by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

Rick Salem enjoys his conversations with Willie Jackson.

When University of Toledo basketball team member Willie Jackson first went to Rick’s City Diner at 5333 Monroe St., little did he know he would get much more than breakfast. He and some team members along with Coach Tod K were greeted by restaurant owner and genial host Rick Salem.
“When Coach K introduced us, we had an instant bond,” Jackson remembered. “He has been great and so easy to talk with. He has taught me so much and has been such a good friend to me. And I have had the opportunity to meet so many different people through Rick.”
“Willie is just some kind of special kid,” Salem noted. “He is like a sponge, absorbing everything we talk about. He is so curious about every aspect of the business and can’t get enough information.”
Salem added, “But, more important, Willie is so generous. When he learned about my involvement in the Boys and Girls Club, he also got involved. He bought gifts for several of the kids even though he has very limited funds. When he learned that one of my friend’s granddaughter was having heart surgery, he reached out to the family asking if it would be alright if he sent a teddy bear and a card to the little girl.”
“He takes time to talk with people in the restaurant and with those who work here. If someone is dining alone, Willie notices and makes an attempt to sit down and talk with them awhile, unlike many other kids his age who spend most of their time looking at their phones,” Salem said. “He has overcome a host of obstacles in life yet he has an amazing attitude and seems to be always looking for ways to help others,” Salem reported
“I just like to make people happy. It’s not worrying about Willie, but it’s about giving back,” Jackson affirmed. According to Jackson who grew up in Garfield Heights, Ohio, coming to The University of Toledo was one of the best decisions he has ever made. “I love it here. And, I am so happy that I met Rick. He has helped me so much and I have learned a great deal from him,” he said.
A psychology and social work major, Jackson hopes to play basketball at the professional level after graduation. If that is not an option, he feels he has many other career possibilities thanks to all the connections he has made while having breakfast at Rick’s City Diner, thanks to his mentor Rick Salem.