Children's Health

Family of preschooler who died from respiratory illness holds fundraiser

This undated photo shows 4-year-old Eli Waller and his sisters.

This undated photo shows 4-year-old Eli Waller and his sisters.  (

The family of New Jersey boy who died of enterovirus D68 last month is working to preserve his memory by raising money for students’ first day of school needs.

Eli Waller, the only boy in a set of triplets, died in September after contracting enterovirus, a respiratory illness that has infected nearly 1,000 across the country and is suspected in at least eight deaths.  

Now, the Waller family is working to keep the 4-year-old’s memory alive through the First Day of School Foundation, reported.

“He had really great first days of school, so we wanted to see if maybe we could help kids who maybe wouldn’t be able to afford things, like backpacks, sneakers. So they could have the kinds of first days Eli had,” Andrew Waller, Eli’s father, told the news station while at an event called Smiles for Eli.

Smiles for Eli marked the first event for the Wallers’ First Day of School Foundation. Children dressed up in costume, smiled for pictures and painted pumpkins. Baked goods and even the professional photography services were donated.

“You can’t feel very sad on a day like today because everyone is out supporting you, lifting you up,” Andrew told

Eli died in his sleep Sept. 25. His death is the first confirmed fatality due to enterovirus.

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