The family of Eli Waller, the 4-year-old Hamilton boy who died from Enterovirus D-68 has created a foundation in his memory to help special needs families pay for tuition, school supplies and other items for their kids.

Eli Waller
Eli Waller (Photo courtesy of the Waller Family)

Andrew Waller, Eli's father, said The First Day of School Foundation will work with school districts to host fundraisers and donation drives to help special needs children. He said his son was the smallest of three triplets and had speech and learning disabilities and that working with teachers and after-school activities helped him.

"We're beyond grateful for the support from the community, and if we can provide money for a family to help them with those things, we would be honored to do so. We're asking for people's help," Waller said during an afternoon news conference in Hamilton on Oct. 10.

Waller said the idea for the name of the foundation came from Eli's excitement about the first day of school, which he really looked forward to.

"By doing this, maybe I can do something that Eli would be proud of. I'm determined to make something good out of this tragedy, and the way that happens is with all of your help," Waller said.

Eli attended preschool classes at Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton Township.  He died in his sleep on Sept. 25.  His family said he exhibited no symptoms when he was put to bed.

Andrew Waller
Andrew Waller at press conference on Oct. 10 (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

Waller added that after Eli died he felt like he was at a crossroads and needed to make a choice. "Are you going to just sit and languish and be sad for the rest of your life, or are you going to make something good happen? The idea with the foundation was to take every moment that we've got and do the best that we can with it - make something good out of this totally random, really incredible kind of tragedy."

All donations will be handled by the Community Foundation of New Jersey.  In addition, the foundation has a donor that is willing to match donations up to $10,000.

"We would love to be able to help students across New Jersey and even the entire country. We're dreaming big. We'll work with special ed departments and try to identify needy families that benefit from school supplies and tuition assistance," Waller said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 14 cases on RV-D68 in New Jersey as of Oct. 10.  Local health officials still don't know how Eli contracted the virus.

To donate to The First Day of School Foundation, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.










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