HOWELL — When one of Bob Salomon's friends needed help publishing a children's book, Salomon stepped in to get it done. It made the Howell resident think about creating his own book, using the platform of sports to make a difference, and promoting a movement of kindness and perseverance.

That book became "Beyond the Laces," which tells, in rhyme, the story of a sick child inspired by a star football player (#87), and how the player goes out of his way to pay it forward to his biggest fan.

Salomon said he and his collaborators are the "original Jersey boys," and he's not really exaggerating. After searching the globe for a co-author and illustrator, he found both close to home: his illustrator, Ken Jones, in Toms River, and his co-author, Rick Young, across the street from his house.

For Salomon, a retired corrections officer whose passion was always children (he has two of his own), getting Jones and Young on board was just a reinforcement of a key part of his mission, which is to get the entire state and all of its schools behind the idea of "leading with love."

"If you give it away, and you love, and you care about kids first, it doesn't stop," Salomon said. "The gifts keep coming, and it's open to everybody."

Depicting athletes in the book as making positive impacts on children, and society as a whole, has also attracted some real-life pros. "Beyond the Laces" features testimonials from former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville, longtime Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, and three-time Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl champion Bill Bates.

Salomon also counts former Yankee greats Don Mattingly and Tommy John, and ex-New York Jets star Victor Green among the project's biggest supporters.

"I decided to not worry about negative, and just concentrate on the positive," Salomon said. "And if we can do that, maybe the negative will start changing."

One of Salomon's most fruitful partnerships is with literacy specialist Kathryn Starke, whose Tackle Reading Across America Day launched last year and is coming back for 2018 on Friday, March 2. On that day, Starke and Salomon will be in the Philadelphia school district with players from the world champion Eagles, reading "Beyond the Laces" to kids.

March 2 is also Read Across America Day, which has been held nationwide on that date since the late 1990s to celebrate the birthday of Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss. Starke's Tackle Reading program was created with the thought in mind of getting every NFL team involved in Read Across America Day, and so far more than two-thirds of the league has signed on — many of them reading "Beyond the Laces."

Salomon wants to continue spreading his book's message at assemblies across New Jersey, and helping encourage kids to make the right decisions in life.

"Beyond the Laces" is currently in its second run of publishing, and you can request copies at A portion of the proceeds from every book sold goes to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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