Local News

Clay's Fame Brings Awareness To Autism

Posted May 21, 2003

— Clay Aiken's rise to stardom has also helped out one of his favorite causes -- kids with behavior problems. One Raleigh parent said Aiken has personally done more good for her son than anyone else.

Aiken counseled Victor Galluzzo for the past three summers at YMCA camp. Aiken gave Victor beads for good behavior, something Victor had problems with before Clay impacted his life.

"Most of the time, the counselors couldn't handle him, so they would send him home or send him to a different program," said Janine Jannicelli, Victor's mother.

One of Jannicelli's best memories of Aiken came in a surprise phone call.

"I said, 'What did Victor do today?' and he said Victor had a great day," Jannicelli said.

"Like everybody else would give up on me except for Clay. He never gave up," Victor said.

Jannicelli said because of Aiken's work with her son at the YMCA, Victor has so much confidence now that he has passed a test that takes him out of special behavior classes and into regular classes.

"I can honestly say he's probably Victor's best friend," Jannicelli said. "I wish all camps had somebody like Clay."

Clay once wrote that Victor is growing into a mature young man. He signed the note, Gonzo, since that is what the kids called him. But Victor and his mother hope he will have a new nickname soon.

"Whether he wins or loses, he'll always be our American idol," Jannicelli said.

Officials with

Autism Society of North Carolina

claim donations are flowing in, thanks to Clay raising awareness about the issue.

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