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NWI kidney donor carries Olympic Torch in run today

Angel Alvarez Hammond wears shirt signed by co-workers Tod Park wear he trains walking path East Chicago Ind. Wednesday June

Angel Alvarez of Hammond wears a shirt signed by co-workers at Tod Park wear he trains on the walking path in East Chicago, Ind. Wednesday June 20, 2012. Alvarez was selected to carry the torch for the Olympic Games in London and will run his quarter mile segment June 23. Alvarez donated his kidney to his ArcelorMittal co-worker Daniel Kniefel in August 2010. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 22, 2012 7:28PM



A Hammond man says he’s still in disbelief after being selected to be one of 8,000 people to carry the Olympic Torch before the Summer Games this year in London.

Angel Alvarez was selected by his employer, ArcelorMittal, one of the corporate sponsors of the 2012 games, to carry the torch after the company’s CEO got word that Alvarez donated his kidney to a fellow employee.

“It’s a really great honor,” Alvarez said.

He received several calls on a Friday morning telling him to call his foreman at work. The foreman informed Alvarez that he was chosen to take part in the relay.

“Even after they told me, I still didn’t believe it,” Alvarez said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Alvarez will run about a quarter mile on June 23, he said, through Higher Broughton, England, and said he’s been running in East Chicago’s Tod Park after work to train.

He said his family, including daughter, Amanda Rendon, 20, are all “really excited” for the race.

It was Alvarez’s generosity that afforded him this opportunity. He donated his kidney to colleague Daniel Kniefel, of Hobart, whom he knew but wasn’t close with.

Kniefel described the situation to his fellow colleagues, and when Alvarez found out, he offered a kidney to Kniefel.

“I didn’t expect none of this,” Alvarez said. “I just did it, he needed help. It’s hard to say (why I did it). I never, to this day — I don’t think of it as a big deal. He needed help, I could help him, why not?”

And help Kniefel he did.

Kniefel says Alvarez took it upon himself to make the donation, saving Kniefel from five to six years of dialysis, which he describes as “a slow death.”

At the time of surgery in August 2010, Kniefel was a single father taking care of his two children.

“He gave me more time to spend as a normal person,” he said. “It’s not the donating the kidney, it’s the selfless act. He took it upon himself to do this. It was incredible. I can’t even explain what he gave me — more time to spend as a normal person.”

Kniefel says that since the surgery, he is in good health.

“My body just feels like it’s regenerating,” he said. “I can do everything I used to do, that wasn’t possible without Angel.”

Alvarez is a hard worker, Kniefel said, and a happy person, always making jokes and smiling.

He will be accompanied to London by his friend, Michelle Escobedo of Portage.

After their time in London for the race, they will spend a few days in Paris.

Escobedo says Alvarez’s actions send a message to everyone on how they should live their lives.

“I don’t know if I could do that,” she said. “It’s so outstanding, so honorable.”

Escobedo said that Alvarez is very kind-hearted, caring and giving.

She said the opportunity to run with the Olympic Torch means a great deal to Alvarez, and said he absolutely deserves it.

“It’s going to be great to see him,” Escobedo said. “It’ll be very moving. I’m gonna take lots of pictures!”



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