SPAN 50th anniversary attracts big crowd, educates
People of all ages from across the community and beyond showed up in sizeable crowds to the St. Paul Abilities Network (SPAN) building for the group’s 50th anniversary barbecue on July 4.
The event featured food, entertainment, and games, along with a number of exhibits set up in the gymnasium, featuring the organization’s history, and the programs that are run through SPAN and its residences.
“The ‘60s was a different time, there were virtually no supports of any kind for people with disabilities. Over the last five decades we’ve gone from small beginnings to this large, successful institution,” said Terry Holmgren, chair of the SPAN Board of Directors, and association president, in a speech to guests.
“We take great care and pride in what we do for the community, and say thank you to St. Paul for your support.”
County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham said he was surprised by SPAN’s scale, and how many programs are associated with it.
“This is a great celebration. SPAN takes stigmatized people and gives them value in the community. I looked at the agencies in the gym on display, and it’s amazing to see the depth of the programs here.”
Westlock-St. Paul MP Brian Storseth congratulated members, staff, and the board for their commitment in progressing SPAN to where it is today.
“Fifty years ago, I don’t think the founders would have been able to guess what it has become today. I am thankful and grateful for SPAN leading us into the next 50 years,” he said.
After his speech, Storseth presented SPAN CEO Tim Bear and Holmgren with a commemorative 50th anniversary scroll.
While checking out a timeline featuring old news posts and information put up on the wall in the gymnasium, Mayor Glenn Andersen said, “You have to wonder at how much St. Paul changed how it helps disabled people over time. There’s a contrast now to how we work with them, compared to 50 years ago.”
He added, “There’s a lot of compassion and acceptance here.”
Kassandra Sibley, a resident with SPAN said, “I think the collage we made is my favourite part. I just helped a little bit. I’m pretty impressed with all the guests, it’s a really busy day for us.”
Another resident, Kate Polzin, was surprised and pleased with the day also.
“It’s been a great day, thank goodness. I think everyone is having a good time today. My favourite part is being in St. Paul, I really like being in St. Paul in general,” she said, adding, “I enjoyed the lunch, and am excited for the dinner tonight. I am happy to see all these guests . . . I don’t know their names, but it’s good to see them.”