Teens donate summer tips to train a therapy dog for boy with epilepsy

Sometimes it’s not the quantity of a gift that counts, but the spirit in which it’s given.

That was the case last week when a dozen teenagers who work concessions at Harrison Recreation ballfields took their tips collected during the three-month baseball season and gave them to 9-year-old Cooper Barnes. Cooper was diagnosed at age 5 with epilepsy and, due to the type and frequency of his seizures, he can’t be left alone.

The teens gave the Barnes family their collection of $120 to go toward training Cooper’s German shepherd, Emmett, to be an epilepsy therapy dog. While $120 is hardly a dent in the $14,000 expense of training Emmett, Rachel Barnes, Cooper’s mom, says, “To know you have that kind of support for your child makes me want to cry.”

Carol Pearson, concessions manager for Harrison Recreation on Highway 58, says that, on some nights, the tip jar might have 16 cents in it at closing, on a good night $6.

“They usually divide it among themselves. But this year, because some were full-time and some part-time workers, they decided to donate it all to charity,” says Pearson. “Cooper is such a great kid, always happy, always smiling. I could have cried when they thought of that.”

The tip jar isn’t a big money-maker for the teens, she says, it just gives them a little bonus to the $5 hourly rate they are paid per shift.

“When we were thinking about it, we were looking at different charities, but then we realized we had one of our own we should help,” says Jalah Johnson, 16, a junior at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences.

The teens planned a pizza and ice cream party at the concession stand and asked the Barnes family to come — not telling them about their planned surprise.

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