Eight-Year-Old Raises $100,000 for Waffle House Waiter in Need

Jonathan Buscher

Nearly every weekend, 8-year-old Kayzen Hunter and his family go out to eat breakfast at a nearby Waffle House in Little Rock, Arkansas. Oftentimes just with his siblings and parents, but occasionally his grandfather, Kayzen is always greeted by Devonte Gardner, his personal favorite waiter at the restaurant. 

Having met in early 2022, Kayzen quickly developed a friendship with the much older Gardner, as Vittoria Hunter, Kayzen’s mother, said that “When he came home, he talked about Devonte and how much he liked him,” in an interview with Today.com. According to Gardner, he feels the same way towards Kayzen, as in the same interview, he stated that “Every time [Kayzen] comes in, I always give him a high five because that’s what he expects,” along with memorizing the 8-year-old’s order: hash browns with cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, and an Arnold Palmer. Gardner also mentioned that the two frequently tell jokes and laugh with each other whenever Kayzen is in the Waffle House. Soon after this relationship started, Kayzen and his family began sitting in Gardner’s section of the restaurant whenever possible just to see his smiling face. 

After getting to know the waiter a bit better, Kayzen learned several different pieces of Gardner’s personal life. Living with his wife, Aissa, along with young daughters named Jade and Amoura, Gardner was experiencing rough conditions. “We just got tired of infestations with rats and roaches and all this black mold. My daughters were getting sick. No heat and things like that. When it was cold outside, we had to bundle up with like four or five blankets in order to stay warm,” Gardner said while describing the conditions of his previous apartment. As a result, the family had been living in a motel for about eight months, along with having no car. 

Hearing about this situation, the kind-hearted eight-year-old decided he wanted to do something about it. Vittoria Hunter described the situation, saying, “He came home and told me that, ‘Hey, Mom, Devonte walks or gets a ride to work and I’m gonna start a GoFundMe,’” as was noted by a Today.com article. After much begging, Ms. Hunter finally agreed, initially setting the goal at $500 to help Gardner with a new vehicle, posting the page as “Help Devonte get a family car” on February 18, 2023. Describing Devonte’s situation, Kayzen finished off the page by writing “I hope your heart is as BIG as mine and you will help me spread kindness in the world. Any amount helps!!” As more attention was gained by Kayzen’s efforts, the GoFundMe eventually reached over $100,000 for the waiter. 

With the funds, Gardner recently signed a lease on a two-bedroom apartment, along with buying a family car. He has said that he will save whatever remaining money there is and put it towards education for his daughters. Expressing his uttermost gratitude, Gardner concluded his interview with Today.com by saying “He’s a positive young kid. He has a very huge heart, and I’m thankful he came into my life,” while referring to Kayzen. Kayzen’s parents have expressed their pride in their son, and hope that he continues such efforts in the future, along with maintaining a connection and friendship with Devonte.