Saluting Home town Hero Erik Kynard

Erik Kynard, Jr. and Cheran Lyle at the Books 4 Buddies event in the McMaster Center at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Erik Kynard, Jr. and Cheran Lyle at the Books 4 Buddies event in the McMaster Center at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Presented to:

Hometown Hero, Rogers H.S. Ram

OLYMPIAN, Erik Kynard, Jr., role model and avid reader

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Destinies interwoven"

Written in the stars, glorious moments are chosen,

As passion is awoken, from days that were broken,

Pushed on the path to success, and gold is the token,


But yes, I remember, the cold Decembers 

When struggle was real, and feelings were tender

Not much for dinner, when my pockets were thinner

Walking through winters, I'm never a quitter


They put weight on my back, I have strength of Olympians,

They told me to act, my spirit is limitless,

Told me to run, now I'm running with diligence, 

I speak for my people, so I stick to the syllabus,


Erik Kynard, you're a true inspiration, 

May your dedication echo for my generation, 

I know battles, and what it's like to face them,

You defied odds, and demonstrated greatness,


From a small city, Toledo, from standing tall in Rio

Your determination made the nation, understand undying zeal 

A real symbol for our youth grinding for a meal,

Like Superman, you fly high, a heroic man of steel


You're as good as gold, we have no doubts, no reservations 

A man of Sensation, a Roger's Ram, pacing his racing

As your story unfolds, a legend, is how you will be painted, 

Adored across the world, but in this city, you are our favorite"


Jelani Knightheart

Books 4 Buddies Cures Summer Blues with Cool Reads

Original article posted in Toledo Area Parent Magazine - Sam Koros

(L-R) Zane Kruszynski, Rudy Vasquez and Jason Johnson share a book with young kids at the Weiler Homes.

(L-R) Zane Kruszynski, Rudy Vasquez and Jason Johnson share a book with young kids at the Weiler Homes.

School’s out and the boredom of summer vacation is beginning to take hold. Books 4 Buddies, Toledo’s unique and impactful youth literacy program can help. 

Since 2012, Books 4 Buddies has collected and donated books for boys in Toledo’s low socioeconomic status neighborhoods.

Loneta Goings, President of the organization, says they want boys to realize that “It’s cool to read. It’s not a girl thing, it’s a gender friendly kind of thing to do. You can actually learn from opening a book.”


“The initial inspiration was conceived by my grandson who is now 18,” says Goings. “We were driving down the highway near subsidized housing, looking at the kids. I asked my grandson ‘how can you help people? What would you like your legacy to be?’ He said that if you could give a child a book it could lead to unlimited possibilities.” 

Touré, her grandson, came to this conclusion based on his own difficulties with reading comprehension—  he knew the words, but didn’t always know their meaning. This specific struggle is frequently a trigger with a lot of kids, especially boys, says Goings. 

Chapter 1

“I retired from The Blade and I brought some great organizations to the table, like The Blade and Buckeye Cable Systems,” said Goings, “We even have partners now in two public schools. I was able to meet with Clyde Scoles, the Director of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, who decided that the panel was a marvelous idea.” This set the events in motion which made everything possible. 

“Books 4 Buddies and their Ambassadors encourage literacy by embodying the ideals and virtues that build strong and positively minded communities,” saysthe library’s Ben Malczewski.  “The Toledo Lucas County Public Library is grateful to have a strong community partner in Books 4 Buddies, similarly committed to growing futures, creating opportunity, and transforming lives.”

Story Arc

What sets Books 4 Buddies apart from other literacy programs?

“What makes us different and unique are our ambassadors,” explains Goings. “They’re young men—black, white, latino— that go to public and private high schools to collect and give books to kids. They’re the public face of our program. Many of the kids we help don’t have access to books, and that can really begin to tug at your heartstrings.”

Books 4 Buddies doesn’t just go to schools. Ambassadors often meet with kids in their communities to distribute books and to encourage reading. “It has had such a profound impact on the kids.” said Goings. 

This experience gives the ambassadors valuable experience for the future. “The ambassadors now truly understand the meaning of community service,” says Goings. 

Rise and Shine Academy

Good Morning Ms. Goings, 
Rise and Shine Academy would like to thank you and Book for Buddies for helping us in building such a remarkable library for our students. The students here at RSA could not thank you all enough. They truly love and enjoy reading the books that you have so graciously donated to our school. It is a blessing to have such great people like you in our corner. Please know that your act of kindness has not gone unnoticed. We truly appreciate you and your thoughtful contribution in helping us build a place in which our students can learn and enhance their reading abilities.
Best Wishes,
Ms. Jasmine Madison
Administrative Assistant

Rockets Sign Autographs at ‘Books for Buddies’ at Franklin Park

University of Toledo football players will appear at Franklin Park Mall Saturday, June 18, as part of the “Books for Buddies” program.

The Rockets will sign autographs and meet fans at the mall from 1 to 4 p.m. The event will take place near the Macy’s entrance.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.
UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.
Rocky the Rocket and Rocksy also will make an appearance.
In addition, fans may pick up free posters, schedule cards and ticket information at the event.

This is the second event in the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series. 

Other events will include:

• Thursday, July 21 — Girls Night Out: Football 101 with Jason and Nicole Candle from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

• Friday, Aug. 19 — Movie Night and Autographs with the Rockets in the Glass Bowl; time to be announced.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.

UT Football Coach Jason Candle, center, signed an autograph for a fan last month as senior offensive lineman Storm Norton, left, and junior quarterback Logan Woodside watched at the first event of the Rocket Summer Liftoff Series.

UT students donate to Books 4 Buddies.

"In my honors class we are doing a project that is aimed at helping the area with its child literacy problem. The group most affected by this seems to be kindergartners, plus it is important for kids that age to read due to the developmental benefits doing so provides. Because of this my group has decided to collect children's books from the community, and have so far gathered around 70 or so books. Most of them are for kindergarten age, but some are definitely higher level. So the point of this email is to ask: Can we donate these books to you to hand out to children? We are also going to include flyers with each book- aimed at the parents- that talk about the importance of reading to your children. It doesn't really matter exactly how this is done, you can either just give them away, or set up an event, we would just like to be able to provide the books to the community. Thank you in advance!"

- Ben Houston

UT sophomore honor students contribute to Books 4 Buddies

To: Susan Wagner
       Jamie Lynn Zilko
      Nicole Elizabeth Sarieh
      Sophomore English Honor Students
      University of Toledo

Dear ladies,

It was a pleasure meeting with you. On behalf of the Books 4 Buddies AMBASSADORS and BOARD, thank you so much. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule, in support of literacy, and the kids in our community.  Your generosity will be forever remembered.   

Laneta Goings

Kareem Abdul Jabbar, author and basketball icon.

Ambassadors, Mondo Arce, Andrew Hoppenjaus (both SJJ) and Myles Johnson (Sylvania Southview) and Christopher Smith (Mentor) met the legendary basketball icon, Kareem Abdul Jabbar at a private reception.

Authors! Authors! is sponsored by The Blade and Toledo Lucas County Library.  They met elected officials including the Honorable Paula Hicks-Hudson and Michael Ashford and Michael Sheehy, State Representatives.

Books 4 Buddies believes education is a global responsibility, last week they proved it.

Toledo) – Books 4 Buddies believes education is a global responsibility, last week they proved it.

Books 4 Buddies (B4B), a nonprofit literacy organization, sponsored its Books/Buddies/Blankets event last Wednesday for the residents of Birmingham Terrace on the city’s east side.  The community center became a global hub as artifacts from Africa, international students from 7 countries, and a storyteller from The Democratic Republic of the Congo transformed the space.

B4B President and Co-Founder, Laneta Goings, received homemade, kid-sized blankets from Bud Hite, Executive Director of the Correctional Treatment Facility.  The felt blankets of assorted colors, with coordinating wraparound ties, were made by residents of the treatment facility.

Book Ambassadors, the young men representing B4B, then teamed with area international students from the American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES) to distribute the blankets and books to children present.  This was done after the ACES students themselves received orange B4B t-shirts and wristbands like their American counterparts. They immediately put them on, symbolic of both their global responsibility to educate and their inclusion into the B4B family. 

The students participating included three B4B ambassadors, Ivan Dye, Mondo Arce and Andrew Hoppenjans, all of St. John’s Jesuit High School. The ACES students participating were Ferial Alagha (Palestine), Mariam Cisse (Mali), Muhaimina Omar (Tanzania), Alex Peralta (Spain), all of Scott High School, Loay Alarab (Lebanon) of Start High School, Joseph Kebbie (Sierre Leone) of Toledo Tech. Academy and Marina Denali (Brazil), of Clay High School.  

Local ACES coordinators Tracee Ellis of Toledo and Val Virag of Oregon attended with their international students.

The students, staged in a semicircle around the children, read to them as they munched on cookies, mini-candy bars and other fun treats provided by LMHA. Young Kebbie was especially entertaining as he read “What is a Dinosaur?”  His enthusiasm, his expressive eyes and a smile reminiscent of the diamonds found in his West African country, left the children craving more.

The highlight of the afternoon however, was the storytelling of “Papa” Antoine Kabwasa of The Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Although dressed in western attire, it was not hard to imagine “Papa” Antoine in ancestral garb, as he held an African shaker filled with beans, in his right hand.  The periodic sound from the shaker blended nicely with his thick accent as he captivated his audience with two stories from his homeland.  The first, “Why the Gorilla has no Tail”, (he was too preoccupied when they were handed out), was an interactive narrative complete with dance steps and prompts for audience participation.  The next, “Pali Pali the Bird and the Mask”, was more traditional in style and fit well with his grandfatherly manner. Both stories taught a lesson and both mesmerized the approximately 50 people in attendance. 

Books/Buddies/Blankets was primarily for the children, but no one left emptyhanded.  Even their parents received buckets full of cleaning supplies and other practical household items.

Thanks to Melanie L. Johnson, Family Service Coordination Specialist at LMHA, Captain T.O. Walker, Lucas County Sheriff’s Department and Dr. Christine Smallman, Blade in Education Director, for all their hard work in making this an awesome event.

Even in Toledo, education is our global responsibility.

Local support for Books 4 Buddies is vital.

Original article posted in The Toldeo Blade - 10/27/2015

In response to your Oct. 2 article “Stories shared in Spanish; Volunteers read as part of Books 4 Buddies”: Research has shown that good literacy skills are linked with higher self-esteem, better health, better jobs, and higher wages.

Unfortunately, two thirds of America’s children who live in poverty have no books at home. That leaves them at significant risk of falling behind their peers in literacy and overall academic achievement.

In Ohio, a campaign is under way to ensure that all children have access to the reading materials they need to achieve. Books 4 Buddies is a local nonprofit organization that collects and distributes new and gently used books for disadvantaged children and young adults. Founded in 2012, it has donated more than 30,000 books in northwest Ohio and beyond.

Providing access to reading material is crucial to addressing the educational disparities we encounter in our state. I applaud the good work done by Books 4 Buddies and other charitable organizations.

I encourage this community to make a commitment to improving child literacy rates, whether that means parents taking their kids to the library, young adults tutoring children after school, or community members donating books to or becoming engaged with organizations such as Books 4 Buddies.

Books 4 Buddies will hold a fund-raiser from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at Rachel Michael’s Gourmet Popcorn, 5307 Monroe St. Thirty percent of proceeds from today’s popcorn sales will go to Books 4 Buddies.

Together, we can ensure our next generation has the literacy tools it will need to succeed in the classroom and in life.

Ohio House of Representatives
46th District

Stories shared in Spanish: Volunteers read as part of Books 4 Buddies

Original article posted in The Toldeo Blade - 10/2/2015

WOODVILLE — The squirming, smiling preschoolers couldn’t contain their excitement on Thursday as a roomful of visitors came to read and deliver books to them.

The 15 children, all students at the Migrant Head Start in Helena, listened to several volunteers in a Spanish read-aloud as part of the Toledo-based Books 4 Buddies program, which provides free books to area children and promotes literacy.

“We think if you become good readers, you will be good students,” said Christopher Smith, a mentor with Books 4 Buddies.

“Cool!” exclaimed 4-year-old Carlos Gonzalez, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.

“Yes, exactly right,” Mr. Smith said. “Reading is cool, never forget that. The more you read, the more you learn and the more options you create for yourself.”

Students heard several stories in Spanish read by State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon), Sylvania musician Miguel Saucedo, and Baldemar Velasquez, president of Farmer Labor Organizing Committee, who has spent decades organizing and advocating for farm workers in northwest Ohio.

“I was 12 years old before I got my first book,” Mr. Velasquez told the students, praising the program for getting books to the students. “This is very, very good.”

Three students from Toledo’s Scott High School also read, including foreign exchange student Alex Peralta, who is from Madrid, Spain, and is a senior this year.

“I really like to volunteer,” he said in Spanish before the event. “And it’s forcing me to find the words in Spanish again.”

By the end of the month, most of the students’ families will leave northwest Ohio with the end of the growing season, and the school will close for the year. This year, the preschoolers will be sent on their way with a book in hand.

“They don’t have a lot of things to take with them,” said Niki Holland, center manager at the facility. “For them to be able to get books to take with them, it’s a great thing. You can see how excited they are.”

After the read-aloud, the students excitedly crowded around to pick out additional books, eager to show the guests their new haul. Books 4 Buddies president Laneta Goings, who co-founded the organization with her grandson in 2012, said deliveries such as Thursday’s were exactly why the program exists.

“We know that reading is the pathway to life,” she said. “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything. ... This is what it’s all about, our future leaders.”

Program puts books in the hands of young readers.

Original article posted in The Toledo Blade - 8/25/2015

Grace Surato, left, 8, and her friend Jocelyn Shattuck, 8, both of Toledo, choose books they want for free at the Books 4 Buddies giveaway Monday at the Toledo Zoo. Since the program was launched in 2012, Books 4 Buddies has provided more than 30,000 books to promote reading for children through donations from the public and local sponsors.

Christmas in July? Not Quite, But There Was Plenty of Giving Taking Place on the City’s Eastside in July

Original article posted in The Sojourner's Truth - 08/13/15

Books 4 Buddies hosted an event at the LMHA Weiler Homes complex where residents were treated to books, burgers and bags of goodies. 

With the inviting music of Michael Jackson in the background, about 100 people ignored the heat and attended the event which also included vision screenings, Kindergarten and Head Start registration, arts and crafts, and a raffle.

Books 4 Buddies, founded by Toure’ McCord II, is an organization that collects new and gently used books for disadvantaged youths.  It then gives or distributes the books back into the community.  The organization’s President Laneta Goings estimates the group has donated over 30,000 books.

That tally is sure to head north as youngsters of all ages were allowed to pick out and keep the books they selected.  For many, these books will become the initial deposit in their personal libraries.

Dozens of volunteers, from Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Youth Commission, and the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, were on hand to help the children make their selections and fill their totes with goodies like bookmarks, water bottles and plastic toys.

Also present, clad in their traditional orange T-shirts, were the Book Ambassadors. The 25 Ambassadors, a diverse group from area high schools, promote the mission of Books 4 Buddies and help improve literacy skills among boys. They also serve as role models and are already young community leaders. 

This was on full display as the Ambassadors read to the children who were comfortably seated around them in the grass.  Both readers and listeners refused to let the heat distract them as they interacted with one another.  The Ambassadors participating in the reading included: Keshawn Corggens, Ivan Dye, Myles Johnson, Bryant Kobak, Zane Kruszynski, Scottie Seymour, Aaron Thompson, Jordan Topoleski, and Oran Williams. 

Young Corggens was especially effective as the children fed off his energy level which seemed to match the heat index.  But the Ambassadors never lose their focus, they’re aware that this is not about them. As Jordan Topoleski, a sophomore from Sylvania Southview, said “it’s about the kids.”

Other highlights included the picnic lunch, provided by TPS, the arts and crafts stations and the raffle giveaways handed out by Robert Mendenhall, TPS Director of Curriculum, and Captain T.O. Walker, of the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office.

No surprise that the face painting area proved to be a popular destination, with many of the faces resembling animals better suited for the near 90* weather.

The Weiler Homes event in July was followed by a similar one at Birmingham Terrace on August 7 as the Ambassadors, Sheriff’s Deputies, TPS representatives and Toledo Youth Commission repeated the formula for success that brought together so many volunteers and residents.

Books 4 Buddies has an upcoming event planned for the Northwest Ohio Rib Off (Aug. 13-16).

Sponsors of the organization include: The Blade, Apex Micrographics, Inc., Buckeye CableSystem, The Andersons,, Fifth Third Bank, Franklin Park Mall, HART, LMHA, Lucas County Sheriff, John Tharp, Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Toledo Public Schools, and Toledo Youth Commission.

For more information on Books 4 Buddies visit

Superheros help launch the 4th annual Books 4 Buddies season.

The 4th annual Books 4 Buddies launch was a tremendous success.  It was a FREE fun-filled afternoon at Franklin Park Mall and Superheroes read to kids.  The community was invited to support Books 4 Buddies by dropping of new and gently used books at the Blade truck.
**(14 out of 25) AMBASSADORS attended:

Toure McCord, Armond Arce, Dominic Barnes, Justin Barnes, Keshawn Corggens, Robert Derden, David Hart, Jason Johnson, Myles Johnson, Zane Kruszynski, C.J. Patton, Nathan Podolsky, Andrew Urrutia, Rudy Vasquez.

Kudos to community leaders who read to the kids:

  • Ben Cathey, abc13 reporter was the MC and a Superhero (dressed as a weatherman)
  • The Honorable Michael P. Sheehy, Ohio House of Representatives, District 46 and his wife.
  • Christopher Smith, former Blade employee, representing TLPL’s Summer Reading Challenge, dressed as:  CAPTAIN I WILL READ.
  • Evan Fritt, native Toledoan, a member of National Society of High School (St. Francis) Scholars, and a body-builder; who has starred on the Florida based realty show, “Kart Life on Tru TV. He has a soon-to-be-released comic book series, “The Adventure of EJ rocket” based on his fictional alter ego, an anti-bully superhero who inspires kids to eat healthy and live their dreams without fear.
  • Dennis Scott, retired NBA player/all-time men’s career points record holder as a former basketball player for OSU.  He is currently a high school coach.
  • Dr. Romulus Durant, TPS superintendent dressed as ‘Cat In The Hat.’
  • Nigel Hayes, U of Wisc. Basketball player. Nigel, who averaged 12.4 points per game, played an integral role with the U of Wisc. Basketball team as it captured the Bit Ten Title and advanced to the NCAA National Championship game against Duke in Indy.  Along the way, Nigel gained national attention for this vocabulary prowess during the NCAA media sessions.  He is a Whitmer graduate.
  • The Honorable Paula Hicks-Hudson, Mayor, City of Toledo
  • Jean Holden and singers