The Pinnacle Award winners for this year are five diverse people from five distinct walks of life. What do they have in common? The singular desire is to do good in the community, to fill a void where needed and provide enrichment in many ways. The Pinnacle Award was launched by the Johnson County Library Foundation in 2002 to recognize excellence in the arts, and has since grown to include advocacy and public engagement, business and entrepreneurship, and literacy and education. Each year, the Library Foundation honors community leaders who demonstrate excellence in these four areas. The presenting sponsor is Hen House.
Lynne Brown, who serves on the Johnson County Library Foundation Board, leads the Pinnacle Awards as the committee chairwoman. She says the foundation seeks to recognize the individuals whose work mirrors many of the foundation board objectives. “The types of programs offered at the library are substantial and libraries make communities stronger by bringing so many assets together under one roof. Libraries are connectors to ideas and the broader communities. The honorees represent a similar drive that makes our community a great place. They are unsung heroes who don’t often get the spotlight.” The event is Oct. 17.
For Kim Bowen Harbur, the award for community advocacy is appropriate. In 1996, Kim and Nate Harbur learned that their infant son, Luke, needed a life-saving liver transplant. When an Olathe family, the Drakes, lost their 8-year-old son Aaron, the decision to donate his organs gave life to Luke. “No one had talked to us about organ donations. Our son was 8 weeks old when his diagnosis came. Luke received Aaron’s liver. We knew we needed to help educate others and two years later, we founded Gift of Life to build awareness.” As director of education, Harbur developed the Life Savers high school program for students to learn about organ and tissue donation. Life Savers reached 25,000 last year with the message. She has made more than 550 presentations. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to get Gift of Life’s name out into the public even more with this presentation,” she says.
As for the future, expanding current programs are very real possibilities, Harbur says. Life Mentors are volunteer transplant recipients and their family members who offer encouragement and support to those waiting for a life-saving transplant, new transplant recipients or living donors. “They walk the journey together,” she says. “We get calls from all over the nation and there is interest in Wisconsin and California. Our board is trying to decide where to go.” The Life Savers program has been in 90 high schools in the metropolitan area, but there are 30 more yet to reach, she says. “I just want to save lives.”
For the first time in the award history, the community advocacy award is being shared with Dr. Harold Frye, founder of Music 4 Jeremy’s Cherubs. “I completely echo the worth of this recognition. However, the goal is to make sure the work and the mission are even more effective.” Similar to Harbur, Frye dealt with his son’s illness, but the promising band conductor succumbed to a brain tumor the same month he graduated from college. As we stood in the hospital, family members commented that Jeremy was probably was already teaching the cherubs how to sing and play instruments. That grieving process was aided by the charity’s creation,” he says. “My heart continues to lead me and we find instruments for schools that have definitive needs.”
The Foundation collects, restores and distributes musical instruments to children in need. To date, more than 750 instruments now have new life. M4JC provided enough instruments to begin music programs at Banneker Charter, Hogan Prep, Cristo Rey High School, Tolbert Academy, and Allen Village Charter, all in the urban core. Many have been donated to individual students in need in Johnson, Wyandotte, and Jackson counties. In addition to these, M4JC sent more than 100 guitars to deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most importantly, to traumatically injured soldiers at Walter Reed and other medical facilities. M4JC awarded 22 scholarships to college music students and future music educators.
Emily Berhmann, the general manager at the JCCC Performing Arts Series, calls the Pinnacle Award “a gratifying honor.” However, it is her passion for the performing arts that keeps her moving forward each day. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Music with an emphasis in Voice from the UMKC’s Conservatory of Music, Behrmann began her work in arts administration. Over the past 20 years, she has held positions with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Performing Arts Series at Johnson County Community College.
After 14 years in the Foundation Office at Johnson County Community College, where she was involved in the capital campaign to raise $20 million for the construction of JCCC’s Regnier Center and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, she returned to her first love – the performing arts. As General Manager of the Performing Arts Series, she is responsible for booking artists, marketing events, and raising money. “It’s a gift – no two days are alike. Personally, I want to use the performing arts to make an impact on the entire community, by presenting quality artists, championing arts education and collaborating with the many talented organizations and individuals in the Greater Kansas City arts community. We have gained new audiences and the people are making return visits. I would like to see this energy continue.” She also wants to see even more K-12 educational outreach. “Kids introduced to the arts often want to continue exploring that art world.”
Larry Louk, founding principal of Selective Site Consultants, a leading provider of services to the telecommunications, development, and construction industries, has guided the firm since its inception in 1997. Upon starting SSC, he and his three partners had a vision: build on their joint experience in the wireless communication industry, provide great client- focused service, aggressively seek opportunities for expansion and diversification, and re-invest in the people who helped make it happen. Within three years SSC grew to more than 110 employees with a second office in St. Louis, Mo. Today, the firm employs more than 110 people in six key markets throughout the Central United States. “We were asked to form our own company,” he says. “I guess we fell into it. The growth is steady and I expect we double in size during the next few years.”
As a grateful heart patient who experienced his first heart problems at 37 years old, in 2009, Louk and his wife JoLinda Vega founded Golfology Fore Cardiology, a premier golf event to raise money for the cardiac rehabilitation program at the University of Kansas Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Care. After just four years, this tournament has contributed more than $180,000 to the hospital. Ironically he learned about the Pinnacle honor while golfing. “It’s a great recognition.” Additionally, in order to expand the reach of his fundraising efforts, in 2012, he joined forces with long-time friend, Shirley Allenbrand, to form The Larry and Shirley Fund.
Children’s author and illustrator Shane Evans receives accolades for his work in education and literacy. Evans is a multi-talented artist and visionary who combines his world travels with his art to influence others’ creativity. His illustrations can be found in such books as Shaq and the Beanstalk, Bintou’s Braids and Down the Winding Road. He has been honored by First Lady Laura Bush at the 2002 National Book Festival. He also received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for The Way a Door Closes. His travels to Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and throughout the United States are often attached to education. He shares his gifts with all ages, cultures, ethnic groups and backgrounds, often with his book, Olu’s Dream or the book he illustrated with his best friend, actor Taye Diggs, Chocolate Me!
“When I receive an award, it always means that someone connects with something I do,” Evans says. “It’s also that stamp of approval, that reflection of the things that I have been doing is right. I am honored, but I am also inspired to keep growing. With an acknowledgement like this, it challenges me to be even better and more responsive to the next step in journey.” He is working on illustrations for 28 Days with author Charles Smith and The Red Pencil with Andrea Davis Pinkney.
For information about the Pinnacle Awards, including sponsorship and ticket information got to: www.jocolibraryfoundation.org