Cooper Haynes never dreamed he’d get this much attention for losing his wallet.
The second-grader from Gastonia, N.C., lost the prized possession he’s had since preschool while on a field trip to Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo. He cried when he came home and told his mom, Kassie Haynes, what happened.
Haynes cried too – about a month later, after a package addressed to Cooper arrived in the mail.
Not knowing what the package contained, Haynes opened it to find the wallet, all its contents – an identification card and $4 – accounted for and a note attached.
“Cooper, my friend Amaya found this on our marching band trip, so we mailed it back to you. – Maggie,” the note said.
“P.S. if you want to check us out have your parents look up on YouTube, Nation Ford High School band 2015 or Bachxedin.”
“It was overwhelming,” Haynes said.
She took to social media to share the news with friends.
“You know, in a world where we see so much bad, I thought I would share something really great today,” Haynes posted on Facebook, telling the story. “Maggie, wherever you are, you are Cooper’s angel today!!”
Cooper, 7, wanted to meet his “angel,” but ended up getting to meet the rest of the Nation Ford Band as well.
Haynes said she didn’t tell her son about the Nov. 16 meeting until the day before because she knew he would be nervous.
“Well, she said there was going to be like a hundred (people,) so I was a little bit scared,” Cooper said.
More than 100 band members, members of the media, the school resource officer and the principal, to be exact. Band Director Martin Dickey, Officer Dave Prescott and NaFo Principal Jason Johns said a few words before Cooper was introduced in the school’s band room.
Dickey welcomed everyone and asked Cooper to come down and stand on a pedestal in front of the band.
“You’re the man of the hour,” he told him, and explained the story.
Doing the right thing is “the No. 1 thing we teach,” Dickey said. “Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”
Amaya Britton, 15, said she found the wallet on the floor of the chartered bus and gave it to Laurie Hays, who was one of the chaperones for the band’s trip to Western Carolina University for a competition. Amaya thought it belonged to Hays’ son, because the last names Hays and Haynes are so similar.
Laurie’s daughter Maggie Hays, 15, then mailed it back to Cooper.
“I just hoped it would get to him,” Maggie said. “I’m glad it had his ID, otherwise I would have never known where to send it.”
Prescott told the girls he will be nominating them for the Fort Mill Police Department’s Do the Right Thing program, which recognizes and rewards Fort Mill youth for exemplary behavior, accomplishments and good deeds.
“You’ve got to be the most polite kids that I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Prescott told the band students. “I’m really proud of you guys. I really am. Especially these two.”
Johns said how proud he is of the girls and of NaFo students.
“Students doing good things happens every day here,” Johns said. “This is what makes us the best high school in South Carolina.”
Johns thanked Cooper for coming to the school, telling him, “You’re a good looking kid on TV, but you’re a great looking kid in person.”
A teary-eyed Haynes thanked Maggie and Amaya in front of their peers and gave them each a bouquet of flowers.
“I just hope my kids can grow up and not walk by (without) doing the right thing,” she said.
The girls were nonchalant about finding and mailing back the wallet and about the attention.
“I’ve never really been in the spotlight,” Amaya said. “I just blend in with the rest of the band.”
After the ceremony, Cooper was nonchalant too, more interested in talking to the students and admiring the bands’ many trophies than in talking to the media.
“When I lost (the wallet) I never thought I’d see it again, but then it showed up,” he said.
Hays praised Dickey for his part in teaching and steering the students in the right direction.
“He really is instrumental with all these young people,” Laurie Hays said.
“Regardless of whether they hear it at home, he makes sure they have values and boundaries within the band community.”
Dickey, whose band won the S.C. state title just a few weeks ago, said it’s all part of what they teach at the high school every day.
“There was never any question of what they were going to do,” Dickey said. “We always do the right thing, and these two girls proved that.”