Jan 5, 2017

Bakken Invitation Award Recipients Span the Globe in 2016

Annual award honors people who give back to their communities after receiving life-saving medical devices.

Minneapolis – January 5, 2017 From Beijing, China to Bloomington, Minnesota, ordinary people are doing remarkable things to help others in their communities. The Medtronic Foundation is recognizing 15 of them with this year’s Bakken Invitation Awards.

The Bakken Invitation npromotes access to healthcare by honoring people from all over the world who have overcome health challenges with the help of medical devices and who are now giving back to their communities through charitable service and volunteerism.

This year’s recipients are from eight countries (United States, Brazil, China, Italy, South Africa, Ukraine, Sweden and Spain). Their award will include an invitation to nominate a charity of their choice for a $20,000 grant from Medtronic Foundation to continue their community work. (Learn more about all of the 2016 recipients).

Recipients include R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis, Minn., who suffered a heart attack while cross country skiing in 2014. He received six stents to open critical arteries and help restore proper heart function. Rybak is now president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation and a member of the leadership council of Generation Next, a coalition of groups dedicated to closing achievement and opportunity gaps for young people of color.  

“Because of my extra life, I was able to lead STEP-UP, a summer jobs program that has put more than 18,000 Minneapolis youth to work and equipped children of color with better care, improved academic help and new opportunities for post-secondary degree attainment and employment,” Rybak said. “I’m grateful for the chance to live and continue my life’s mission of creating racial equality in our community.”

Yongkuan Shen of Nanjing, China, will use his award to help raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease, through the Chinese Red Cross Foundation. After retiring from the Chinese military, the former pilot was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; the tremors grew so bad he could no longer live on his own. But after receiving deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy, he was able to return to a normal life. 

“The majority of my life, I have served the people of China,” Shen said. “Most people with Parkinson’s disease are not aware of DBS therapy, so I use my extra life to encourage patients and their families to seek effective symptom treatment.”

The Medtronic Foundation created the Bakken Invitation Award in 2013 to further the community-minded vision of Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken, who has devoted his life to helping others.  Bakken has a pacemaker, insulin pump and several heart stents, which he says have given him ten years of “extra life” to sustain substantial community involvement. He regularly asked medical device recipients “what are you doing with your extra life?”

Bakken will present each recipient with their award at an event in Hawaii in January of 2017. Honorees will participate in community service projects during the week and learn how to inspire others to “live on, give on.” Follow their journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Now in its fourth year, the Bakken Invitation Award has honored 47 individuals and invested close to $1 million to support their ongoing community and volunteer work.

(Watch a video about the Bakken Invitation). Applications are already open for the 2017 Bakken Invitation Awards (Learn more).