Boy, 8, raises $30,000 for his Waffle House waiter

Boy, 8, raises $30,000 for his Waffle House waiter, 29, on learning he and his family were living a motel after they were forced out of their apartment due to infestation of rats and black mold

  • Kayzen Hunter, 8, initially hoped to raise $5,000 for Devonte Gardner, 29
  • After a local news outlet picked up the story donations for Gardner poured in
  • Gardner said he was moved to tears when he found out what Kayzen did for him 

An eight-year-old Arkansas boy raised over $30,000 for his favorite Waffle House waiter after leaning the 29-year-old lost his home and was living in a motel with his family.

Kayzen Hunter, a second grader from Little Rock, has breakfast with his family at their local Waffle House every weekend, and always makes sure to sit in the section of the restaurant waiter Devonte Gardner is covering.

Gardner always slips Kayzen a high-five when he walks in and makes sure to remember his regular order – hash browns with cheese and eggs with cheese – and, in Kayzen’s words to the Washington Post, he ‘always treats everyone with kindness.’

But during a recent visit with his grandfather, Kayzen learned that Devonte had fallen on hard times after the apartment he lived in became infested with rats and black mold, forcing him to move his wife and two young daughters into a motel and walk several miles to work.

Kayzen decided he had to help Devonte, and after setting up a GoFundMe page, managed to raise a whopping $38,000 that allowed Devonte to purchase a car and pay for an apartment for his family for an entire year.

Kayzen Hunter, 8, (right) and Devonte Gardner, 29, at the Waffle House where Gardner works

Kayzen and his mother, Vittoria Hunter, who helped him set up the GoFundMe page

Kayzen Hunter, 8, who raised lots of money for his favorite Waffle House employee

The boy learned about Devonte’s troubles after a breakfast with his grandfather in which Devonte mentioned he was looking for a cheap car so he wouldn’t have to walk so far to work. 

As they talked, Devonte told the boy and his grandfather about how he and his family had been forced out of their home eight months prior.

‘Devonte said he wondered if anyone might know where he could buy a cheap car – he’d been having a hard time saving for one,’ Kayzen told The Post.

The boy’s mother, Vittoria, said after Kayzen learned about Devonte’s hard times, he was relentless about doing something to help him. 

‘He kept saying, “We have to start a GoFundMe and help Devonte get a car,”‘ she told the Post. ‘He didn’t give up on it. He’s a kid with a big heart.’

So in February she helped Kayzen set up a GoFundMe for the page, setting their goal price at $5,000.

‘Hi, my name is Kayzen, I am 8 years old,’ he wrote on the page. ‘I am wanting to raise funds for my friend, Devonte, who I met and have come to know from eating breakfast at Waffle House. Devonte is a hard-working dad with two little girls and a wife.

‘He is a dedicated worker and has to walk or get a ride to get to work every day. He was looking for a decent priced car, and his family was unfortunate and ended up in an apartment riddled with black mold. He had to get his kids out and it set him back a lot.

‘Devonte is one of the most joyous and positive people you’ve ever met!! He always greets us with the biggest smile. I hope your heart is as BIG as mine and you will help me spread kindness in the world. Any amount helps!!’

Devonte Gardner with his two young daughters. He and his family were forced to live in a motel

Devonte Gardner with his wife. The couple work opposite shifts so they can care for their kids

Devonte Gardner and his wife, who lost their home when it became contaminated with mold

Shortly after the page was set up, a local news station ran a story about it and donations came pouring in, with many coming from customers who had been served by him before.

‘This guy is ALWAYS in a good mood and a hard worker!’ one person commented on the GoFundMe page while making a contribution.

Devonte told the Washington Post he was broke down in tears when he found out what Kayzen had done for him.

‘I started crying – I’d been quietly struggling and didn’t want to ask anybody for anything,’ he said. 

Gardner explained he was used his tip money to pay for the $60 per-night motel, and that his wife had taken an opposite shift at McDonald’s so they could switch off caring for their three and two-year-old children.

‘We had to give up most of our belongings because of the mold, but we’re slowly working our way back,’ Gardner said.

‘Even when you can work double shifts, it’s hard to get ahead,’ he said. ‘I’m thankful to have a job that I enjoy, but it’s hard to save enough to improve my family’s situation.

‘I love working at Waffle House because I have an opportunity to make people feel good every day,’ Gardner said. ‘I love the people who come in, especially Kayzen. For this little guy to do this out of the kindness of his heart is really humbling.’

Devonte Gardner, who neede a car to drive to his job at a Waffle House in Little Rock

Devonte Gardner with one of his daughters who lives in a motel with him

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