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October 22, 2014

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Angels in the Valley:

Moral of the story: Care about kids

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Steve Marcus

Steve and Caroline Lake read stories to the kindergarten students at Dean Peterson Elementary School. The Lakes volunteer to read to children at the school every month.

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They seem so out of place, so big, the husband and wife sitting in little chairs for little people. But Steve and Caroline Lake are quite welcomed in this kindergarten class, reading aloud from “The Biggest Snowball of All.”

They’re reading a paragraph about a rabbit on a sled. “Let’s hope he doesn’t hit. … Who?” Steve Lake asks the 20 children.

“The snow bear!” the kids answer, loudly and almost in one voice.

The biggest smiles of all seem to be the Lakes’.

For some 90 minutes, in this class and another one at Dean Peterson Elementary School, the Lakes engage young learners by reading books and peppering them with questions.

For eight years, they’ve been coming to this school, not far from UNLV, inspired by the time Caesars Entertainment organized a crew of employees to volunteer at the school for National Reading Week. That was before Steve retired from Caesars as a pit boss.

The reading week came and went, but the Lakes just kept on coming, month after month.

“After that first visit, Steve looked at me, and I said, ‘I just loved it!’ ” Caroline said. “Today, when we show up, the kids run up and hug us. It’s heaven.”

The gift that the Lakes are to these children is fully appreciated by the school principal, Kim Swoboda.

“Reading is the gateway to everything,” she said. “And it’s so important to us that the Lakes care about our kids and make them feel so very special.”

Back in the classroom filled with the trappings of early education — diagrams showing proper penmanship, numbers from 1 to 100 and the denominations of coins — the Lakes are finishing the story about the snowball that grew into a snowman.

“The sun’s coming out. What do you think will happen?” Steve asks.

Little hands shoot up with answers, and the Lakes smile broadly.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Steve Lake retired from Caesars as a pit boss, not a dealer. | (June 9, 2014)

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