Special-needs kids' hero makes a lot of new friends
Waiter honored after defending a child at restaurant
Michael Garcia has a crown placed on his head by Milo Castillo, 5, after students and teachers from The Rise School of Houston honored Garcia for refusing to serve a couple who made a rude remark about Milo.
Near a classroom window, 5-year-old Milo Castillo fumbled with a golden, bejeweled crown. Michael Garcia, kneeling in front of him, patiently waited with his head bowed.
The crown shifted from between the boy's fingers, but he quickly grasped both sides and gently placed it on top of Garcia's head. They both grinned.
The jewels adorning the crown are actually plastic and have been glued onto yellow foam. Nevertheless, the crown symbolizes something precious to Milo, a child with Down syndrome.
Garcia is the waiter at Laurenzo's Prime Rib on Washington Avenue who refused to serve a family who asked to be seated away from Milo and his parents, saying "special- needs children need to be special somewhere else."
Garcia, 45, instantly became a hero for standing up for Milo, receiving praise - and donations - from all over the country after the story spread. On Thursday, he presented the contributions - in the way of a check for $1,145 - to Milo's school, The Rise School of Houston, a preschool affiliate of Texas Children's Hospital.
Garcia, who frequently served Milo and his family, has no regrets about not serving the customers that day last month. The patrons abruptly left.
"If I had gotten fired, oh well, I would have got another job," Garcia said of his reaction. "But what's right is right."
Before presenting the check on Thursday, Garcia joined the children sitting on blue mats for the thank-you party in his honor at The Rise School. He craned his neck to look over TV cameras as the preschoolers performed a song in sign language and hugged each child who walked up to him afterward.
'Kind of like God'
Kress said one student told her mom on Wednesday that she learned about "somebody new" in class.
"Well, he's kind of like God, but he's not God," the little girl explained, according to Kress. "And he's kind of like Martin Luther King, but he's not Martin Luther King."
Thinking of historically significant people, the mom asked, "Well do you know his name?"
To which the child responded, "His name is Michael. He's a waiter."
Another article with video of the school honoring Michael Garcia: