'Grueling aftermath': Cooper's family posts update on 'very long and hard road' ahead

The family of Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old Highland Park boy paralyzed from the waist down in the mass shooting during the city's July 4 parade, posted a wrenching update Tuesday on his condition.

“It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again,” the family wrote. “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.”

The update describes the sorrow, anger and hopelessness Cooper feels as “the reality of his life is setting in.”

Cooper, his twin brother, Luke, and their mother, Keely Roberts, were among dozens wounded in the parade shooting that claimed the lives of Kevin McCarthy, 37, and Irina McCarthy, 35; Katherine Goldstein, 64; Stephen Straus, 88; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.

A 21-year-old Highwood man faces dozens of charges, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. If convicted of two or more murder charges, he could receive life in prison.

Referencing “the grueling aftermath” and devastating physical and emotional toll survivors of mass shootings experience, the Roberts family update did not mince words in describing the progress of Cooper, who began rehabilitation last week at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago.

“We are constantly encouraging and motivating Cooper,” the family wrote, “but we want people to know the unvarnished reality which is his/our new world.”

According to his family, Cooper is in constant pain. His wounds have been slow to heal and he remains on heavy painkillers — from which he will be weaned this week — as well as a constant IV of antibiotics to prevent infection.

While now allowed some solid foods, the liquid diet he receives makes him feel too full to enjoy them, according to the family. Additionally, the family says participating in daily physical and occupational therapy while maneuvering around numerous ports, lines and tubes has made Cooper aware of the severe limitations he faces.

COVID-19 safety protocols mean he sees his family only briefly, once a week. The family reports Cooper misses his twin brother, family, dog, friends, home and school. They say he asks, “What will I do at recess?” even though it will be many weeks until he returns to school.

“Yet, every kindness makes him smile,” said his family, who expressed gratitude for the gifts, cards, prayers and donations that help “carry us all through this very bleak period.”

A GoFundMe online fundraiser for Cooper at has raised more than $1.7 million of the $2 million goal to help pay for his medical care and other needs. Well wishes and donations can also be sent to Cooper Roberts care of Zion Elementary School District 6, 2800 29th St., Zion IL 60099.

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Eight-year-old Cooper Roberts' visits with family are limited due to COVID-19 protocols. But he recently had the opportunity to reunite with his dog, George. Courtesy of the Roberts family
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