CRYSTAL LAKE – North Elementary School had more than 100 superheroes in its gym Wednesday night.
At least that’s all that former NFL running back Jarrett Payton and children’s author Amy Logan could see.
The duo paired up Wednesday for the Crystal Lake school’s annual literacy night to give a message of kindness, charity and the ability to make the world a better place one small act at a time.
Logan, a former teacher, read the audience “A Girl With A Cape” – her first children’s book – to show that simple gestures such as telling a parent “I love you” or holding the door for someone at the grocery store can be contagious and brighten a day.
The Joliet resident has been presenting at schools two to three times a week since April, and her book has already sold more than 4,000 copies in less than a year. She was inspired to spread the message after seeing the bullying in schools and need for motivation in adults she encountered in her direct sales career.
“I was tired of people being mean to each other and I thought kids and adults both needed to know they matter and do make a difference,” Logan said. “Kids can be superheroes. They don’t need to fly a jet or shoot webs from their wrists.”
Perhaps the biggest fan of the story was Payton, who said it reminded him of his childhood where his superhero father taught him important life lessons at an early age.
Payton, son of Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, recalled a day when he was 12 years old and his father took him to a Toys R Us and told him he could fill multiple carts with gifts for Christmas.
Jarrett Payton said he thought he would be walking out with video games and all the gifts he could want, but was surprised when his father drove them to an apartment complex and told him to help hand the gifts out to families in need.
That day inspired Jarrett Payton to later start his foundation committed to positively affecting the lives of children and adolescents – physically, emotionally and psychologically.
“This is something special to my heart because I used to go with my dad when he would read at schools so that connection is there,” Jarrett Payton said, adding it was great to help a school nearby his childhood hometown of South Barrington. “My goal is to impact as many lives as possible so it doesn’t matter where I have to go. I’ll travel there.”
Logan’s book has led to a website – www.gotyourcape.com – that has activities for kids, resources for parents and teachers and a full campaign called C.A.P.E. The acronym stands for Creating A Positive Environment and encourages children to do one act of kindness every day for a full month.
Jarrett Payton said it is that repetition that will create habits and lead to lifelong changes that can spread.
“Every school you go into there is a different culture, so we’re trying to come back and revisit schools and be a face,” said Payton, who had come earlier to the school to meet and speak with the students.
“You can’t just speak one time and everything is fine.”