Granddaughter Finley, 8, Hudson, Wis.
Nominated by Janelle Sorenson, 52, Plymouth
Finley was born with Spina Bifida, bilateral club feet and hydrocephalus. In her first weeks of life, she had two surgeries, one to close the hole in her spine and the other to insert a shunt. After the second surgery, she developed a seizure disorder. Even with all these health issues, medical appointments, medications and therapies, Finley is the most goodnatured third-grader, She loves learning, her friends and her family. And she loves being a big sister! She inspires me to be the best person/grandma I can be.
Barbara Hynes-Tomczyk, 73, Maple Grove
Nominated by Barbara Burchill, 71, Winona, Minn.
The story of Barbara Hynes-Tomczyk or, as her students called her, Ms. H-T, includes close family ties, marriage, child-rearing, teaching and counseling, writing (she's had a book published) and acting in and directing theater. But that resume could describe many people. What makes Barb so inspiring to me is that in doing all these things, she's powering through health issues that would make most of us wallow in self-pity. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself for a rotten cold or some aches and pains typical for women our age, I think about how Barb, like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps on going. Barb and I have been "besties" since we roomed together in college. Over the years, Barb has challenged me to push my limits, try new things, and seek out new adventures. Seeing Barb ride a motorcycle inspired me to learn to ride. Saying, "I'd love to try that someday ... " as we watched parasailers inspired me to take a deep breath and say, "OK, let's do it." Barb's love and respect for nature has inspired me to be more appreciative of the world. I'm grateful that she has invited me to be a part of her life.
Jovi Knutson, 37, St. Paul
Nominated by Kirk Knutson, 50, Minneapolis
I am inspired by my niece, Jovi, who was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July 2021. What inspires me about Jovi is that she has boundless positivity and an extraordinary zest for life despite such a difficult diagnosis. Jovi sometimes bikes from her house in St. Paul to her appointments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and near the end of summer, she biked all the way from St. Paul to Chicago, wearing her cutting-edge Optune device under her bike helmet along the way. In the fall, Jovi hopped off the bike and into a canoe and paddled down the Green River in Utah, sleeping outside on the riverbank, looking up at the sky, and marveling at the brightness of all the stars. The brightest star of all that night was down on Earth, snug in her sleeping bag.