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JIM PETERS: Santa Kania spreads Christmas joy through Lake Central community

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Santa Claus is real. Maybe not so much the jolly white-bearded man in a red suit who uses flying reindeer for transportation, but regular Joes who spread the joy of the season to those who may not experience it otherwise.

Rob Kania is one of those people.

"It's something where my wife and I are fortunate to have good jobs and can take care of kids," said Kania, an offensive line coach at Chesterton who teaches at Lake Central. "I can't imagine not giving to kids at Christmas. For me, it's two days out of my life, a little organizing on the side. To be part of such a program, it's worth it."

This marks the 10th December in which Kania has taken the sleigh reins of an Angel Tree program at the school where he teaches. It started at Portage, where he was for seven years and continued for two at Bowman Academy. He latched on this year at L.C. with an existing program coordinated by Stephanie Villarreal and the student council. Teachers are assigned angels and once the gifts are purchased, they are organized for the Dyer United Methodist Church to pick up. Kids from the church make lists with parents adding articles of clothing that were needed.

The L.C. staff adopted 44 children and Kania ran with it from there.

"Lake Central is big on building relationships for kids, and what better way?" he said.

Kania set a goal of $20 per student, which would equate to $3,360. As of Wednesday, the total was over $3,600 with $4,000 within sight. His classes adopted an additional 26 kids to complete the list at the church. They will spend $75 on each child during a shopping trip today to the Schererville Wal-Mart. There is still enough money remaining to make Christmas merry for another 30 or more kids through the Salvation Army. Those gifts will be delivered by a group of students Friday.

"This is the largest number of angels I've ever had adopted," Kania said. "I'm just proud of my students and the entire Lake Central school community for their efforts to make it a wonderful Christmas for so many children. Some kids bring in a $100 bill, some a pocket full of change. It all matters. I had one class from $1 to $770 in a day. You don't know how much money you're going to get, but they always go above and beyond, which is an amazing thing to see."

Kania believes most students just need a little nudge to get going.

"Kids are about kids, until you challenge them," he said. "Then once they do it, they don't have to think about it."

For Kania, who played football at Penn, it's a matter of carrying on his own family tradition. His parents have run a similar endeavor through the St. Vincent DePaul Society at their church.

"I guess it's in my genes," he said.

He has also heard from former students who have started Angel Tree programs at their workplace.

"That's what it's all about," Kania said. "We establish something something and it's the kids' jobs to carry it on."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.peters@nwi.com.

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Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso.He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997. He can be reached at 219-548-4356 or jim.hunsley@nwi.com.

Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.

Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

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