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Making a difference

Red Wing City Council members and an audience at City Hall gave a standing ovation to James Chalmers (second from left) as he accepts the 2015 Amos Owen Award on Monday night. Mayor Dan Bender (left), Human Rights Commission Chairman Scott Bender and Council President Dean Hove look on. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)

James Chalmers doesn’t do his extensive work in the community — from coaching Special Olympics and helping the Red Wing football team to serving his church — for the accolades.

But on Monday night, City Hall echoed with applause as Chalmers was named the 2015 Amos Owen Award recipient.

Human Rights Commission Chairman Scott Bender listed Chalmers’ many contributions and accomplishments, including coaching Special Olympics for 23 years, working with the Red Wing High School football team and running the Twin Cities marathon five times, raising awareness of people with disabilities and challenges.

“As busy as all of these keep him, the overriding and most important thing about James is his passion for people, especially people with intellectual challenges, and their basic human rights,” Bender said.

Chalmers was born with cri du chat syndrome.

“One of my goals is to bring people with intellectual disabilities and people with non-challenges together so it can be a world where being different can make a difference in everyone’s life,” Chalmers said.

This is the second year the Amos Owen Award has been given on Chief Red Wing Day. The award is named for a Prairie Island Mdewakanton elder and spiritual leader who worked to promote human rights.

“James is a shining example in the struggle for rights and acceptable of persons with intellectual differences and disabilities,” Bender said Monday.

After a standing ovation, Chalmers thanked the commission for the honor.

“I don’t do this for awards or recognition, but it’s very much appreciated when people recognize the hard work someone does,” he said.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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