Nationwide "calling card" for Courage Centerby Greta Cunningham, Minnesota Public Radio
Courage Cards are going nationwide this year. You've probably seen them in stores or perhaps received them in the mail this holiday season. Courage Cards have been a Minnesota tradition for almost 50 years.
St. Paul, Minn. — The proceeds from the sale of the cards helps fund programs at the Golden Valley-based Courage Center. The organization is a nonprofit rehabilitation center aimed at helping people with disabilities live more independently.
Teacher and artist LouAnn Hoppe of White Bear Lake was suffering from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis for years, before she received some relief for her muscle and joint pain at a Courage rehabilitation center.
"Many many days, in fact most of the time, I would be in pain throughout most of my body," Hoppe said. "To come out here and relax in the warm water and in the friendly counsel of all the people who came here -- being accepted here -- it made me feel better not only physically but emotionally. So it was very useful to me."
At the St. Croix facility where Hoppe works out, there's a handicapped-accessible pool with water heated to 92 degrees. This is just one of five Courage Centers where people with disabilities can get therapy.
People with spinal cord or brain injuries have been receiving treatment at the centers since 1928. The organization also helps people like LouAnn Hoppe with "invisible disabilities," such as arthritis, hearing loss and heart conditions.
Many Courage Center clients have insurance that pays for their treatments. Marketing Director Wayne Mikos said for others, the money raised by the sale of Courage Cards allows them to have access to the services.
"Many of our clients are on medical assistance, so there are limitations to what the actual fee for service is. That's why the sale of Courage Cards and our other philanthropic programs are so important," Mikos said.
Besides helping to pay for programs, the cards are a way for artists with disabilities to get exposure. In the past, Courage Center has included biographies on the back of the cards outlining the artists' disabilities and challenges.
Product Manager Laura Brooks said the artists appreciate the support, but Courage Center no longer stresses their disability.
"Over the years we've realized that artists don't want to be labeled, just like anyone else," said Brooks. "It's very important for the artists to be appreciated for their artwork, not because they have a disability. We are all on a level playing field, and art is art."
Hundreds of artists submit their work. Those chosen are paid and sign a licensing agreement. LouAnn Hoppe said the selection is an honor.
"Actually, it took some courage for me to send it to Courage, because I wasn't sure," Hoppe said. "So I just submitted it. When they sent me a letter saying I had been selected I actually sat down and cried. I was so excited."
Hoppe submitted her artwork because she wanted to give something back to the organization that helped her manage her pain. Three of her paintings have been selected to become cards.
This year her work, Northern Lights, is featured on a card. It's a painting of the bright Northern Lights shining in a dark sky near snow-covered pine trees. Hoppe said it's a vision from her childhood.
"I remember when we were kids we would go out in the evening, and there was a little creek that ran by our farm. We would lay on our backs on the ice and look at the Northern Lights. It was so clear in my head that I could see it and paint it," said Hoppe.
Minnesota nature scenes and cityscapes are the biggest-selling Courage Cards. To capture a wider audience, Courage Center has also commissioned cards depicting the skylines of New York City and Chicago.
Courage Cards raise about $250,000 during the holiday season. So far they've received orders from 47 states.
- Morning Edition, 12/19/2006, 7:25 a.m.