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by Betsy Denson
For The Leader
It was an inspiring story that went international – the Houston waiter at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib on Washington who stood up for a 5-year old patron with Down syndrome. While Michael Garcia’s actions struck a chord with millions, there were those close to home who were particularly touched, since they know and love little Milo Castillo.
Candlelight Estates resident Emily Berman was thrilled to see her buddy in the spotlight. Berman is a physical therapist at The Rise School where Milo attends and has known him since he was nine months old.
“Milo is an enthusiastic little guy who loves music and to dance,” said Berman. “He is very creative and enjoys playing with his peers.”
Thursday Milo might be dancing a little more than usual because his favorite waiter is coming to visit his school. Garcia will bring a donation to Rise Houston of more than $800, too, which is the amount that people have sent to him in response to the story. The students at Rise were busy making hero cards last week for Garcia.
The waiter asked another diner to leave after he asked to have his party moved away from Milo and made the comment, “Special needs kids should be kept in special places.” At the time, Garcia said he realized the action could have cost him his job.
Open since 2000 in Houston, Rise Houston –– located east of the Texas Medical Center –– is the largest of the four Rise schools in Texas. Children with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities attend school along side their traditional-learning peers.
The school has a music therapist and language specialist on staff as well as physical, occupational and speech therapists from Texas Children’s Hospital. Therapists and teachers meet on a regular basis to review individualized goals for each child in the effort to promote the optimal independence of all its students.
In addition to Berman, Milo has plenty of fans in his Heights neighborhood as well as in Oak Forest where all his cousins live.
Milo’s mom Kim says that her son has been taking all the attention in stride. “Honestly, it’s been great – all the support and positivity from all over the world,” said Castillo. “I really don’t think Milo thinks too much about the additional attention. We have been telling him for years he is going to be a rock star, so this is just practice for what’s to come.”
For more information about The Rise School, including how you can support their efforts, visit http://www.riseschool.org/houston/.