The Washington Post picked up a story aired by THV-11 in February about local 8-year-old Kayzen Hunter, who started a GoFundMe to raise money for his favorite Waffle House waiter, Devonte Gardner, after finding out he was struggling financially.
Kayzen’s mother, Vittoria Hunter, told the Post that their family has a weekend Waffle House breakfast tradition, and Kayzen always gets a high five from Gardner when he walks in the door.
“Devonte always treats everyone with kindness, and he always knows exactly what I want: hash browns with cheese and eggs with cheese,” said Kayzen, who is in second grade.
During a visit to Waffle House with his grandfather a few months ago, Kayzen learned that Gardner was looking for a cheap car, and that in the past year, he’d moved his wife and two young daughters into a motel after their apartment had been infested with rats and contaminated with black mold.
Kayzen told his mother he wanted to start a GoFundMe for Gardner, and she helped him set one up with a $5,000 goal. The Post reports that donations flooded in after THV-11 aired the story, and the fund grew to $30,000 — enough for a car and to pay for an apartment for Gardner’s family for the next year, Hunter said.
Gardner, 29, said he was stunned when he learned what his young customer had done.
“I started crying — I’d been quietly struggling and didn’t want to ask anybody for anything,” he said, explaining that he uses most of his tips to pay his family’s $60 per day motel bill.
Kayzen said he was surprised and excited that so many people wanted to help his Waffle House friend.
“Devonte is a positive person who works hard to make everyone happy,” Kayzen said. “Sometimes people just need a little help.”
Gardner said he plans to move his family into a one-bedroom apartment later this month and go shopping for a car, thanks to the generosity of Kayzen and the Little Rock community.
The Washington Post story was published March 2, and the GoFundMe fund is now up to more than $100,000.