Act of Excellence for Serving the Traveler and Trucker

Tom Heinz, co-founder and president of Coffee Cup Fuel Stops & Convenience Stores, Inc., has made a career of providing service to travelers and truckers alike. For his achievements, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators recently presented Heinz with the 2017 Hall of Fame Award.

The award recognizes individuals for notable participation in their communities, as well as in the truck stop and travel plaza industry. Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and CEO, made the presentation at the association’s keynote luncheon in Savannah, Ga., in January. Association leaders said Heinz demonstrated throughout his career a willingness to be involved with the industry and in their communities. “Tom Heinz has demonstrated his desire to help others in our industry but also his service to community. He is a true example of a strategic, compassionate leader,” said Don Quinn, president of Sapp Bros. Travel Centers and NATSO’s 2017 Chairman of the Board.

“The Hall of Fame award is meant to recognize members who serve as a source of pride for the travel plaza and truck stop industry, and Tom most certainly does,” Mullings said. “Our industry, NATSO’s members, and so many more have benefited from Tom’s generous wisdom and guidance. He truly embodies all that the Hall of Fame Award stands for and I am honored to present him with it.” Besides his service with NATSO,

Heinz is active in the South Dakota Petroleum Association and is on the board of the St. Christopher Fund, which supports professional drivers in need. Heinz said the St. Christopher Fund is a lifeline, some temporary support to help truckers get through difficult financial times. He said it is important for the drivers to know they have such a lifeline if an emergency arises.

The first Coffee Cup opened in 1981 in Steele, N.D. The corporation now has locations in South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming, with the main office in Sioux Falls, S.D

2017 South Dakota Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Honorees this year are James W. Abbott, Vermillion, SD (Education); Andrew Bogue, Rapid City, SD (Law); Jeff Broin, Dell Rapids, SD (Agriculture); Ernest Carlsen, Sioux Falls, SD (Business); Niels Hansen, Brookings, SD (Agriculture); Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Sioux Falls, SD (Professional); Kelby Krabbenhoft, Sioux Falls, SD (Medical Field); Jeff Scherschligt, Sioux Falls, SD (Business); Thomas Shortbull, Rapid City, SD (Education); and Governor Harvey Wollman, Frankfort, SD (Political). Their biographies are included.

The Honors Ceremony will be held in Chamberlain, SD on September 8 and 9 and is open to the public. Tickets will go on sale June 1, and can be purchased on the Hall of Fame website at or by calling the Hall at 605.234.4216.

Mary Jo Wegner Aboretum Receives Act of Excellence

See all the Acts of Excellence on the Champions for Excellence Network

Mary Jo Wegner was a woman of passionate and dedicated knowledge for the arts and culture in Sioux Falls. She also along with her husband Karl was instrumental to the development of a four year medical school at the University of South Dakota. The Karl and Mary Jo Wegner Health Science Information was established through this endeavor.

Mary Jo practiced the art and science of giving back to her community through a number of board memberships and hands on planning for the beauty of the arts and the environment that involved the South Dakota Symphony, the Center for Western Studies and the Sioux Falls Arts Council to name a few of the many.

Because of her many talents and passions with people, the arts and her community, the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historic Site was dedicated to her. On their website the following describes her vision and contributions: “A dream, gently tucked away on the east side of Sioux Falls: When Mary Jo Wegner first walked this serene 145-acre plot, she found a historic wonder blossoming with colorful remnants, stone quarries, rail lines, building foundations, and more. At that moment in her vivid imagination, something magical began to grow. The city of Falls recognized the site’s historic and cultural relevance. They planted the seed. It was Mary Jo, and dreamers like her, who nurtured the seed into the grand vision which inspires this preservation effort. The Arboretum will educate people of all ages on the natural history of our area, and provide economic development as Sioux Falls becomes an even more attractive place to live and work.”



Young Inventor of School Binder Strap Receives Act of Excellence

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and a Sioux Falls sixth grader really, really needed a way to carry the three-ring binder that held her middle-school books and papers.
Allie Weber, who celebrated her 12th birthday on May 4 and who already has earned quite a reputation as an inventor, went to work on that problem last fall when she learned that Edison Middle School doesn’t let students carry backpacks into classrooms. Since most students at the school carried their books and papers in large three-ring binders that zip shut, Allie found a way to fit her binder with straps from an old backpack.
The original binder only had one flimsy strap, and Allie said that wasn’t good for posture and wasn’t sturdy enough for extended use. She did online research and learned that carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder is especially bad for a young, still-developing spine. So she took straps from an old backpack and created a two-shoulder removable strap for the binder. According to the Argus Leader, she calls the invention the “Got Your Back Binder Strap.’’
When she wears the binder with the straps she created, the loaded binder rests easily against her back. She told the newspaper, “I just figured out how to make a binder into a backpack without breaking school rules.’’
Chiropractor Trent Gusso, who reviewed Allie’s proposed design, told the Argus Leader that each year South Dakota chiropractors promote the correct way to wear backpacks and the awareness that too-heavy packs can cause problems for children. He said Allie’s design correctly distributes the binder’s weight on both shoulders.
Allie’s mother, Kara, is understandably proud of her daughter’s creativity.
“Allie is a prolific inventor and has a patent pending invention called the Frost Stopper, for which she won an invention competition last year,’’ Kara Weber said. “This year she has entered five online competitions for various inventions and innovations. She has gotten a runner-up and an honorable mention for two. Two more will be announced in June.’’
Kara Weber said Allie has used her invented binder all year.
“All of her friends want one,’’ she said. “It broke down once eight months in, so she had to do a grommet upgrade. The company that made the binder she designed her strap around is looking into the possibility of producing it.’’