Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 19, 2024 ·  5 min read

An 8-Year-Old Learned His Waffle House Waiter was Living in a Motel. He’s Raised Over $100K for Him.

Occasionally, we have a server who goes above and beyond to ensure the most enjoyable dining experience. In these cases, grateful patrons often will leave a generous tip. However, 8-year-old Kayzen Hunter went above and beyond, raising $100,000 for his favorite waiter at the Waffle House.

Weekly Mealtime at the Waffle House

Kayzen Hunter has family breakfast at his local Little Rock Waffle House at least once weekly, according to his mom Vittoria. She explained that Kayzen’s grandpa used to go, taking Kayzen sometimes. About a year ago, Kayzen met Devonte Gardner, who quickly became his favorite waiter. Kayzen enjoyed his Waffle House trips so much that they eventually became a weekly outing. He still goes sometimes with his grandpa, but now, he also goes with his parents and siblings. “He came home, he talked about Devonte and how much he liked him,” she said.

Image credit: Vittoria Hunter

Sharing a Sweet Friendship

Devonte has gotten to know Kayzen so well that he shares a similar sentiment and even has Kayzen’s order memorized. Kayzen’s Waffle House order consists of scrambled eggs, and hashbrowns, both with cheese.

The Waffle House waiter explained, “Every time he comes in, I always give him a high five because that’s what he expects,” Gardner told TODAY.com. “He’s a wonderful kid. He tells me jokes every time he comes in, like, ‘Hey, Devonte, I got a joke for you,’ and the next thing you know, we’re laughing.” Gardner also said.

Kayzen’s Learns of His Friend’s Hardships

Over time, Kayzen’s family got to know the Waffle House waiter, learning that Devonte has a wife and 2 daughters, 3-year-old Jade and 2-year-old Amoura. “As we started to go more and more and we met Devonte, we realized he’s just really a light in the world,” Vittoria said. “It got to the point where we always would sit in his section,” she added. “Every time we go in, he’s so smiley, he’s always like, ‘Hey, Kayzen, how are you?’”

Eventually, it came to light that Devonte and his wife, Aissa, faced financial difficulty. They had moved into a motel because their former apartment was an unsafe environment for their family. “We wanted to find something affordable, so we moved into a low-income area,” Devonte disclosed. “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.” Adding, “It was just horrible.”

Devising a Secret and Sweet Gesture

One day, Kayzen came home from his weekly Waffle House breakfast and told his mom he wanted to help. “He came home and told me that, ‘Hey, Mom, Devonte walks or gets a ride to work and I’m gonna start a GoFundMe,’” Vittoria shared that although she was hesitant, she eventually agreed. “I was like, ‘Well, OK, that’s really sweet. It’s a great idea.”

Originally, Kayzen wanted to raise a modest $500 just to help Devonte get to and from work at the Waffle House. On February 18th, the family launched their GoFundMe campaign to help the Waffle House employee. “Hi, my name is Kayzen, I am 8 years old. Devonte is a hard-working dad with two little girls and a wife.” The GoFundMe page explained, “He is a dedicated worker and has to walk or get a ride to get to work every day.”

Image credit: Vittoria Hunter

Waffle House Employee’s Brighter Future

Devonte is one of the most joyous and positive people you’ve ever met!! He always greets us with the biggest smile,” Kayzen wrote. “I hope your heart is as BIG as mine and you will help me spread kindness in the world. Any amount helps!!” Although the donations began rolling in slowly, they did eventually come pouring in. As of March 6th, 2023, the total raised by Kayzen’s family for the Waffle House employee was more than $100,000. “He’s a positive young kid. He has a very huge heart, and I’m thankful he came into my life,” Devonte gratefully expressed.

Vittoria disclosed that her on wasn’t prepared for the amount of attention we would gain from his cause. “I mean, he’s still eight, you know?” Hunter says. “The other morning, he said, ‘I was just trying to maybe make $5,000 and get him a car.’ Now, it’s turned into a crowd. We had no clue that this was going to happen.” She said.

Devonte took a break from his Waffle House shift to share with TODAY that he’s just signed a lease. The family will be moving into their new apartment soon and looking for a more suitable car. “I will be moving into my apartment very soon. We’re able to have something more stable.” He said he also has big plans for the remainder of the money he’s been gifted. “I’m gonna save the rest because I want to put my daughters in a good school, I want them to be in a good environment,” Gardner explains. “Everything I’m getting is going mostly towards my daughters to make sure they have a great, great life. Make sure we won’t have to struggle anymore.”

Taking Pride in Their Son’s Kindness

Kayzen’s parents are both incredibly proud of their son’s huge heart and state that, coincidentally, his middle name is Love. “‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ right? We know who we are as people and we know the potential of what our children can be,” Korey Hunter, Kayzen’s dad, proudly shared.

The Waffle House employee and his family received an overwhelming gesture of generosity and kindness beyond their wildest dreams. Adding even more warmth to the heartwarming story is that despite the racial division in America, this young boy went out of his way to help someone with differing skin color. Furthermore, seeing Devonte, an employee at the Little Rock, Arkansas, Waffle House, as his friend.

Keep Reading: Students raised $200k to help 80-year-old school janitor retire after rent hike sent him back to work


  1. A child learned his favorite waiter was struggling. he raised $30,000 for him.The Washington Post. Cathy Free. March 2, 2023.
  2. “An 8-year-old learned his Waffle House waiter was living in a motel. He’s raised over $100K for him” TODAY. March 3, 2023.