presented to their staff, started doing classes in Bismarck, and soon Jamestown found out about us. One thing lead to another, and it started to look like this could be a more thorough partnership, because our missions are so similar. We knew we could reach more people with more services
together. Now, VSA North Dakota is part of the Anne Carlsen Center. A simple partnership blossomed into something much richer. What artistic genres do you teach? Our classes are driven by the people we serve and the teaching artist. On one particular site, they have learned to play the recorder, drumming, vocals, writing music, and music from around the world. So this is one group that started with drumming, and decided they wanted to do more. We follow the lead of what is requested (as long as the teacher can teach it). The same group took photography and loved it so much that they signed up for an advanced class in digital editing. Right now, we’re doing classes in glass work at Bismarck, with an artist who works at the Anne Carlsen Center. The results are unbelievable. Any particular stories stand out to you about students as they discover their own artistic creativity? Oh, I have so many stories. The first to come to mind is with a talented young man named Michael, who has autism. Every year the VSA National has a call for art. They send one student from every state to Washington, to present their work. Michael had a wonderful painting, and I encouraged him to submit it. But then something curious happened —he started not doing his usual good work. I asked him, “What’s going on here, Michael?” “I don’t want to go
But we convinced him he would not be visiting with the President, and when we did that, he then did his work and he did win. His work was on display in Union Station at D.C. We had another art display, and there was a young woman who was in a group home. We displayed her work, and awarded her a ribbon. She was tearyeyed, and said, “I have never got a ribbon before in my life.” So when I say that VSA work is lifechanging, I see it every day.
VSA Founder Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith with VSA North Dakota student Michael’s painting, “The Bluffs of North Dakota.”
Bruce Furness Fargo, N.D.
Michelle Rodgers Hopkins, Minn.
Matthew Hanson New York City, N.Y.
Thomas Rohleder Immediate Past/Former Chair Fargo, N.D.
Harvey Huber Chair Jamestown, N.D. Pat McCullough Treasurer Loretto, Minn. Robert Montgomery, M.D. Fargo, N.D. Sue Offutt, Ph.D. Cashton, Wisc. Nicole Poolman Bismarck, N.D.
Janet Seaworth Secretary Bismarck, N.D. Casey Stoudt Vice Chair Jamestown, N.D. Reesa Webb Centennial, Colo. Myra Quanrud, M.D. Ex Officio Jamestown, N.D.
SENIOR MANAGEMENT Eric Monson Chief Executive Officer
Sam Brownell Information Technology Director
Tim Eissinger Chief Operating Officer – Jamestown Campus
Allan Hartmann Chief Financial Officer
Jody Vigness Senior Director of Community Based Services Margie Johnson Human Resource Director
Patrick Kirby Chief Development Officer Kresha Wiest Director of Mgmt. Systems Stephanie Nelson Director of Ideation Center
DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT — 701-952-5167 Patrick Kirby
Chief Development Officer
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Development Operations Coordinator email@example.com
Development Support Specialist
What does the future hold for the arts, now that the VSA of North Dakota is partnering with ACC?
Associate Development Director
It’s going to be a good partnership going forward. I’m so excited to be a part of the R.E.A.L. team (Recreation, Entertainment, Arts, and Leisure). That arts component needed to be developed further, and now it will be strong. It’s nice from my perspective to be included in the initiative.
What we’ll be able to provide—for the clients at ACC and beyond— will be remarkable. Learn more about how art changes lives. Watch the full interview with Linda here:
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helped me realize that a group home setting was not the right fit for me. They encouraged me to seek out other living arrangement possibilities. What I wanted to do was live on my own and have my own apartment.
We’re proud to introduce you to the newest contributor to the Ambassador, Matt Beilke. My name is Matt, and I’m 26 years old. I started receiving services from the Anne Carlsen Center in the fall of 2010, while I was transitioning out of high school. They assisted me with getting a bus pass so I could go to my volunteer site at the Moorhead Center Mall. After volunteering there for about nine months, my Anne Carlen staff encouraged me to approach the manager of the mall, and seek out a paid position in place of the volunteer position. The Moorhead Mall hired me after that. Today, I am working 12 hours a week there. After starting services in 2010, I moved into a group home, but continued getting Day Support services through the Anne Carlsen Center. The Anne Carlsen staff
Today, I’m living in a two bedroom apartment by myself, with staff stopping in to assist me when I need it. A little over three years ago, I was approached by my Program Coordinator and the Operations Director to see if I would be interested in speaking to college classes about my life experiences. At first I wasn’t interested, but after some encouragement, I reconsidered. So with the help of my Program Coordinator, we created a PowerPoint for the event, and were off to Mayville State for my first presentation. The meeting was such a success, I decided to expand my audience. Now, I’m proud to present
throughout the state, challenging students to redefine their perceptions on persons with disabilities. A couple years ago, my staff and the Operations Director nominated me for “Advocate of the Year” through the FargoMoorhead Mayor’s Committee. The Director went up to the podium to speak about the award winner, and as I sat there listening, I realized she was talking about me. It seemed that everyone, including my family that came to the awards banquet, knew that I would be winning this award. My staff and the Director asked the Mayor’s Committee not to inform me that I was the winner beforehand. They wanted to surprise me at the banquet. I was surprised and very thankful to the people that believed in me. Matthew Beilke
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