Daily Herald
Elgin's Winfred Cooper honored as inspiration to teens with autism
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 7/28/2010 12:00 AM

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Calling him an inspiration to teens with autism, the HollyRod4kids Foundation honored Elgin's Winfred Cooper with its Champion Award this past weekend.

The awards were given out at a large, celebrity-filled fundraising gala called DesignCare, held at billionaire businessman Ron Burkle's estate in Beverly Hills.

After walking the red carpet into the party, Cooper, 19, and his father, Winfried, met several celebrities, including Marcus Allen, Sugar Ray Leonard and Samuel L. Jackson. They also spent time with the foundation's founders, actress Holly Robinson Peete and NFL star Rodney Peete.

"It was fun. They took my picture. They took lots of pictures," said Cooper, whose friends call him "Coop." "It was a great experience for me."

Cooper, who suffers from severe autism, became a national celebrity last fall after scoring a game-tying touchdown for Elgin High School in a game against Lake Park. The video of his big play went viral, drawing interest from Holly Robinson Peete and others in the foundation.

Cooper took his first plane ride this weekend to Los Angeles with his father to accept the award, and the foundation treated them like VIPs during their stay, the Coopers said. After Cooper's acceptance speech, which drew a rousing response from the hundreds of people in attendance, Holly Robinson Peete gave him the award along with a new iPad and a few gift bags.

"It was amazing," his father, Winfried, said.

Winfred Cooper graduated from Elgin High School in May and will attend Elgin Community College this fall.