NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The father of the New Jersey boy who died after suffering from Enterovirus D68 released a statement on Sunday.

The following is from Andy Waller, Eli Waller’s father:

“My words probably won’t capture him well, but everyone who met Eli knows how he made people feel; imagine a shy little puppy who wants only to make people proud and happy, maybe tripping a bit over his own paws, but truly full of unconditional love. He was a beautiful mix of eagerness and hesitancy, need and striving, caution and surprise, all of which were grounded in a pure, unconditional love.

The youngest of a set of triplets, born much smaller and lighter than his sisters, Eli nevertheless persevered through all the difficulties that came his way. Eli was not the type to give up, and even though things never really came easily to him, he would just plug away, day after day, practicing sounds, or movements, or skills, until he would eventually get them. He did this entirely in an effort to make his Mom and Dad proud, and we can unequivocally say that we were, and will continue to be, so very proud of our little Eli.

Eli cared deeply for his sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and his Mom and Dad. He enjoyed soccer with his best friend, and he made incredible progress through his dance classes and in school, thanks to his friends and teachers there. My wife and I simply cannot thank you all nearly enough for the roles you played in Eli’s life. And while our hearts break at his passing, our hearts also overflow with overwhelming gratitude. We want everyone to know how grateful we are for such an outpouring of love and support, not only during Eli’s life, but also after his passing. This is an incredible community in which we live, and we don’t know what to say to you all other than thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts.

In light of this gratitude, and in honor of the loving life Eli lived, my wife and I, along with a number of friends and family, are in the process of establishing The First Day of School Foundation, which will provide support for students involved in Special Education. With the help of organizations such as the Yardville Elementary PTA, Erica Haller Photography, and Dance It Up Studios, we are already beginning to organize fund-raising events. Please contact firstdayofschoolfoundation@gmail.com with questions about specific events.

Like so many kids his age, Eli was both nervous and excited about starting school, and it is our sincere hope that this Foundation can work to help kids in a way that will make Eli proud of us all, in the same way that we were all so proud of him. My wife and I again want to thank everyone for their tremendous love and support during these difficult days, and we hope that you all will continue to support our efforts to honor the memory of our perfect, beautiful son, Eli Thomas Waller. We love you, little buggy!”

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