Special Visits, Favorite Foods Lift Spirits of 8-Year-Old Cooper Roberts As He Recovers From Highland Park Shooting

It was addition by subtraction over the last week for 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, who is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained during the Highland Park Fourth of July Parade.

Doctors removed Cooper’s two intravenous lines and feeding tube, and the survivor celebrated by indulging his cravings for Lay’s pickle-flavored chips, Chik-Fil-A, cheddar flavor-blasted Goldfish crackers and more, his family said in a statement on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

“Removing all the tubes has been a huge mood booster for Cooper, to be able to eat some of his favorite foods and to start maneuvering his wheelchair better without the tubes getting in his way and causing him pain,” says the statement.

Almost two months ago, Cooper was one of dozens of people shot — seven fatally — in a lone gunman’s unprovoked attack during the town’s Independence Day parade. Cooper was struck and paralyzed by a bullet that severed his spinal cord.

Early in August, he was transferred from the hospital to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, where he has been participating in physical, mental and emotional therapy.

The 8-year-old has endured a roller coaster of emotions as well as the pain of physical trauma. On Aug. 16, the family described a low point in Cooper’s recovery, as he struggled with his intense therapy, limited time with his twin brother, Luke, and more.

“It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again,” the previous statement reads. “Of course, we are beyond grateful for his survival, and we know others weren’t as fortunate, but we want people to know his path/our path will be a very long and hard road. He’s an eight-year-old boy who feels hopeless, sad and angry as the reality of his life is setting in.” 

NFL retiree Ryan Shazier, who suffered a spinal injury in 2017, visits with Cooper and his family | Courtesy of The Record North Shore

Since, the family said Cooper’s spirits are on the rise. He even bested a nurse in a wheelchair race down the hallway.

Cooper also welcomed a couple special visits. He spent a couple hours with Luke and chatted with former Pittsburgh Steeler star and spinal injury survivor Ryan Shazier, who talked with Cooper about his recovery process from a spinal contusion that caused paralysis.

“Ryan was transparent, authentic, genuine and gracious in sharing insights with us about his path to recovery,” the statement says. “We are so grateful for Ryan’s motivational words and great kindness in spending time with Cooper and Luke. We know that the Roberts Family will continue our friendship with Ryan, who is one of our family’s favorite football stars and a real-life hero.”

The family has thanked the community for the outpouring of support for Cooper, who hopes to enter the third grade at Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park, later this year. A GoFundMe for the Roberts family has raised just short of $2 million.

A mailbox dedicated to Cards for Cooper is located at a memorial for the Highland Park victims at Central Avenue and St. John’s Avenue.

This article originally appeared in The Record North Shore, a local news nonprofit.

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