My daughter, Katherine Vala, 32, Plymouth

Nominated by Lisa Vala, 59, Plymouth

The story:

Work is life for my daughter, Katherine. She had the tenacity to earn an associate's degree in accounting and loves her two part-time accounting clerk jobs. Katherine is legally blind and has an anxiety disorder. I am proud every day as she goes to work and does her best, despite challenges and roadblocks thrown her way by glitches in the technology. As a blind person, she uses a screen reader to access her computer. With this assistive technology, she navigates Microsoft Office applications, Google Docs and Quickbooks, with her fingers flying. She has the memory capacity of two people, which is a great compensatory tool to her limited vision. Katherine's success is due in large part to the supports she receives from her patient, problem-solving assistive technology trainer, Debbie Bock, who is also blind, and her boss, Liz Rowe, who constantly adapts spreadsheets and other work tasks so Katherine can access them.

The late Riggins Larson, 8, Minnetonka

Nominated by Maureen Nelson, 63, Chanhassen

The story:

My inspiration is a boy who is no longer with us. His name is Riggins, and he was born with a rare disorder in 2011. He died in 2019. His short life was filled with struggles but, oh, the joy he had was infectious. He was unable to walk, talk or eat on his own, but he was perfect. He inspired me to retire early and become his personal care assistant. We would pack up his wheelchair and feeding tube and find different paths to explore. He would turn and smile at every person who walked by. His actions led many strangers to walk away with a lift in their step. Even with his many stays in the hospital, he had a smile for every doctor, nurse, housekeeper and clergy member who walked in the room. Kids and adults were drawn to him. While shopping, they would stop and say hello and he would grin and wave his arms with delight. Riggins inspired me to get out of my comfort zone. I took my first college class at 63. He continues to inspire me — to notice those who are often unnoticeable and to find the good in this mixed-up world. Riggins is my grandson. Although he is no longer here, the memories of his joy through pain, joy of the simple things and his love for others will be an inspiration to me for the rest of my days. I thank God for bringing this sweet boy into my life.

Donna Brandell, 68, Andover

Nominated by Jessica Hamel, 47, Minnetonka

The story:

Donna has logged more than 20,500 volunteer hours at Allina Health's Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute-Mercy Hospital since 2010. That's the equivalent of 854 days! Donna was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery in 2009. She credits the people of Courage Kenny for getting her where she is today, and she has given back to them and the people they serve in countless ways. Donna assists with speech therapy, her compassion and patience shining through as she interacts with patients, making them feel more confident and comfortable. She also creates festive and encouraging window decorations, designs inspirational magnets for group therapy attendees and helps with administrative support tasks and housekeeping. Donna and her daughter created Gray Matter Greetings, a line of cards benefiting brain tumor research. Donna received the 2022 Allina Health Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Susan Hodder Volunteer of Excellence Award. But she isn't just a volunteer. She's a central member of the team.