Ex-Steelers Star Ryan Shazier Visits 8-Year-Old Highland Park Victim

Ryan Shazier

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Ryan Shazier prior to a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on August 30, 2018.

Earlier this month the family of Highland Park shooting victim Cooper Roberts provided a heartbreaking update on the eight-year-old’s recovery from a gunshot wound that severed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

A ‘Long and Hard Road’ Ahead For Cooper Roberts

“It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again,” said the family, as revealed by Barbara Vitello of suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald. “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.”

Cooper and his mother, Keely, both suffered gunshot wounds when a mass shooter opened fire at a 4th of July Parade in Highland Park, Ill., leaving seven people dead and dozens more injured.

The family went on to describe many of the challenges experienced by Cooper, including severe physical pain, the ongoing need for IV painkillers and antibiotics, and “the sorrow, anger and hopelessness Cooper feels as ‘the reality of his life is setting in,’” related Vitello.

But in recent days there has been some good news concerning Cooper’s recovery.

“This week, we are happy to report that Cooper’s IV and PICC lines have been removed. He no longer requires IV pain medicine and antibiotics,” wrote the family on its Fundraiser GoFundMe page. “In other good news, Cooper is no longer being fed liquids through an intravenous feeding tube and can now eat the foods he’s been craving…. Removing all the tubes has been a huge mood booster for Cooper,” added the family, as was the opportunity to spend time with his twin brother, Luke, and his dog,

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A Visit From ‘Real-Life Hero’ Ryan Shazier

Meanwhile, Cooper and his family also got an emotional boost thanks to an August 23 visit from former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a spinal contusion during an NFL game on December 4, 2017, but has since recovered to the point where he can walk again.

“Ryan was transparent, authentic, genuine and gracious in sharing insights with us about his path to recovery. We are so grateful for Ryan’s motivational words and great kindness in spending time with Cooper and Luke,” offered the family, before noting that they still don’t have a good sense of his long-term prognosis.

“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 for the work he does through The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation, which focuses on giving those with spinal cord injuries and their caregivers the support, resources and funding they need to live independent and meaningful lives.”

The Ryan Shazier Fund Launched in Nov. 2020

Since retiring from the NFL in September 2020, Shazier has been focusing on helping people adjust to their own life-altering challenges. In addition to launching the Ryan Shazier Fund, he has since made it a habit of visiting people with life-altering injuries and illnesses, including a Steelers and Ohio State Buckeyes fan who lost all of her limbs in the wake of complications from the flu.

Shazier, 29, was a first-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2014 after a stellar career at Ohio State. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2016 and 2017 before his career ended prematurely.

In November of 2021, Shazier released his memoir, Walking Miracle, in which he details his recovery from his spinal cord injury.

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