Friends of Freadom are influencers, ambassadors and trailblazers within the literacy space; as well as athletes, TV personalities, musicians and celebrities. Friends of Freadom believe in our Freadom Declaration and share our values; ultimately, they believe in Literacy for All. Yes, our Friends love the Freadom brand and all it represents, but we are really big fans of them as well!
Elementary school teacher for over 26 years, award-winning author of many children's books including "A Boy Like You" & "A Girl Like You."
NFL long-snapper for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Patrick Mannelly Award Finalist, started 54 of 55 games for The Ohio State University and named Academic All-Big Ten all 4 years.
Award-winning illustrator of more than 30 children's books including "A Fist for Joe Louis and Me," "Follow Me Down To Nicodemus Town" & "Friends for Freedom."
Dr. Molly Ness
Molly Ness, PhD is an associate professor of childhood literacy at Fordham University in Manhattan. She is the author of 4 books and the creator of the End Book Deserts podcast. When not writing about teaching or teaching about reading, she spends her time on the coast of Maine, listening to Bruce Springsteen, and shopping at local farmer's markets.
Dominique Raccah is the entrepreneurial Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, the company she founded from her home in 1987. The publisher has since created scores of New York Times bestsellers, hundreds of national bestsellers, and #1 selling titles in perennial categories. Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned book publisher in the country and Dominique is widely recognized as a leader in book publishing innovation, being named Publishers Weekly Person of the Year in 2016. Sourcebooks has won every innovation award the industry grants and continues to create new ways to connect readers to books that change lives.
Ana Belaval is a four time Emmy award winning reporter with WGN Morning News and a stand up comedian. Ana is a voracious reader which makes her older brother chuckle since she mostly read Cliff Notes version of all the classics while in high school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The mother of two children is making sure they discover the love for reading a lot earlier than she did.
Colby Sharp is a husband and father of five. He teaches fifth grade in Parma, Michigan. Colby is the co-founder of Nerdy Book Club. He co-hosts The Yarn podcast with Travis Jonker. Colby currently serves as the president-elect of the Michigan Reading Association. He co-authored Game Changer! Book Access for All Kid with Donalyn Miller, and he is the editor of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection.
A four-year starter at Duke University, Mannelly was drafted in the 6th round and played 16 years for the Chicago Bears and is considered the top long snapper in modern-day football. Mannelly holds the record for most games played by a Chicago Bear, 245. He now serves as Co-Host of the Bears Pregame Show for 670 The Score.
Veronica Appleton is a scholar, practitioner and children’s author of three books, "Tu-Tu Goes to School", "Journey to Appleville" and "Mama Why." She serves as subject matter expert for various executive education programs in diversity, equity and inclusion and as a renowned speaker, Appleton has served as keynote and speaker for some of the world's largest Fortune 500 organizations. She believes educating the future is an essential strategy for building equity in communities and systems at-large. Appleton's work has been recognized by Crain’s Business, FOX News, and Diversity Journal’s Top Professionals in Higher Education. She's also a mentor and board member of several nonprofits providing resources and impact in communities of color, women, men and children.
Jarrett Lerner is an author, illustrator, and literacy advocate. His children's book series include the EngiNerds novels, the Geeger the Robot early chapter books, the Give This Book a Title activity books, and the Hunger Heroes graphic novels. He lives in Medford, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughters.
Book Outlet has the largest selection of new bargain books at up to 90% off list price. At Book Outlet, our Core Purpose is “Enchanting the Mind” – one book at a time! We believe that everyone should have equal access to books, including the most vulnerable within our community and around the world. We are excited to partner with Freadom in their fight for LITERACY FOR ALL.
At Kidsbooks.com, we recognize the importance of children’s literacy skills and spending time reading with your little ones - that’s why we offer a great selection of kids’ books for unbeatable prices. We are honored to be partnering with Freadom in their mission of funding literacy initiatives that are effective, efficient, scalable and sustainable.
Cherry Lake Publishing Group
Cherry Lake Publishing Group resources prepare young readers for the future by igniting their imaginations today.
Found in classrooms, libraries, and homes, our inventive and engaging titles meet the diverse needs of readers, helping them to achieve and succeed. From the building blocks of literacy, to picture books filled with humor, to entertaining graphic novels, Cherry Lake Publishing Group imprints both empower and entertain.
Cottage Door Press
As a publisher of books for 0-5 year olds, we believe that reading aloud to a child from birth is a critical first step in literacy and provides a solid foundation for future reading and learning. We are proud to partner with Freadom, and the many literacy organizations it serves, to increase literacy awareness and funding to ensure equitable opportunity.
Brian started his career designing and maintaining hospital computer systems for labor and delivery departments. While graduating early from Illinois State University, he also worked for two years at Discover Financial in security engineering. Brian has been running HigherGround since 1998, taking it from a single person residential practice to a company with enterprise pedigree. He merged his firm 2020 with Ntiva. Brian now serves as their Chief Strategy and Chief Information Security Officer and continues to be an owner.
Sandy is Freadom’s CPA. She has been helping small businesses navigate all things accounting and tax for over 25 years. Sandy's interest in literacy is rooted in her firm belief that education is the gateway to all things good. Her two college-aged children can still hear her asking "did you spend 20 minutes reading today?" When Sandy is not advising clients, she enjoys exercising, yoga and family time.
Jimmy is the President of Craftsman Media, a digital content marketing company located in Libertyville, IL that serves small and medium size businesses.
Jim grew up in Zion, IL and is a graduate of DePaul University. He serves the community through his non-profit Craftsman Cafe, as a board member of Consumers Cooperative Association, and numerous other community activities. Jim is also an adjunct professor and teaches Social Media in Business classes at College of Lake County.
Jim, his wife Laure, and their three daughters live in Libertyville, IL.
Jeff is a super talented designer and artist in the Chicago area.
He enjoys painting, songwriting, and working out in the garden with his family.
He openly admits to not being much of a reader before his twenties but has developed a love for reading as an adult that he truly cherishes and now shares with and instills in his children.
Favorite Authors: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jacques Ellul, John Steinbeck
Favorite Artists: Edward Hopper, Edgar Payne, Winslow Homer
Susan Ryan Kalina is a former photojournalist who now spends her time doing storytelling photography for non-profits, corporations and small businesses. When she’s not on assignment, you can find Susan having adventures with her three teen daughters and husband or paddle boarding on Lake Michigan. Susan is excited to be working with Freadom and is dedicated to the mission of improving the quality of life for others through literacy.
Lisa, known as Made by Lisa Marie, is a Freelance Illustrator and Graphic Designer based out of the Chicagoland area. She has worked with a range of clients, from world wide household names to small businesses with big dreams, and is passionate about teaming up with like minded companies that give back and make a difference in the world. Her specialities include creating artwork for merchandise, branding identity design, social media assets and teaching/speaking engagements.
A creative visionary, Derek is truly one of those people whose reputation precedes him. For more than 30 years, he’s landed hundreds of awards, revitalized numerous brands, and created work environments that bring out the best in his teams. Derek is a seasoned advertising and marketing executive with both strategic and creative execution skills which he has applied across traditional, digital and data-driven media channels to build brands and drive sales. He has innovated integrated marketing and brought fresh thinking and accountability to award-winning work for a variety of brands, including Bernie’s Book Bank, McDonald’s, Gatorade, Kellogg’s, Dyson, Dewars Scotch, Hallmark, United Airlines, Disney, John Deere and Allstate (to name just a few).
Laura is co-founder and Head of Development at Pique, a boutique digital agency focused on ecommerce experiences and growing digital brands. With cross-industry experience in digital strategy and development, Laura's approach to development is collaborative and business-minded. It's multi-faceted, overlaps with every phase of the project (design, user experience, execution, etc.) and focuses on sustainability and driving business goals forward. Laura leads Pique projects through to execution and launch while always keeping an eye on driving measurable results. She's based in Nashville, TN, travels often, and is an avid reader. Laura cannot wait to see and be a small part in the impact of fighting for Literacy for All.
Allan is the Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Peters Design Company. At PDCo he has partnered with brands such as Nike, Amazon and Patagonia. His work has been recognized internationally by numerous award shows and magazines including Clio, Communication Arts and How Magazine. He is a lover of handcrafted vintage and antique goods and comes alive when scouring small town antique malls and swap meets. In his free time he can be found reading to his three boys or biking around the city.