HAMILTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The anguished family of 4-year-old Eli Waller of Hamilton, New Jersey spoke Friday for the first time since the boy died of the infamous Enterovirus D68.

“My wife and I are just heartbroken,” said Andrew Waller.

As CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported Friday, Eli who attended Yardville Elementary School, died in his sleep at home on Sept. 25.

EXTRA: Enterovirus D68: What Every Parent Should Know | More Info From The CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last week that enterovirus D68 claimed Eli’s life. It’s still not clear how the preschooler contracted Enterovirus D68, but the death is believed to be the first linked to the virus.

Andrew Waller had a profound sense of loss as he spoke about his son.

“And we miss Eli a great deal, and we love him very much,” he said.

Waller said unlike many hard-hit by the virus, Eli did not have a serious underlying medical condition. He said Eli went to bed feeling fine — possibly with a case of pink-eye – and died in his sleep.

“He’s like the little puppy dog who looks at you and wants to make you happy,” Andrew Waller said.

Waller poignantly described the last time he put Eli to bed at night — the last night of his sons’ life.

“I kissed him on the forehead; gave him a big hug; gave him his night-night,” Andrew Waller said, “and told him, I said, you know, ‘Eli, let’s have a great day tomorrow,’ and he just said, ‘I will, daddy, I will.’ The next morning he was no longer with us.”

Waller revealed that his son – one in a set of triplets — was a special-needs child with speech and language delays.

“He was the type of kid where things never came easily for him,” Waller said.

Now, in an effort to make something good out of something very bad, Waller on Friday announced the creation of a foundation in his son’s memory. The goal of the First Day of School Foundation is to raise money for and distribute money to special-needs children like Eli.

As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, the foundation will help with tuition and other needs.

“I’m trying to do something that helps me become the father and the person that Eli saw when he looked at me,” Waller said.

Waller said he and Eli used to talk about making each other proud.

“I know that he’s watching this, and my goal is that he can be proud,” Andrew Waller said.

The Waller family is asking for everyone’s help.

To donate or for more information, go to the website for the First Day of School Foundation.

Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com:
[display-posts category=”news” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4″]