The first line on the De LaSalle Academy website is, “We believe that no child should be without dreams of success.”
Still, author Robert Martin admitted to being pleasantly surprised when the hands of every youth flew up after he asked them, “Who have dreams?”
De LaSalle Academy educates children with special needs.
Martin is on a mission to “inspire children to chase those dreams and help those who can’t.”
Now 71, Martin is a part-time Fort Myers resident who retired from an executive job to write children’s books. Those include:
- The Keira & Papa Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels
- Super Clara: A Young Girl’s Story of Cancer, Bravery and Courage
- The Amazing Ninja Brothers: Entering the Deep Unknown
The fun tales have a message of helping children face a medical or socialization challenge, have self-confidence and courage and help their friends gain the necessary understanding to provide support.
“Sometimes, kids lose their will and we don’t when or why,” he said. “Sometimes, kids have lost that will to psychological disorders or cancer. It’s the challenge of having a mind that works differently.”
Martin’s three goals with his book are to teach empathy, provide tools for grandparents and connect with a cause, Bridge to a Cure Foundation.
As Martin spoke with the De LaSalle youth, ages 11-13, he said they were interested, engaged and outgoing.
“I loved every minute,” he said. “The kids at La Salle have terrific dreams. The shyest said she wanted to become President and the more she talked, the more vocal she became. Another wanted to become a writer, another a super hero. It was a pretty broad range. Hillary Ahlfeldt has a wonderful group of students who are motivated and bright. Every child asked really smart questions. ‘What is it like to write? Do you type on computer or write by hand? Why did I start to write?’”
Principal Lori Riti said it was fabulous for the children to be in the presence of “a real-life author.
“I loved watching their faces and learning how they can reach for their goals,” she said. “They have an interest in writing and offering topics and themes. It’s also fabulous to see someone from the older generation inspiring young kids. What they’re learning from the community through writing is relevant. The kids learned how much time you have to spend on writing, how many drafts you have to write. When he said it took him a year to do a book, I think it really hit home.”
Author Robert Martin met with De LaSalle students about chasing their dreams.
Author Robert Martin met with De LaSalle students about chasing their dreams. (Photo: Priority Marketing)
Nationally known psychologist Jennifer Jo Brout, who Martin met in Connecticut, said she’s constantly looking for ways to help children understand what is going on inside of their minds and bodies.
“‘Entering the Deep Unknown’ does an excellent job of explaining how (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can affect children’s lives, in an age-appropriate way,” Brout said. “Not only does this book help to validate and explain these children’s experiences for themselves, but it will also serve as a tool to help other children understand how their peers with ADHD experience day-to-day life.
“By highlighting the great, unique qualities that children with ADHD bring to the table, this book will remove some of the stigma associated with being ‘different,’ particularly at school. This is certainly a book I would recommend to children and families who are dealing with ADHD, and those who seek to understand them.”
A personal passion
Helping youths through their challenges and encouraging them to follow their dreams is important to Martin on a number of levels. He has observed first-hand the pain and sorrow a debilitating disease or disorder inflicts on a child and the child’s family.
The name of his publishing company is ‘DreamChaser.’ He has become extremely close with his grandchildren, from whom he said he has learned much.
Martin has written two books with granddaughter Keira, 11, who plays classical guitar and produces her own music.
One of the books, ‘Super Clara’, is a tribute to Keira’s sister Clara, who died of brain cancer a little more than a year ago.
And when Martin accompanied grandson Caleb, who did testing for ADHD, he realized he, too, dealt with it throughout his life.
“ADHD was discovered in the early 1900s but I had no idea that I had the disorder,” Martin said. “I felt different only because I couldn’t do well in school. I did have a hard time accepting it when they didn’t make me the quarterback or captain of the football team. I didn’t understand it was because I was short. I thought it was a clique that I didn’t belong to.”
In time, Martin became a leader through sheer will. He spoke in front of classes in middle school and improvised on stories with humor that had classmates laughing.
Another critical moment in his life came when he was 16 and his father died unexpectedly. “I realized I was his greatest disappointment and it made me start to work hard,” he said. “It was at that moment that I pledged never to disappoint the people I love again.
“It was a great relief to find out what I had. I now understand why I didn’t achieve in school but I did understand what I did to work around it and be successful.”
Quite a few successful people had or have ADHD, including Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Richard Branson, Jim Carrey and Justin Timberlake.
The 10 Most Successful People With ADHD
Martin went on to become an executive with Colgate-Palmolive, visited 80 countries and lived 16 years abroad with his wife and two daughters in West Africa, Latin America and Asia.
After retirement, he helped keep the doors open at Southampton College in New York before he took courses there as he learned how to turn his storytelling into writing.
Proceeds from the sales of his books go to the Bridge to a Cure Foundation, which is working to increase the pace and success of pediatric research.
There are an estimated 70 million children in the United States who struggle every day with the challenges of a debilitating chronic disease, psychological disorder or socialization issue, Martin noted.
Bridge to a Cure
“The need for kindness and empathy never has been more important,” Martin said. “I love to tell stories and I relate to people. I love to motivate people. I like to take people where they are to a day where they never were before.”