Harold “Pepper” Roberts, a dedicated and entrepreneurial volunteer at American Lake Veterans Golf Course, and local filmmaker Kirsten Turk Nghiem, who created a seven-minute documentary about him, captured top honors during the 2010-2011 Brotherton Community Champions: Driving for Excellence competition.
Roberts and two other finalists were honored and the films about them were screened on May 26 as part of the Seattle International Film Festival events at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center. The winning film may be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFxVv4tFl3g.
The recognition as “Community Champion” included a $5,000 donation for the nonprofit organization Roberts founded to revitalize and support American Lake Veterans Golf Course. The facility, totally operated and maintained by volunteers, is believed to be the only course in the country designed specifically for wounded and disabled veterans.
Roberts said the money would be used to help build nine new holes designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus and his team at Nicklaus Design. Nicklaus donated design services for both the additional holes and to enhance the accessibility of the exiting nine holes. A campaign is under way to raise funds to cover construction costs.
Roberts, a veteran of the Korean War, has volunteered at American Lake Veterans Golf Course for more than nine years, donating more than 4,400 hours of his time. The retired school teacher founded the “Friends of American Lake Veterans Golf Course,” a registered 501(c)3 organization, in 2004 to assist with improvements, repairs, care, and maintenance of the course. He now serves as president emeritus.
In addition to teaching golf to wounded warriors and establishing the charitable fund-raising arm, Roberts has helped solicit countless donations and in-kind contributions for the construction of the Rehabilitation and Learning Center that opened last year.
Co-winner Kirsten Turk Nghiem has been a filmmaker for the past six years. The Northwest native said she is inspired by telling stories on film that have a heart-warming quality with which her audience can easily relate. In recognition of her work, she was awarded a prize package that included the Write Brothers Screenplay software suite plus tuition for a three-week course at TheFilmSchool.
In accepting the honor, Turk Nghiem was quick to acknowledge the documentary team for her winning “American Hero” tribute. They include Travis A. Sterner, cinematographer/editor; Dave Chick, composer; Lin Wicks, portraits; and her husband, David X. Nghiem, digital I.T./transportation, who is affectionately dubbed “manny” (“male nanny”) for the nanny-like services he provides to their child. Turk Nghiem is currently working on a feature length documentary/drama involving whale sharks.
About the Award
The Brotherton Community Champions: Driving for Excellence program (komonews.com/champions) was conceived in 2009 by Brad Brotherton, president of Brotherton Cadillac Buick GMC, in collaboration with Fisher Communications. Expressing disenchantment with the constant delivery of sad news stories, Brotherton approached Fisher’s general manager with the idea of a program featuring stories of good will.
Known as “Brotherton Community Champions,” the program is promoted on Fisher stations KOMO 4 TV, KOMO Newsradio AM 1000/97.7FM and KOMONews.com. Viewers and listeners are invited to nominate deserving citizens for recognition by describing their good deeds and how they are making a difference in their community. Audiences are invited to cast online votes to determine monthly champions, who are then paired with local filmmakers and directors who create brief documentaries. Those films are posted for a final round of voting to select an annual Champion.
The culminating event with Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) resulted from Brotherton’s love of film and support for SIFF. That connection provides broader exposure for the Champions’ stories, and, the developers hope, “an opportunity to inspire more great work in our communities.”
About American Lake Veterans Golf Course
American Lake Veterans Golf Course, located in Lakewood, Wash., near Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the American Lake Division of VA Puget Sound Health Care System, is believed to be the only course in the country designed specifically for wounded warriors. Hospital in-patients and veterans convalescing from service-connected wounds and injuries have highest priority to play and to use various adaptive equipment, which includes SoloRider and Paramobile golf carts.
The facility, which also welcomes active duty and retired military and their guests, has been maintained and run by volunteers since 1995, when federal funding for all VA courses was eliminated.
The “Friends” foundation assists volunteers by raising funds for repairs, care, maintenance and improvements at the course. Among their projects are a covered driving range, an activity pavilion and various practice areas, plus the 8,400 square foot Rehabilitation and Training Center, which was built from donated or discounted services and materials, plus financial and in-kind contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals.