Arkansas 2nd Grader Raises More Than $100k For Waffle House Server

“He’s nice and he’s kind and he always gives me high-fives”

An 8-year-old Arkansas boy on a mission to help his favorite Waffle House server buy a car galvanized an online community, raising more than $110,000.  

Kayzen Hunter is only in second grade but he knew about GoFundMe campaigns from watching philanthropist Mr. Beast on YouTube. When server Devonte Gardner shared with Hunter and his family that he walked to work or had to get a ride, he immediately begged his mom to set one up.     

“Every day I’d say, ‘Mom, GoFundMe! Mom, GoFundMe!,” Kayzen recalls.  

Kayzen Hunter and Devonte Gardner

Vittoria Hunter

Kayzen’s mom Vittoria said Gardner had asked for advice on where to buy a reasonably priced used car. He’d been saving up and he was ready to make a purchase. It was one of many conversations they shared.  

“Devonte was our server and he kind of stood out,” Kayzen remembers.  

Vittoria Hunter said Gardner and her son just “connected.”  

The two bonded over jokes Kayzen would tell Gardner.  He loves to “get [Devonte] laughing,” Vittoria Hunter said. 

“He’s nice and he’s kind and he always gives me high-fives,” said Kayzen, whose favorite order is scrambled eggs with cheese, hash browns with cheese and a tea mixed with lemonade (also known as an Arnold Palmer).  

Gardner feels the same about Kayzen. 

“He’s a positive young kid. He has a very huge heart, and I’m thankful he came into my life,” Gardner told Today.

Devonte Gardner

Vittoria Hunter

When Vittoria followed up on his car search a few visits later, she and Kayzen learned that Gardner had a setback. The apartment he was living in with his wife and two young daughters had black mold. They were forced to move into a motel because they were sick.  

Vittoria had initially resisted Kayzen’s requests to set up a GoFundMe for Gardner, but hearing about his dire living situation felt too familiar. In 2019, the Hunters had to move out of the home they were living in because of black mold.  

The entire family was forced to give up all of their belongings. Vittoria was hospitalized. 

“I thought I was dying,” she said. 

Vittoria Hunter said the moment she heard Devonte say “black mold,” nothing felt like an accident.  

“I said, ‘OK, Kayzen you were right, let’s do this,” Vittoria said.

They started the GoFundMe page on February 18, and set out to raise $5,000.  The page, which Kayzen helped write, said, “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. Devonte is one of the most joyous and positive people you’ve ever met!! He always greets us with the biggest smile.”

Kayzen hoped they’d raise enough to surprise Devonte at work with a car, or at least the money to buy the car.  

But local media caught wind of the story and the surprise was ruined.  But that media coverage exploded and helped them blow right past their $5,000 goal.  

Vittoria said she couldn’t believe it.   

“We thought once we hit our goal people would stop donating,” Vittoria said.

The donations have not stopped—and on March 13 the fund is up to $112,358.  The media attention hasn’t stopped either—and Vittoria said she’s now acting like a surrogate public relations manager for all of Kayzen and Devonte’s requests.  

Vittoria Hunter and Kayzen Hunter

Vittoria Hunter

But she’s immensely proud of her son.

“We raise our kids to be really good humans; that’s what we’re here for,” Vittoria said.  

”The world and life is hard enough — just be kind to people, and have awareness of what’s going on around you,” she added.  

Kayzen has clearly been listening.

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