Even though he’s well into retirement, James Guzzaldo’s passion for helping others is as strong as ever. The 87-year-old resident at Oak Trace retirement community in Downers Grove wakes up at 5 a.m. every weekday to help transport autistic children to and from school. He has been doing so for the past 17 years.
Currently, James’ morning shifts as van attendant run from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and consist of him picking up three autistic boys from their respective homes and ensuring they make it to school safely. The boys are students at Giant Steps, a school specifically focused on providing education, therapeutic and recreational programs for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. James’ afternoon shifts run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., during which he transports the three boys back to their homes.
Through the years, James has grown to develop special relationships with the children he works with. One of his favorite aspects of the job is learning about the children’s lives on a day-to-day basis, and the opportunity to connect with so many talented and unique individuals.
While the gig can be challenging at times, James enjoys a strong support system at Oak Trace. The team members and his fellow residents are always keen on providing kind words of encouragement. James says living at a Life Care community allows him to live worry-free, while affording him plenty of time to give back. He loves knowing that he’s making a difference and contributing to something bigger than himself.