The Wisconsin Council on Physical Disabilities (CPD) created the Dan Johnson Advocacy Award in memory of Dan and his many accomplishments to recognize people with physical disabilities who are outstanding advocates. The award is aimed at recognizing excellence in advocacy.
Individuals nominated should be people with physical disabilities who advocate for people with physical disabilities and have had a positive impact on federal or state legislation, public policy, or programs that affect people with disabilities in Wisconsin. The advocacy work conducted should exceed normal expectations of regular advocacy practice and should be inclusive and respectful of the values and independence of those who are affected by it.
Full award criteria (PDF)
Nomination application (PDF)
About the Dan Johnson Advocacy Award
One of Dan's many accomplishments was establishing CPD, a governor-appointed council, established in state statue, solely focused on issues for people with physical disabilities. It is the only physical disabilities council in the country.
During Dan's 36 years of service to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, he was an influential advocate for people with physical disabilities. This award is in memory of Dan and his many accomplishments and was created to recognize people with physical disabilities who are outstanding advocates.
The Dan Johnson Advocacy Award is aimed at recognizing excellence in advocacy, and public policy change for people with physical disabilities, rather than disability advocacy. Individuals nominated should be people with physical disabilities who advocate for people with physical disabilities and have had a positive impact on federal or state legislation, public policy, or programs that affect people with disabilities in Wisconsin. The advocacy work conducted should exceed normal expectations of regular advocacy practice and should be inclusive and respectful of the values and independence of those who are affected by it.
Dan Johnson Advocacy Award Ceremony 2023
This year's award ceremony was held on October 4, 2023, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Madison East during the United Voices: Engage for Change Summit. Meet the four award recipients:
Christie Carter is a generous and compassionate person with Cerebral Palsy. She is currently the Aging and Disability Coordinator for the Milwaukee LGBT Center. Christie is part of both the LGBTQ+ and disability communities. She uses her personal experiences in both groups to educate policymakers and advocate for the people she works with every day.
Christie has dedicated her time to educating others in various capacities but is most passionate about sharing what she knows from personal and shared experiences with others.
Christie has developed several presentations on housing, social security, advocacy and much more that help older adults and people with physical disabilities live better-quality lives and more to fully participate in the community. Christie has also served as panelist for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in 2022. She has also participated in panels on cultural competency.
She advocates for policy change related to the caregiving crisis and other issues affecting people with disabilities. Most recently she had an article published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the current caregiver crisis and how it affects the disability and LGBTQ+ communities.
Christie graduated from UW-Whitewater where she obtained her master’s degree in education and instructional design and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teaching. She does everything she can to help others succeed. Her persistence and positive attitude are illustrated by her great success in everything she does. She sets an example for everyone.
Don Christensen has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He had previously worked with severely troubled youth through a program to expose them to the natural world. As his disability progressed, Don created a much-needed source of information to recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities by developing A Far Cry website. The website provides contacts for outdoor experiences for hunting, fishing, and accessible places in the United States and beyond.
There is a tab for accessible equipment and much more. A very important part of the website is Don sharing his own story which chronicles the advancing of his MS and adapting to it. Through his website, Don has helped several persons with disabilities realize their opportunities.
For those living in the city, it may be difficult to understand how the connection to the outdoors runs so deep into the soul of rural individuals. A Far Cry provides examples to people with disabilities that they do not have to give up on activities they love because of their disability. Fishing Has No Boundaries is an example of how an idea from Northern Wisconsin which began in 1988 can turn into a nationwide organization. With some promotion, A Far Cry website can reach a worldwide audience.
Nearly 30 years since his diagnosis, Don Christensen continues to fight for more. Currently quadriplegic, he scheduled the indigo Track Chair through a WisTech loan for a September Bear Hunt. Don works on his physical therapy daily never giving up. He uses a standing device regularly and researched adapting the stander to a glider to attempt to work his legs and hands together.
Stacy Ellingen is an advocate and person with a physical disability. Stacy is committed to making lives better for people of all abilities. She helped develop and manage the Self Determination Network which strongly advocates for people with disabilities. Through the Self Determination Network, she educates individuals, families, and others about issues affecting people with disabilities.
Stacy serves on the Long-Term Care Advisory Council and Survival Coalition, where she brings personal experience to addressing the caregiver shortage. Stacy meets with policymakers on how the caregiver crisis impacts people of all abilities and how she can help people with all abilities live the most productive and independent life possible. She has sent letters to the editor, met with legislators and state agency staff, appeared at press events, and shared her story with the media. She also has her own blog online called Stewing with Stacy.
Stacy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and has tremendous determination. She is a go-getter, and she never lets anything stop her. She is always encouraging others.
Jennifer Neugart is a grassroots organizer and a current staff member for the Wisconsin Board for People with Disabilities. Jennifer has a physical disability herself but has never let that stop her. She is very active in the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition which is a non-partisan group that ensures people of all abilities can fully participate in the voting process.
In addition, Jennifer served as a facilitator for the Wisconsin Partners in Policymaking program. Wisconsin Partners in Policymaking is a six-session advocacy and systems change training program designed to teach you how to work with legislators and communities on policies and initiatives that will support the full participation and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all aspects of life. Partners is a free program for adults with developmental disabilities and family members of children and youth with developmental disabilities ages birth to 21.
In addition, Jennifer was involved in several other projects, such providing program management for several transition-related grant projects. She led the Model Communities Community Integration Project, assisted with projects relating to Self-Directed Supports, and Self-Determination and Integrated Employment projects. She routinely assists with project training guilds and project deliverables that positively impact the independent self-determination and quality of life for people of all abilities throughout Wisconsin.
Jennifer received her master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Wisconsin Stout and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Elementary Education.
About Dan Johnson
Dan Johnson loved life and lived it to the fullest. Dan was one of many individuals who have had their lives turned upside down by an injury. Dan was much more than an advocate who possessed courage and unwavering persistence; he was generous, kind, compassionate, wise, funny, and gentle. His life was full of colleagues, friends, and family. He always had his work cell phone on, because someone might need his mentoring skills.
Among his many accomplishments, he treasured the family he created as a foster parent and adoptive dad. In his wife Kathy, he found someone who shared his passion for family and adventure. He loved camping, raising kids, being a soccer dad, and driving. He was a great son, brother, cousin, uncle, friend, husband, father, and grandfather.
Doug Nelson, former president and chief executive officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, now retired, met and became good friends with Dan during Nelson’s time as the deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services. Nelson wrote, “I have never known a finer human being, or a friend I was prouder to have, than Dan Johnson.” Learn more about Dan. (PDF)
Picture description: Dan Johnson with his wife Kathy
Picture description: Dan wearing sunglasses surrounded by six smiling children
Picture description: Dan Johnson and Ed Roberts II
Picture description: Dan Johnson at a park
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