Our Nona Hero this month is a man – Batman, to be specific. John Kalish of Lake Nona is a retired Army veteran who has dedicated his life to his nonprofit, A Hero for Kids, where he is the founder, CEO and president. Kalish is frequently seen dressed as Batman, and in the winter months, he is often spotted decked out in Santa Claus gear. He visits children around the state in his Batmobile and costume and promotes literacy, provides necessary supplies and resources, and supports children and our heroes – firefighters, law enforcement, veterans and more. He is a Hero for Kids and a hero for Lake Nona.
Kalish claims that he is retired but is still one of the hardest-working people I know. He has stopped working for a paycheck and started advocating for a healthier and happier community. His days start at 4 a.m. after the Army instilled the habit of a five-mile run daily at the crack of dawn. He wakes up and immediately dives into working on his web presence and showing support for other small businesses and nonprofits by sharing their events and kind words.
“I came from what could only be described as a ‘poor’ family,” said Kalish. “We didn’t have a lot growing up. I enlisted in the Army as soon as I graduated high school. The military allowed me to get a college education, and I began my volunteer work. I felt the need to give back and found that in the Police Athletic League, where I coached for a number of years. The transition to nonprofit work was natural for me.”
He has since devoted his time to visiting with ill children dressed as their hero, collecting and supplying school and hygiene supplies, connecting youth with our traditional heroes, and being a community figure that people can rely on. Kalish is an active participant in all Lake Nona events and is always happy to serve in whatever ways he and Batman can.
Kalish’s focus is to grow his nonprofit. Ultimately, he intends for A Hero for Kids to settle into a large center and provide for children after-school, on weekends, and during their summer breaks. After all, he firmly believes that there is nothing more fulfilling than being able to help others and continue to serve our community.
“I am most proud of the past eight years of leading A Hero For Kids,” he said. “The organization and I have won multiple ‘of the year’ awards … but the number of children, families and veterans in need that we have served is what really is important to me. Plus, not many people get to be their childhood hero and Santa!”
Kalish’s advice to his younger self is something that we can all resonate with: “Do what’s right for the right reasons even when it’s not the popular thing to do.”
See how you can contribute to Kalish’s cause at aheroforkids.org. His passion, drive and focus have made himself and his organization an upstanding, integral addition to our region. Besides, who wouldn’t want Batman living in their neighborhood?