Lunch with Santa
For the past twenty years, Wheeler has made a point to help the Union Township community during the holiday season. The Lunch with Santa program was adapted by guidance counselor Mike Rosta twenty years ago when he heard the community program would be seeing its last year.
Although Rosta had only volunteered with the program for one year, he took it upon himself to keep the program alive.
At first, the program helped around twenty-five children in Union Township. This year, the program is projected to help over two hundred children and eighty-two families. Lunch with Santa takes place on Saturday 22nd this year. All the families will be able to enjoy a turkey and ham lunch. Santa will then come for the children, and each family will separately visit with Santa to receive their food baskets, clothes, and toys.
All of the food baskets, clothes, and toys are donations from families and companies in the community. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church puts every single child in the Lunch with Santa program on their angel tree. Other companies adopt around twenty kids to donate towards. A few weeks prior to Lunch with Santa, each school within the corporation puts on a food drive to collect nonperishable goods. Classes are given a list of goods that are needed to fill one box, so everyone receives the same goods. At the high school, each resource class that has at least three boxes prepared is entered in a competition to win an out-of-school lunch.
Guidance counselor Mike Rosta first started at Wheeler over twenty years ago and has made a huge impact not only within the school but also throughout the community. Rosta originally studied to be a child psychologist while he attended Valparaiso University. However, he eventually switched to social work. One of Rosta’s first internships was at a school and quickly after that, he decided he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to work with children. Rosta received his Bachelor's degree from VU, and went on to receive his Master’s degree from IUPUI.
Rosta began working at Wheeler as a social worker a few years after he graduated from VU. He then moved to the middle school to work as the Dean of students and as a social worker. After 13 years, he got his guidance license and began working as the guidance counselor in the high school.
Outside of his guidance position, Rosta also coaches both boy’s and girl’s tennis, runs Natural Helpers, and is in charge of Lunch with Santa. With Rosta’s lengthy career at Wheeler, he has grown to love the school and community. He shared that he views Wheeler as a family.
“When you have five hundred and some kids, you really do know everyone,” explained Rosta, “You look out for each other.”
In Rosta’s free time, he tries to find time to play tennis or golf. However, the best part of his life, currently, is his 18-month granddaughter. Rosta shared that he simply loves spending time with her and being a grandpa.
As the holiday season began, the Bearcats fully immersed themselves by giving back and spreading cheer and are determined to do as much as possible to celebrate the season. Each year, the Key Club takes part in two large volunteer efforts to help not only around the community but internationally.
Members purchase small presents for boys and girls from about five to fifteen years old, separate the gifts, and fill shoeboxes with them. The presents range from yo-yo’s to coloring books to stuffed animals. They then wrap and send them to children in underdeveloped countries who wouldn’t receive anything for Christmas otherwise.
Another festive project is bellringing with the Salvation Army to raise money. This year, the Key Club members took part in bellringing on December 15th.
The concert choir at Wheeler also has a few holiday traditions. Alongside Madrigal, the choir also annually sings for the McColly Realty Holiday party at Innsbrook Country Club. The students dress in their medieval Madrigal costumes and spread joy by singing to the guests.
Lastly, the faculty at Wheeler was sure to spread holiday spirit within the school by creating a door decorating contest. Each resource was to decorate their door with a holiday scene. Students got right to work, brainstorming their best ideas.
The top three resource classes with the most creative, well-made doors will receive a prize of a pizza and cookie party. As you walk through the halls, you will see everything from snowflakes to Christmas puns to the infamous Grinch.
Although Melanie Edmond is almost half-way done with her senior year, she is still working hard and getting the most out of her high school experience.
Edmond explained,“My club and sport involvement has allowed me to grow into myself and become more confident in myself.”
Edmond is a member of National Honor Society, the volleyball team, the track team, a Natural Helpers leader, and the Secretary of Key Club.She has attended Wheeler since kindergarten and feels the atmosphere at Wheeler has helped her grow as an individual.
“The small school atmosphere of Wheeler allows for a very supportive environment,” stated Edmond, “It’s special because everyone knows and cares about each other.”
As secretary of Key Club, Edmond is an active participant in the holiday volunteering. She has been helping with the Salvation Army bell ringing and wrapping shoe boxes of presents for children in underdeveloped countries all throughout high school. She is thankful for the opportunity to help those during times of need.
Edmond shared,“Being able to help make their holidays their holidays special through bell ringing and providing shoe boxes of presents to kids in underdeveloped countries is one of my favorite parts of the holidays and being in Key Club.”
After she graduates, Edmond will study early childhood education at Southwestern Michigan College. She then plans to become a developmental therapist.
In her free time, Edmond enjoys hanging out with friends and family, alongside reading, running, watching TV, and playing with her dogs.