The boy wanted to do something when he got to know that the waiter was living in a motel with his family and walking to work.
Vittoria Hunter and her family have a tradition of having breakfast at their local Waffle House in Little Rock every weekend. They have been requesting to sit in their favorite waiter, Devonte Gardner's section, for about a year. According to Hunter, Gardner is the nicest person ever and her 8-year-old son, Kayzen Hunter, enjoys joking around with him and getting high-fives from him when they walk in, per The Washington Post. Gardner remembers Kayzen's order, which is the same every weekend and always treats everyone with kindness.
Kayzen, who is in second grade, said, "Devonte always treats everyone with kindness, and he always knows exactly what I want: hash browns with cheese and eggs with cheese." A few months ago, while visiting Waffle House with his grandfather, John Donofrio, Kayzen learned some additional details about Gardner's life. Kayzen said, "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."
A child learned his favorite waiter was struggling. He raised $30,000 for him.— Cat, Reigning Typo Queen👑😷🌻NO DMs (@typo_cat) March 3, 2023
Kayzen Hunter, 8, stepped in to help when he learned that his friend, Waffle House waiter Devonte Gardner, was living in a motel with his wife and children. ~WaPo pic.twitter.com/nYgE3W7Nwi
Gardner had been walking several miles a day to and from work and living in a motel room with his wife and two daughters. They had to move out of an apartment that was infested with rats and contaminated with black mold about eight months earlier. Kayzen, upset about his friend's situation, told his mom about Gardner's plight when he got home. "He kept saying, ‘We have to start a GoFundMe and help Devonte get a car,'" Hunter recalled. "He didn’t give up on it. He’s a kid with a big heart."
Hunter said that on February 18, she agreed to assist Kayzen in setting up a GoFundMe page to collect $5,000 to purchase new wheels for Gardner. Once a local news station discovered the campaign, donations began to pour in, and the fund quickly soared to more than $50,000 till now. This amount was sufficient to buy a car and pay for an apartment for Gardner's family for the next year. Gardner, who is 29 years old, said, "I started crying — I’d been quietly struggling and didn’t want to ask anybody for anything." He further explained that he uses most of his gratuities to pay his family's $60 per day motel bill. His wife, Aissa Shorter, was recently hired at a local McDonald's and they work opposite shifts so they can care for their daughters, Jade, 3, and Amoura, 2, Gardner said.
He added, "We had to give up most of our belongings because of the mold, but we’re slowly working our way back." Gardner said, "I love working at Waffle House because I have an opportunity to make people feel good every day. 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." According to Gardner, he believed that others could understand his financial struggles due to the rising cost of living, which has made it difficult for millions of Americans to afford housing, transportation and food. He noted that inflation has outpaced pay increases, exacerbating the problem. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 37 million Americans are currently living in poverty.
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. It can really feel overwhelming sometimes." Vittoria Hunter and her husband, Korey Hunter, shared that they could relate to Gardner's situation as they too faced a challenging circumstance back in 2019 when they had to vacate a rental property that had been contaminated with black mold. She said, "It was important to Kayzen — and to us — to help Devonte do the same."
Kayzen expressed his surprise and enthusiasm towards the overwhelming number of individuals who offered to assist his friend from Waffle House. He said, "Devonte is a positive person who works hard to make everyone happy. Sometimes people just need a little help."