We had the good fortune of connecting with Pepper Salter Edmiston and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Pepper, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My parents were activists on many fronts. My dad was on the Beverly HIlls City Council in the 1980s and 1990s and was able to outlaw smoking at restaurants and bars. He was vilified but stuck to his principals and the rest of the world caught up with him.

I was a school teacher, then started having children. My eldest son, David, got leukemia at age two. When he was eight, no camp would have him, so I founded a camp for children with cancer, called Camp Good Times. Many people, including my ex-husband, said it was a pipe dream. But I spent four months convincing parents of ill children that camp would be great for them. Our first session, we had sixty children, who had the time of their lives.

My son became brain-damaged from his chemotherapy, so I began Happy Trails for Children with Disabilities. Same doubters, yet the camp was a success and has morphed into a program for boys and girls in foster care. I just kept pursuing what I believed was the right thing to do.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My parents were very liberal and very generous. It never occurred to me to go into a profession for a high salary. I taught elementary school in the inner-city for fives years and did extra things, like take my students on field trips, bring them home for weekends, etc. Both of the camps I founded, for kids with cancer, then kids with disabilities, made the lives of children and their families happier. Making others feel good has always driven me. If I had a regular job with no charitable component, I wouldn’t feel fulfilled at all.

Recently, I started a business, called Baby Art Mart, which sells images of vintage cookie jars on colorful canvases. 10% of the profits will go to Happy Trails. My mom passed away two years ago, on Halloween, and I got really, really down. I had a huge collection of people cookie jars already, but I started by animal jars to cheer me up. Then I got the idea of making kids happy by having these adorable canvases hanging in their rooms. So, hopefully I’ll actually make money on this project. It will be a first.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
What a fun question. I’m going to pretend our tragic homeless situation has been solved, and that the areas I’m discussing are pristine. So, first Venice, its pier, ride on the bike path, eat at Ospy. Then Manhattan Beach, repeat Venice. Then, Malibu. Repeat. Farmer’s Market, the La Brea tar pits – unique in the world!

My husband, Joe, created and heads the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Over forty years, he has amassed one hundred thousand acres of parkland for the public. Some of his beauties include Temescal Canyon Park, King Gillette Ranch and Franklin Canyon.

Downtown is pretty great, with Disney Hall. I would also take my best friend to see my son Charlie’s art studio, in the Bendix Building downtown. His stuff is amazing – charliee.com !!!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My contribution to “Shoutout” is dedicated to my dear daughter, Susan, stuck in the middle of six brothers. Susan is deputy director of a non-profit law firm representing the 30,000 children in Los Angeles who are in foster care. Every day she dedicates herself to finding legal protections for this vulnerable population. She also assumed leadership of Happy Trails in 2009 and has helped grow it into a respected institution the serves hundreds of boys and girls each year. Happy Trails provides a supportive family to children who have no home, no family, no stability.

Additionally, Susan is in a happy marriage and is the adoring mom to two children. She still takes care of all of her siblings and is very kind to me, her lucky mother. She is brilliant, but patient and nurturing. She is smart enough to avoid confrontations and manages to achieve her goals without annoying people. I am still trying to learn this!

Website: HappyTrailsforKids.org; BabyArtMart.com

Youtube: Pepper Salter at the Comedy Store

Image Credits

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