Resource Center

ARRM Cares

An Opportunity to Recognize Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

The ARRM Cares Award was established to recognize professionals from ARRM members who provide direct care and demonstrate a commitment to quality services. ARRM supports and encourages our members to acknowledge their employees’ dedication and service through this award process. All nominees are recognized by ARRM and their employers as the top our field has to offer, while six winners are selected each year who represent outstanding and extraordinary dedication, innovation and skill. Winners receive a $1,000 award and are celebrated in a special ceremony. The 2023 Nomination Process is now open. Nominations must be received by 5 pm on May 12, 2023.

Nominate Now

DSPs are nominated who represent the ideal skills and values below, which not only makes them valuable employees but also highly talented and successful in supporting people to reach their goals:

  • Professional Integrity: supporting persons served while maintaining high standards to benefit persons served, co-workers, and the organization
  • Networking Supports: advocating to connect persons served with natural support systems
  • Creative, Innovative, Person Centered Approaches to Services: personalizing services, demonstrating an ability to develop and implement new approaches and sharing successful results

Nominees must meet the criteria below to be considered. All nominations are printed for event attendees and may be shared publicly by ARRM. Please ensure that submissions are professionally written and do not include confidential information. Nominations are subject to editing by the selection committee for length, consistency, clarity, and grammar.

Employees eligible for nomination meet the following criteria:

  • An agency must be an ARRM Member to submit a nomination
  • Staff must do direct care for at least 75 percent of their total job
  • Each agency may nominate up to 2 percent of their staff who provide direct care to persons served (maximum number of nominations per organization is 8)
  • One nominee per form – no group nominations (i.e., please don't nominate an entire program site)
  • Two hundred (200) word limit for each of the submission categories – additional words will be edited prior to consideration
  • Submit a photo with the nomination

ARRM Cares Award logo

Sarah Clay

ARRM Cares Award Winner
5 Years of Service

Sarah oversees a home for women with mental health concerns, but has also been supporting another home until we hire
managers, and she's been taking a person who lives at a third home to radiation therapy twice weekly. Sarah supports
anyone she is able to, keeping their best interests in mind and maintaining high standards. When supporting another
program, she reached out to a guardian to find out more about someone's history so she could understand her better.
When another woman needed behavioral supports, Sarah advocated until she received that service, and when that
woman was able to refrain from hurting herself for a week, Sarah took her out for something special. Her supervisor
marvels: "Sarah doesn't stop until she has done what she said she would do"¦.She has the attitude of "˜there are no
bounds to what I am going to do to help this person.'" One more example: She initiated learning the basics of DBT when
she realized it would help the women at her main home and she teaches DBT skills to her staff. She has even stuck her
head in ice water when encouraging a highly stressed woman to do the same to help her self-regulate.


ARRM Cares Award Winner
30 Years of Service

Julie has a unique role as a COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) who also provides direct support. She uses her skills to ensure that people have the right equipment "standers", walkers, wheelchairs, augmentative communication, and adaptive eating equipment to ensure independence. She assesses needs then writes up exercises, range of motion plans, and positioning for other DSPs to implement. Julie works with people to ensure that she understands what their unique needs are and works closely with the person and their team.

What makes the difference is that she does the daily care such as exercises, bathing, mealtimes, and attending appointments directly so she understands what is needed so that it makes an immense difference in people's lives. Julie understands when someone needs to be referred to PT, OT, and SLP vs when she can make changes using her own tools to fix, sew, or adapt on her own. Julie advocates strongly for ensuring that people have a high-quality life while doing everything possible to achieve those outcomes. With a positive attitude, she jumps to work to do extra items that aren't asked of her like planning parties, assisting with vacations, and blowing leaves by the door.

Photo of Jenny Krahn

ARRM Cares Award Winner
35 Years of Service

As a supervisor and Direct Service Professional (DSP) in two homes, Denise strives to achieve the highest standards for both her co-workers, and the people who live in her homes. Denise has the ability to connect with people of all walks of life, cultures, and age groups. Creating bonds with the people she works with has increased her ability to work as a team member and accomplish the goals of the people we serve. Denise has shown the ability to train and support her coworkers in a manner that is direct and professional. Denise has made it a priority to know the rules and practices delineated in the PFF Employee Handbook. She applies them fairly, using examples and language co-works can relate to. For example, Denise enforces PFF's policy of submission of vacation requests two weeks before the requested time off. When she receives a request as per policy, she will work tirelessly, even in this staffing crisis, to grant vacation time. She will often work the requested shifts off herself, while meeting the job duties assigned her as a supervisor. Denise has developed strong bonds with the families and guardians of the people who live in the homes she supervises. She supports them through communicating not only as required with families and guardians, but just generally "touching base" , too. Should a person served need to visit the Mayo Clinic, Denise will work with PFF's Administrator to make sure there is a staff person from that client's home present at all times for the families' peace of mind, and to ensure recommendations and prescribed instructions from doctors are shared accurately with PFF's nurse. If someone wants to go on a home visit, but needs to be catheterized daily, Denise will arrange for a staff, or go herself, to the family's home, if possible, to carry out the procedure. She supports the people she serves, her co-workers, and PFF with professionalism, always bearing in mind PFF's mission: Protecting, supporting and empowering people to pursue an authentic life of purpose and fulfillment.

Headshot of Sillah Salimatu

ARRM Cares Award Winner
13 Years of Service

In 2013, Michelle was tasked with implementing supports for a man with severe autism and PICA disorders, after he needed emergency placement. He had been living in a family foster care setting that was losing it's license due to their neglect of this individual's needs. On paper, his case was intimidating enough to give even the most seasoned DSP pause for concern about their ability to meet his needs and keep him safe. Michelle took on this challenge and was the catalyst for one of the most remarkable improvements in the quality of life for an individual that I've ever witnessed. She lobbied the county for additional funds to provide needed 1:1 staffing hours, trained staff to support him according to his unique needs and held them accountable when they didn't. She researched PICA and formalized procedures for staff to take in order to mitigate his ability to swallow non-nutritive items, drastically reducing the frequency of ER trips and medical complications. The consensus upon his admission was that it would likely be a short-term, temporary placement and that he would need a more restrictive setting to keep him safe. Well, because of Michelle, he's been able to enjoy the past 9 years of his life in a safe, supportive environment, surrounded by people who know what he needs and how to provide it. Sadly, this individual was recently diagnosed with cancer, and Michelle has been the one leading his care team and making sure the treatment orders are being followed. Driving him an hour away for chemo/oncology appts, managing and monitoring his medications/symptoms/side effects are all in a days work for Michelle. All while she oversees the supports of 3 other individuals in the home. She's not here for the money or recognition and would likely be annoyed for even being nominated, but my word, what a different world this would be if we had substantially more people like her in it.

Rising Star Award Winner
1.5 Years of Service

Elise is one of those DSP's you wish you could clone 10 times over! Elise doesn't see limitations. She sees possibilities. Elise works with a woman who is non-verbal and can be physically aggressive. Communication can be challenging. But, when you watch the two interacting with each other, you would never guess. Elise doesn't get intimidated by a challenge. Once, while Elise was driving, her client tried to jump out of her moving car. Although terrifying, nobody was hurt. This incident did not deter Elise from driving and going out in the community on their next shift together. She focuses on the future and doesn't dwell on the past. Each day is a new day. Her dedication to her client, even in uncomfortable situations, is commendable. She continues to show up to each shift with a sunny demeanor- something that is welcomed by the woman she works with.


Rising Star Award Winner
3 Years of Service

At the forefront of every decision that Jackie makes are the needs of the individuals she supports and the organization of which she is employed. She goes above and beyond to provide person-centered services and is an integral part of the team. Jackie makes sure that she provides each person that she supports with the opportunity to participate in developing the meal plan, grocery shop for items and then the meal prep. She takes into consideration the dietary needs of not only the individuals supported but of the staff working each evening so everyone may participate in a family style meal. Jackie recently re-vamped the menus at the program and plans the meals based off the input of the individuals and the local stores ads which has been extremely cost-saving to our organization.