ARRM Cares Award

An Opportunity to Recognize Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

The ARRM Cares Award was established to recognize professionals from ARRM members who provide direct care and demonstrate a commitment to quality services. ARRM supports and encourages our members to acknowledge their employees’ dedication and service through this award process. All nominees are recognized by ARRM and their employers as the top our field has to offer, while six winners are selected each year who represent outstanding and extraordinary dedication, innovation and skill.  Winners receive a $1,000 award and are celebrated in a special ceremony.

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2019 ARRM Cares Winners

ARRM is excited to announce its six 2019 ARRM Cares Award winners! Congratulations!

Amber Lobdell and The Guys

Amber Lobdell

Moorhead, MN
6.5 Years of Service

Amber is an advocate. She was one of the first to point out that her clients’ current home wasn’t meeting their needs. Age was beginning to affect their mobility and she worried about their future safety. Using her passion for her work, concern for her clients and gift of writing, Amber assisted with fundraising efforts to raise dollars to build a new accessible home. She used many social platforms to move this dream to a reality. She introduced the “guys” to the community through her blog, corporate twitter account, newsletter articles and through public presentations. Amber delivered a key note speech to more than 200 people and her words struck a chord in the hearts of everyone in the room. Amber is level headed. When Lane needed her the most, she was able to stay calm and focused despite the fact that she was terrified. Amber considers the guys family and when Lane stopped breathing, she utilized the skills she had learned to perform CPR. Thanks to her quick response and ability to manage a crisis, Lane made a full recovery. His family is forever grateful.

Amber understands the importance of belonging to something. She goes out of her way to ensure the men she works with get to connect with friends and community members. She is always present and actively participates alongside them. Greg loves to dance. At every dance he attends, Amber is on that dance floor, encouraging, drawing others in and facilitating new friendships. These relationships have grown to include potlucks at Greg’s house and invitations to other dances. Amber is a connector, always reaching out to bring people together. She understands the importance of maintaining friendships and works hard to find opportunities that promote this. She helps plan coffee dates, dinner dates and is always in the know about different community activities people can do together. She has participated alongside the guys in art classes, community education classes and sporting events. This group of friends keeps busy. In addition to peer interaction, she promotes community involvement. She has coordinated coffee dates with local legislators and the mayor and they are now on a first name basis with all four men. She also helps the men become friends with their neighbors. They pick-up sticks, bring in garbage cans and exchange holiday cards.

Amber is creative with her approaches. The men she works with have big emotions and huge personalities which can lead to hurt feelings. While they care deeply for one another, sometimes conflicts arise. Amber is calm, quick on her feet, and has the ability to turn things around using humor. When Lane ran out of the room when birthday cupcakes were presented, Amber took the time to find out why this usually happy situation was upsetting. After a few minutes, she learned Lane was upset because they were not celebrating President’s Day alongside the birthday festivities. She immediately began to work her magic and made medals, rounded up flags and presented Lane with a “Presidential Award” for being the only one who remembered it was President’s Day. She altered the cupcakes with red, white and blue sprinkles and created a podium for Lane to give one of his famous speeches. After they sang Happy Birthday they concluded the party with singing The Star Spangled Banner. This is innovation at its finest.

Madie Uglem

Madie Uglem

Moorhead, MN
3.5 Years of Service

Madie began working with Lizzie and instantly formed a bond with her. Unlike many, Madie was unfazed by the sometimes daunting self-injurious behaviors Lizzie exhibited. Liz’s behaviors happen in all settings, but her dignity is important to Madie began working with Lizzie and instantly formed a bond with her. Unlike many, Madie was unfazed by the sometimes daunting self-injurious behaviors Lizzie exhibited. Liz’s behaviors happen in all settings, but her dignity is important to Madie. Madie does an incredible job of quietly intervening during an incident without anyone even realizing a situation is taking place. Madie moves alongside Liz and people passing by hardly notice anything out of the ordinary is happening. She is able to anticipate Liz’s next move easily and often is able to end things quickly and quietly. Throughout the countless hours Madie spends with Lizzie each week, she ensures Liz’s safety and dignity while ensuring Liz is able to participate in the things she loves.

Liz is extremely close with her family. But her family doesn’t live in close vicinity. Madie has incorporated social media and technology to connect Liz to her family. Liz has a Facebook account and uses Snapchat and FaceTime to talk to people. Spending time with friends is important to Liz. Madie helps coordinate dates for Liz and her boyfriend Dan. They do all sorts of fun things like playing games, going to movies, cooking together, etc. This is a healthy relationship for Liz. Madie understands the importance of community and makes sure Liz participates in all kinds of activities. Liz is a regular attendee at cooking classes, movie nights, craft activities, dances, and so much more. The relationships Liz has developed at these events carries into invitations to potlucks and additional social gatherings.

Lizzie has always wanted to go camping; however her diagnosis creates barriers to ensuring her safety in that environment. When Madie found this out, she problem solved each risk area and developed a plan to keep Liz safe. Madie found a local park which would keep Lizzie close to her medical team and gave the sense of authentic camping. Unfortunately, weather disrupted their plans. This didn’t stop Madie. Madie continued working on the goal, but changed the scenery. She donned a sign on the door that said: “Lizzie’s Campground!” A tent was put up inside with clear lights hanging on the outside of the tent to portray the stars when the room was dark. Lizzie felt like this camping experience was so real, when she saw everything put up she asked, “Is there a bear?” Madie not only planned the sleeping arrangements but ensured the meal was planned as it would have been if the camping trip were outside. She helped Lizzie purchase hot dogs with the fixings and baked beans. They ended the night with homemade s’mores! Madie made Liz and her dream a priority and worked around the barriers to make her dream a reality.

Matt Tebbutt

Matt Tebbutt

Works across the state
3 Years of Service

Matt works as a Community Support Staff assisting Wounded Warriors to live a more fulfilled life through Independent Living Skills. It wasn’t long after Matt started working with one of our Wounded Warriors who suffered from a traumatic brain injury that significant goals were met in her life. Matt responded to her list of goals and saw opportunities. He started doing research and looking for opportunities for her to be involved in her community. He got her involved in rec therapy where she attends fly fishing trips, kayaking, and golf lessons. He assisted her in vacation planning where she took an international trip to Thailand and the list goes on. When she first started receiving ILS services she was tentative and said I have a lot of goals I want to achieve; however, I don’t know if you can help me. Now, a year later, she says she doesn't know what she would do without the support and help from Matt. He has helped her reach so many of her life goals that she never thought were impossible.

The nature of Matts job has him driving all over the metro area meeting with Wounded Warriors individually. Matt started noticing a common theme when working with people. He would often hear them say “since my accident I don’t have anyone I can talk to”, or “I lost most of my friends after my injury”. Matt started to brainstorm right away how he could get them connected to peers in meaningful ways. I will never forget the time that Matt planned a BBQ and invited all the Wounded Warriors to participate. Everyone showed up and new friendships were formed through Matt’s initiative to create connections. Matt excels in the area of relationships. He is an excellent communicator and maintains a level of trust with the people he works with. He sends out monthly updates to all team members and strives to include relational person-centered detail in his communications so that the whole team is brought into that person’s life. Matt is able to see and identify strengths and weaknesses in people. He knows how to provide support and encouragement so that people feel it is possible for them to meet their goals.

Matt is the king of innovation. Matt utilizes his innovational skills daily seeking new ways to individualize the supports for those he works with. He is always looking for a better, more efficient way for our persons served to meet goals. For example, when Matt saw that one of his wounded warriors would benefit from writing, He created a goal for him to write out his story. Matt worked with this wounded warrior to write out his life story, speeches, and news articles. Through Matts innovation, this wounded warrior was able to accomplish a writing dream that he never thought was possible. Matt has assisted in helping people meet financial goals, Matt worked with a wounded warrior to help him receive the financial benefits he was due. Without Matts support it is unknown how long, if ever, it would have taken for him to receive the proper benefits.

Sharon Johnston

Sharon Johnston

Esko, MN
3 Years of Service

The 2019 Minnesota health care scene is one with a paucity of respite providers. So, when a staff member not only provides respite care, but does an exceptional job at it, they are a person to be celebrated and cherished. Sharon Johnston’s respite time with the young man she serves exhibits excellence in every measure of performance criterion. Sharon serves a young man through TLC by providing “out of home” respite in 24 to 48-hour increments, several times per month. Her detailed and colorful documentation elucidates the fun and caring environment that she provides to this young man. Compassion and empathy are areas of great strength for Sharon, but the nature of respite services highlights her professional integrity and ability to set healthy boundaries. The parents of the young man Sharon serves make infringing requests of Sharon as a provider. Sharon accommodates where she can, but she has the tact and grace to set firm boundaries and say “no” when appropriate; when the family had asked Sharon to attend medical appointments and manage medications in their place, for example. To make her role clear, Sharon created her own “handbook” of the services she provides, and she maintains open communication with TLC administration related to when intervention is needed from an administrative or county level. Sharon also models this integrity in parenting by directing conversations that are potentially distressing to be held in private, away from the person she serves.

Sharon has a strong sense of the important role that age-appropriate social integration plays on youth, and she fosters social time in the community for the young man she serves. Yes, Sharon spends time with this young man on their respite days and she fills those days with fun and stimulating activities, but she also sees that he is able to interact with his peers. Sharon gathers her client and other children in the neighborhood and hosts outdoor events, birthday parties, and supervised get-togethers, allowing this young man to develop social skills while networking with his peers in a way that he is unable to due to his environment at home.

Sharon tailors her time with the young man specifically to his needs. A quick overview of her home environment shows that she models every aspect of their time to be ideal for him, going so far as to sleep on the couch and host the young man in her bedroom to avoid him sleeping in the guest room on a different floor of the house when he is “looking to get into trouble.” Out of the home, Sharon works with the school district and occasionally attends IEP meetings to ensure her care mirrors the young man’s larger goals. Sharon’s innovation and dedication caused her to be referred directly to TLC by the county and has caused her to be requested as the care provider by others. This young man is the only person Sharon serves at this time, but she further demonstrates her acuity in person-centered planning at TLC team meetings and trainings where she is one of the most active participants in every session. Regularly, other staff members seek ideas in planning care for the clients they serve from Sharon, including staff members who work with the same young man as Sharon does under other services. In this area, Sharon is a leader to her peers. Sharon lives to care for others, and the TLC team agreed unanimously that she represents not only the care TLC strives to bring to the people served, but also that she is a model of care for others to endeavor to be.

Lynn Baxton ARRM Cares Winner

Lynn Baxton

Lynn is a dedicated Direct Support Professional who strives to create an environment where people can develop their skills and are empowered to lead self-determined lives. Lynn works with Mariam, who is a very bright, yet shy, young woman from South America; she was born with Cerebral Palsy. One of the biggest barriers for Mariam is communication; she uses a Dynavox to communicate. The outside world tends to look past Mariam’s intelligence due to her inability to speak. Many people are not familiar with a Dynavox or are in too much of a hurry to allow her the time to communicate for herself. Lynn supports Mariam to use her Dynavox when communicating with professionals, doctors and other providers. Lynn role models and educates others to talk directly with Mariam and treat Mariam as a capable person.

Because of her limited communication, Mariam tends to be shy; it can be difficult for her to make friends. Lynn recognized an opportunity for Mariam at her Mosque that she attends on a regular basis. Lynn provided lots of encouragement for Mariam to try reaching out to others in her Mosque, one person at a time. Mariam not only increased her direct connections, but decided to share more of herself by giving a presentation in front of the entire Mosque about acceptance and the value of focusing on abilities not disabilities. Lynn assists Mariam in expanding her network by open communication. Mariam has been looking for a new job for about two years but has struggled with talking about her disability with employers. Lynn has supported Mariam in answering questions in her Dynavox for an upcoming job interview. Mariam was able to write an email to a prospective employer asking for the interview questions early and also letting them know that “intellectually I understand everything that is said to me and am much attuned to my world around me, I just communicate with my device.”

Mariam and Lynn are a formidable team. They are always trying to come up with ideas to help Mariam gain more independence and have a voice, such as when Mariam had a fall and EMS came to her home. She was unable to answer their basic questions as she was unable to use her Dynavox. After the incident, Mariam and Lynn made emergency response books to assure Mariam’s preferences for treatment and her religious beliefs are readily available. Lynn is a fierce advocate! She has created an environment that has allowed Mariam to grow and become more independence. She has supported Mariam in managing her own social security benefits and paying her bills instead of the rep-payee that she has had for several years. Mariam has gained confidence and become a strong advocate for herself; this is, in part a reflection of the supports that Lynn provides.

Donna Sanderson ARRM Cares Award Winner

Donna Sanderson

Eagan, MN
41 Years of Service

Donna has been a prime example of integrity since she began with our organization in 1978. In that time, she has developed close relationships with all individuals we support. She knows JA so well she can provide support on many levels, even when JA has extreme challenges in attempting to communicate his needs. JA has a history of a chronic, serious GI condition. On one occasion, because of Donna’s in-depth knowledge of each person she supports, she noticed JA’s expression of pain paired with one subtle telltale symptom of a problem with this extremely serious GI condition. Without hesitation Donna reported the issue to the RN and Program Manager as she raced JA to the emergency room. Because Donna was so familiar with the way JA communicated and expressed himself, and because she was able to calmly pay attention to detail amidst the chaos of a busy morning, she was key in avoiding a serious health crisis for JA. This standard of attention, combined with Donna's dedication to understanding the expression and needs of each person she supports define the excellent professionalism displayed by the best in the field.

Donna has developed an important and fruitful relationship with persons served and their families over the last 40 years. She has grown an especially strong relationship with LD and her family. LD loves regularly spending time with her family – mom, dad and sister. However, ever since her brother moved to California it has been difficult for LD to be with him. LD also is incredibly fond of all things Disney. Donna had an incredible idea to combine these two wishes and with support of LD’s family, she planned a trip for LD to go to California for the very first time, to see her brother, and even to meet Micky Mouse in person during a dream visit to Disneyland. Donna’s dedication provided LD an essential part of living with dignity and opportunity – being part of her own family in a fun, inclusive setting. Donna was there providing unobstructive support to LD throughout the entire trip, allowing LD to enjoy an experience that was uniquely shaped to her personality and goals. Because of Donna’s creative and determined planning, LD accessed travel, cross-country family gatherings, and an adventure that fulfilled one of LD’s greatest dreams.

Last summer LD spent months in the hospital receiving very intense surgery and recovery treatments for cancer. It was a challenging and emotionally debilitating time in LD’s life and in the lives of all those who love and support her. As LD was recovering, Donna was a steadfast presence by her side. When LD’s family had to leave the hospital for other obligations, Donna was there with LD without hesitation. Even while being there for LD, Donna also miraculously covered all required duties for her shifts at the home. Because the experience with this medical crisis was so challenging and because it exacerbated anxiety around any medical treatment, LD became even more resistant and fearful of medical appointments. Over the years of being with each other at the home, Donna has patiently and compassionately developed a relationship of trust and comfort with LD. Donna has a deep understanding of LD’s personality and respect for LD’s needs and choices. With these needs and wishes in mind, Donna developed care practices for LD that now help her stay calm and brave when attending essential medical appointments. LD has just recently received confirmation that she is officially a cancer survivor.

Award Criteria

DSPs are nominated who represent the ideal skills and values below, which not only makes them valuable employees but also highly talented and successful in supporting people to reach their goals:

  • Professional Integrity:  supporting persons served while maintaining high standards to benefit persons served, co-workers, and the organization
  • Networking Supports: advocating to connect persons served with natural support systems
  • Creative, Innovative, Person Centered Approaches to Services: personalizing services, demonstrating an ability to develop and implement new approaches and sharing successful results

Nomination Guidelines

Nominees must meet the criteria below to be considered. All nominations are printed for event attendees and may be shared publicly by ARRM. Please ensure that submissions are professionally written and do not include confidential information. Nominations are subject to editing by the selection committee for length, consistency, clarity, and grammar.
Employees eligible for nomination meet the following criteria:

  • An agency must be an ARRM Member to submit a nomination
  • Staff must do direct care for at least 75 percent of their total job
  • Each agency may nominate up to 2 percent of their staff who provide direct care to persons served
  • One nominee per form – no group nominations (i.e., please don't nominate an entire program site)
  • Two hundred (200) word limit for each of the submission categories – additional words will be edited prior to consideration
  • Submit a photo with the nomination

2019 nominations were due by March 31. ARRM Members may submit nominations for the 2020 awards beginning today.


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The nomination period for 2019 awards are now closed. ARRM members may begin nominating DSPs for the 2020 ARRM Cares Award. ARRM Members click below to begin your nominations.

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