SHOCKING: Heartlesss vandals graffiti child's memorial bench
HEARTLESS vandals who graffitied a memorial bench for a six-year-old child who died of a rare brain tumour have been slammed by the boy's devastated family.
Cooper Christensen would have celebrated his ninth birthday on Sunday.
His family, including mum Amanda, dad Michael and his sister, Jessie Mahoney, visited the boardwalk at Torquay that was constructed in his honour in the months after he died.
The family were left shocked and disgusted when they visited the memorial park bench on Cooper's birthday on Sunday to find vandals had scratched words into the wood of the bench and had used markers to scrawl graffiti just centimetres from the plaque dedicated to their son.
Jessie said seeing the graffiti right next to plaque in Cooper's memory hurt the family deeply.
"I think that's what hurt mum the most," she said.
The family visit the boardwalk regularly, not only because of the memorial but because the Esplanade at Torquay was one of Cooper's favourite places.
Last month, the Christensen family held its second Cooper's Walk event on the Esplanade, to raise funds in the battle against brain cancer.
More than 100 people attended the event and released balloons into the sky.
Both Jessie and Amanda have visited the memorial in the days since then too, with both often stopping in to remember Cooper.
It would have been heartbreaking any day, but to see it on Cooper's birthday caused extra pain.
"We are really torn over it," Jessie said.
"It really hurt mum.
"She feels like it's her fault she can't protect something Cooper loved so much.
"It just tore everybody apart."
Thankfully, within a few hours of the family informing the council about the damage, the worst of the graffiti, including the pink scrawl next the plaque, had been removed.
Cooper was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma when he was just four years old, one of just 10 children a year on average who are diagnosed with the disease in Australia.
His parents were told their son had about a year to live, but he battled bravely for one year, eight months and 26 days after his diagnosis.
He died on July 25, 2015.
Jessie said her little brother was loved and missed every day.
"He was the most down to earth, fun loving kid.
"He was always happy, always laughing. He was so brave and strong."