Four-year-old Cooper Keefer played catch Wednesday evening in Centennial Park with his hero, 14-year-old Dallas Hunt.
Cooper was born with multiple heart defects, but Dallas couldn’t tell; he could barely keep up with Cooper who was throwing passes, kicking the ball and running around the playground. He took one brief break so Dallas could give him a push on the swings.
“He’s very cool,” Dallas said. “He’s a little kid and he likes to play football, but he can’t because he can’t take direct contact to his chest or anything because of the surgeries and all of that.”
The two have formed a special bond. It started just a few months ago when Dallas came across what he thought were a couple of dollar bills in a Lawrence store parking lot. When he unfolded the money, there were three $100 bills.
“I was freaking out that I found that much money,” he said. Dallas said he decided to do the “right thing” and turn the money into the store where he found it. The manager told him that they would keep it and if nobody claimed it, they would give him a call and the money would be his.
About a month later, he received the call. His parents, Troy and LaShana Hunt, suggested he donate half of the money to charity.
“When I sat thinking about that then I thought, ‘What would I do with this money? I would just spend it on junk that I don’t need and someone could actually use that money,’ so I decided to donate it all.”
His parents asked him to pick at least five charities and learn about them before making a donation. While he did most of his research online, he came across a brochure for the Cooper’s Cause Foundation while visiting his mother, LaShana Hunt, at work. The foundation was having a bowl-a-thon fundraiser.
“It seemed like a pretty cool charity. It was a local charity, a nonprofit organization and it helps young pediatric patients with heart problems just like Cooper,” Dallas said.
The more he learned about Cooper’s Cause, the more he wanted to help. So, he raised money by going door to door in his neighborhood and by approaching the student council at Southwest Middle School. They gave him a one-time donation and allowed him to raise funds by putting out collection boxes, among other things.
On Sunday, he donated $1,556.83 to Cooper’s parents, Terry and Kristi Keefer, who are the founders of Cooper’s Cause.
“We were blown away and honored that he picked Cooper’s Cause,” Kristi Keefer said. “I was impressed with his knowledge about the foundation.”
The foundation helps families with pediatric patients by taking care of expenses that aren’t covered under health insurance. It has helped eight families since it began providing funding in 2010.
The amount that Dallas raised was significant to the Keefers because they have provided families with a $1,500 heart monitor that insurance wouldn’t cover.
“These monitors keep the kids in school and from having to be hospitalized literally every six days. So that number was relevant. He provided enough funding for a family,” Kristi Keefer said.
Not only has Dallas made a huge difference for a future recipient of Cooper’s Cause, but he’s become a mentor to Cooper. The little boy is excited about watching Dallas play football this fall at Free State High School, where he will be a ninth-grader. Dallas is hoping he can land a Free State jersey for Cooper. They’ve both always wanted a brother. Each has a sister.
“It’s luck for me by getting to meet Cooper, and he’s like a brother to me now,” Dallas said. “It’s a way better feeling than just buying something random that I would have used for a little bit and then forgot about it. This is like a lifetime memory. I will never forget about it or Cooper.”