OCEAN COUNTY – There are things that just go together: peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Kindness and acai bowls.
Author Bob Salomon thought so too, which is why he’s teaming up with Playa Bowls to spread his message of kindness. Salomon, coauthor of Beyond the Laces, will be visiting three locations this summer to spread his message to children and families on the importance of kindness. They get a bowl, and get a book.
“When Bob approached me regarding his movement to promote kindness, I realized its importance and was all in. As a business owner I have always done my best to make a positive difference in our communities. Teaming up with Bob is further demonstration of that commitment,” Ron Ciliento, owner of Playa Bowls in Toms River and Forked River, said.
“Kindness is caring about each other. It’s going out of your way for a perfect stranger. Random acts of kindness,” Salomon said. “Helping that child with nothing in return. And our society needs it more than ever right now.”
Without giving too much away, “Beyond the Laces” tells the story of a boy and his family going through a difficult time with his illness, but despite those challenges, how kindness can impact people, and how they should never give up. The number 87 and football plays a big role in it. Salomon knew a sports theme would better carry that message to his intended audience.
“Sports, I felt, were so crucial for kids’ development. And then when I was in the game, it’s not always so rosy. It’s not always so perfect,” Salomon said. “But I always just thought more kindness, more caring about kids, needed to be in that whole sports world.”
Salomon said he’s more a sports fan than player: he was too slow to ever take it further than the school field.
“Sports were made to unite and really teach values and have fun!” Salomon said. “…But that’s a whole different topic. That’s part of my journey of why I felt that sports would be a good platform to make change and help kids.”
Salomon knew his passion lay in the message, and his writing and illustration skills ranked up there with his athleticism. Not Caldecott Medal material, he brought on Rick Young as coauthor and Ken Jones as illustrator. Salomon works with men and women who live the message of his book, not those who are simply looking to make a buck.
“I’m going to use [the book] to make it about the kids,” Salomon said. “And man, I’ve been on a journey. I’m just humbled.”
As with any business, it’s who you know. Salomon knew no one. Businesses weren’t interested as Salomon didn’t have a written business plan. (“I want to help kids. That’s my plan!”) They want to make money.
“And it doesn’t mean they weren’t good people. They just didn’t see what I saw,” Salomon said.
So Salomon built his own team, and persisted. He eventually found a publisher, Charles Ambrogio, who donated 1,000 books and marketing material to get him started. (His team is rounded out by James Crosby.) Then he got his foot in the door in the sports world. Once one person endorses the book – whether to hold a copy for a photograph, or read it aloud to children at a function – other supporters will sign on.
One close friend of Salomon’s, who also happens to be a former NFL quarterback, is Mark Brunell, who earned his Super Bowl ring in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts. Doug Glanville, a former MLB outfielder and New York Times writer, was another encouraging voice from the beginning.
And businesses have finally caught on. For the upcoming events, Playa Bowls will be selling its bowls and a copy of the book. Watchung Spring Water will be handing out waters, for free. Herrs will be providing free potato chips. The BlueClaws are providing raffles.
Salomon will be at Playa Bowls, 224 Route 37 East in Toms River, May 19. Other locations and dates are: June 23, Playa Bowls at 214 West End Ave. in Toms River; July 7, Playa Bowls at 44 Manchester Ave. in Forked River; and again at 224 Route 37 East on Aug. 18.
For more information about Beyond the Laces, visit beyondthelaces.com.