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8-year-old paralyzed in Fourth of July parade mass shooting finally returns home

Cooper Roberts became paralyzed after being shot during the Highland Park parade massacre.
/ Source: TODAY

Three months after being shot during the Highland Park parade massacre8-year-old Cooper Roberts is back home.

On the Fourth of July, Cooper was with family when a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating in Highland Park, Illinois, and struck him in the abdomen. Seven people died in the shooting and 48 others were injured.

As a result of his gunshot wound, Cooper sustained broken vertebrae, a severe spinal cord injury, and became paralyzed.

Cooper on his first day back home with his family.
Cooper on his first day back home with his family.Jason and Keely Roberts

After a life-saving surgery and in-patient stays that separated him from his father, mother, twin brother, and four sisters, he has returned home, his family said on Sept. 22.

“We are at a total loss of words to express how filled with gratitude, love and wholeness we now feel given that we are able to finally have Cooper back at home,” Cooper’s parents, Jason, and Keely Roberts, said in a statement. “He is able to live once again with his twin brother, Luke, and resume being one another’s very best playmates. “

Jason and Keely Roberts went on to describe the “heartbreakingly cruel and unfair road ahead” for their son.

“The transition to having Cooper’s extensive medical needs being addressed at home vs. at the hospital or rehabilitation clinic is a gigantic learning curve for all of us,” they explained. “And, now that he is home, Cooper has to deal on a daily basis with the sadness and grief of recognizing all the things he’s lost — all that he used to be able to do at his house, in his community, that he cannot do anymore.”

Now paralyzed from the waist down, Cooper’s parents say that the playgrounds, sports, and a bike he used to once enjoy are no longer accessible to him in the same way.

“Even much of his own home which he cannot access,” explained their statement. “For all the love that he has come back to, there are so many painful reminders of what he has lost. There is no word that we know of that adequately describes the level of pain you feel or that Cooper feels when he sees his bike he can no longer ride or his old soccer jersey...heartbreaking, agonizing, despair — there is just not a painful enough description.”

Now, the Roberts say that Cooper will endure the journey of coming to terms with a new normal in the road ahead.

A little boy in a wheelchair swings a yellow racket on a tennis court as the sun sets.
Cooper's family said the little boy is still athletic and he's already decided to pick up wheelchair tennis.Courtesy of Jason and Keely Roberts

“It is filled with a lot of new challenges and continued grief for what we have lost,” said their statement. “There is a lot of trying to figure out how to pick up the broken pieces of a life we knew and put it back together, but without the instructions. Even our home, which we all have loved, simply cannot work for us anymore with Cooper and a wheelchair and many other needs.”

Still, despite the new terrain, the Roberts underlined that their son’s drive and spirit continue to accelerate him forward.

“Since the very start, Cooper has inspired us. He is brave and kind. He is tough as nails yet incredibly tender-hearted. He cares more about others well-being than his own. He loves the world…and it is because of the love and prayers you have all sent and continue to send to him that we believe he continues on a path of healing. Please continue to pray for our sweet little boy…we know he will show the entire world that love really does win in the end.”