Little boy raises $100,000 for his favorite Waffle House server

Devonte Gardner and Kayzen Hunter at Waffle House
Courtesy of Vittoria Hunter

Breakfast: It really is the most important meal of the day.

When Kayzen Hunter, age 8, visits his local Waffle House in Little Rock, Arkansas, he’s greeted with high-fives from his favorite waiter, Devonte Gardner. Kayzen and his family often ask to sit in Gardner’s section so they can chat while Kayzen enjoys his cheesy hash browns.

As they got to know Gardner, though, they learned he’d hit a rough patch. Black mold and a rat infestation in his previous apartment forced Gardner, his wife and two young daughters to leave their home and most of their belongings.

The family moved into a motel and were barely scraping by on Gardner’s Waffle House tips.


“Even when you can work double shifts, it’s hard to get ahead,” Gardner told The Washington Post. “I’m thankful to have a job that I enjoy, but it’s hard to save enough to improve my family’s situation.”

Kayzen was moved by Gardner’s story — coincidentally, his own family left a rental in 2019 because of mold problems.

“Our water heater leaked, and mold grew in the wall and blew out everywhere through the air conditioner return,” Kayzen’s dad, Korey Hunter, told the Post. “Everything in the house was ruined.”

Black mold flourishes in damp spots that never dry. Spores from the mold travel easily through the air and are hard to eliminate. Prolonged exposure to mold can lead to people developing symptoms of respiratory illnesses, infections and rashes.

Gardner mentioned that he’d been walking to work every day because he needed a car. Kayzen sprang into action, needling his mom, Vittoria, to set up a GoFundMe for Gardner.


The GoFundMe went live on Feb. 18, asking for $5,000 to set Gardner up with new wheels. Word spread around town, the goal was met — and then the money just kept coming.

At last check, the total haul was at more than $100,000. A joyous March 5 GoFundMe update from Vittoria Hunter shared that Gardner and his family have already found an apartment and would be paying the full year’s rent so they don’t have to worry about a monthly expense. Next up: A new car and some money in the savings account.

“I’m really touched deeply by it all,” Gardner told the Post. “And as far as my little buddy goes, he’s my best friend for life.”

Kayzen described his experience succinctly to Little Rock TV station THV11: “It just feels good to help someone else.”

Good News, News

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua.

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