HEAL Board Member Larry Celzo

HEAL-BOD-Larry Celzo
Larry Celzo
HEAL Treasurer

Larry is a Jacksonville native who served four years active duty in the U.S. Air Force and then transferred into the Florida Air National Guard in 2001 where he continues to serve to this day at the 125th Fighter Wing.  After graduating with his finance degree from the University of North Florida in 2006, he began his career as a trusted banker currently serving as Vice President Senior Commercial Banker at FirstAtlantic Bank which is locally based and headquartered in Jacksonville, FL.

In addition to serving his country, he has always been passionate about serving his community.  He is Chair of Programs for the Meninak Club of Jacksonville, Vice Chairman for the Child Guidance Center of Jacksonville, a Board of Trustee for Memorial Health’s Specialty Hospital, and a regular volunteer for the Junior Achievement program.  His wife of 20-years, Melissa, is a Gator grad ER nurse for a local hospital and they have two boys, Cameron and Riley.  They have been active members of Christ Church in Mandarin since 2003.  Since Cameron’s diagnosis of autism in 2007, Larry has been an advocate for the local autism community and has supported the HEAL Foundation’s annual Zoo Walk over the past several years.

Larry’s son Riley, recently gave a class speech to his 5th grade classmates and teachers, about his brother Cameron and autism...

March 2018

Have you ever heard of Autism? Well, Autism, or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), is a disability that challenges social skills, repetitive behaviors, and nonverbal communication. My brother Cameron has ASD, and I would like to inform you about Autism.

Nobody really knows the true cause of Autism, but scientists are still trying to work on it. Children from 2 to 4 years old start showing signs of Autism. Some of these signs can be not learning speech, not smiling, not making eye contact, and not pointing, waving, or making any other hang gestures.

If you have a sibling or you know someone with Autism, you probably know they can get upset over things like loud noises, taking away the iPad, or certain foods they don't enjoy that they have to eat. This can lead to challenging behaviors. They act with these behaviors, because it's their only way to communicate. My brother had to learn to tell us what he wants and needs the right way.

Don't worry. A child with Autism isn't dangerous. They can be really kind! My brother can get upset, but is most of the time very loving, and full of joy! All autistic children are different, and not all of these kids are like Cameron. They also have positive feelings, and can always get along with others.

Having Autism is like playing a video game. You start off as a beginner, and as you play, you learn new strategies and skills along the way, to fight through Autism. Kids with Autism learn how to communicate, they learn new routines, they learn social skills, and they learn other skills needed through life. In a video game, you can start at different levels, similar to Autism. In the Autism game, kids are diagnosed at different levels of Autism.

The downside of Autism is being bullied. Some of these bullies don't understand Autism. Many children with Autism come home every day hurt, made fun of, and they can also even come home crying. Kids with ASD can't defend themselves, because it's too hard to communicate. These kids with Autism may feel like August, from the book and movie Wonder. If you ever see bullying, report it to an adult, or speak up for the victim. August got through bullying, and so can kids with Autism!

To wrap this all up, kids with Autism are unique. No Autistic kids are the same, and that's great! Cameron, and many other kids with ASD have come a long way through many rough times. All of these children are great, in many ways. I think Autism is something different, and awesome. Remember, Choose Kind, and Light It Up Blue!

- Riley Celzo

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