Foundation, red wagons provide hope

With Christmas right around the corner, it is not just the elves in Santa’s workshop that are busy.

For three years the Eli Jackson Foundation has been assembling Radio Flyer Big Red wagons that were purchased through donations.

Each year, a night is chosen to assemble the wagon kits. Thirty wagons were put together piece-by-piece at Collins Chapel Baptist Church in Jemison on Dec. 12.

It was a busy night for the volunteers, which included Eli Jackson’s family and members of the Collins Chapel congregation.

The initiative has continued to grow over the years with 22 wagons donated the first year and 28 last year.

“The most important thing is that Eli’s memory will always be remembered not only in our hearts, but in everybody else’s as well,” said Cheryl Jackson, Eli’s grandmother.

The foundation began shortly after Eli Jackson lost his battle with cancer just before turning three years old in October 2015. Since then, more than 80 wagons have been donated to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

According to Tyler Jackson, Eli’s father, the wagons are used to transport children in the hospital. It offers the freedom to be mobile and venture outside the confines of a hospital bed.

“For pretty extended stays, we were able to get him out and let him see a little bit,” Tyler Jackson said. “It allowed him to socialize and do the things that kids should be able to do. If it wasn’t for the wagons, it wouldn’t be possible for a lot of the kids.”

For Eli Jackson, the red wagon provided comfort and a sense of ease during an otherwise stressful time.

“He didn’t sleep too well, but you could put him in that wagon, and he would go to sleep. We’d take shifts and walk the halls with him all night long, and he would sleep.”

It was not yet a week after Eli Jackson’s passing when the family knew that they wanted to create a foundation that focused on the red wagons, because they knew how much it meant to him.

“The red wagons were the perfect thing, because that was him,” Cheryl Jackson said. “Our prayer is that no other family has to go through what our family has been through.”

According to Tyler Jackson, after doing some research, he noticed that only 4 percent of the money allotted to organizations such as the American Cancer Society goes toward pediatric cancer.

“We’re trying to fill that void,” Tyler Jackson said. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we’re trying, and hopefully one day we’ll be there.”

To donate toward the cause of purchasing wagons or help fund research for pediatric cancer, visit elijacksonfoundation.com or the Eli Jackson Foundation Facebook page. Another option to donate is through an account that has been setup at Peoples Southern Bank.

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