The parents of a toddler with a severe dairy allergy who died after he was given a grilled cheese sandwich at his New York day care have received an outpouring of support through condolences and donations to honor their little boy.
Elijah Silvera died after being rushed to the hospital in anaphylactic shock from Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services on Nov. 3, the 3-year-old boy’s family said in a GoFundMe campaign.
“Our beloved Elijah was playing peacefully at his pre-K in Harlem, NYC, when he was given a grilled cheese by an adult at the pre-K, despite them knowing and having documented that he has a severe allergy to dairy,” the family said on the page.
The little boy’s family created the GoFundMe for his mother and father, Dina and Thomas Silvera, asking for $18,000 to cover expenses related to the boy's death, including the funeral.
In six days, more than $56,500 was raised by more than 1,400 people, many of whom expressed their sorrow and horror over the loss of such a young child.
“My prayers go out to you and your family!” one donor wrote.
“As father of child with life threatening allergies I can only imagine what you are going through. You are living my greatest fear! I pray you can somehow find strength and stay strong for his brother,” another person wrote.
The Silveras took to the fundraising page to express their gratitude for the tremendous display of generosity and support.
“We are moved to tears to know that we are not alone, both in our heartbreak and in our concern for safety around allergies in schools,” Thomas Silvera wrote. “Every day since Elijah left us has been so painful. We come home to an apartment that has an eerie kind of emptiness. It is filled with his toys, his pictures on our walls, and the sounds of one child, the other missing.
“Elijah’s brother Sebastian asked us how we could go see his baby brother in Heaven. ‘Can we ride a rocket ship to reach to him?’ he asked, and our hearts broke all over again,” he continued. “The reality hits us, subsides, and then hits us again, and our hearts break each time. Your messages of love, support, and shared experiences are holding us up. We may be too overwhelmed to respond to everyone, but we want to thank you.”
Health officials said it appeared Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services failed to follow a written safety plan and failed to supervise a child adequately, CBS New York reported.
The school said it was conducting its own investigation.
Authorities on Thursday sent letters to the city’s nearly 400 EarlyLearn NYC child care centers, again stating the guidelines to watch over children with food allergies, the New York Daily News reported.
“This is an issue that parents are very concerned about,” Lorelei Vargas, deputy commissioner for early care and education with the Administration for Children’s Services, told the paper.
The letter reportedly noted that every child with a food allergy should have an individual written care plan with details on prevention and treatment, that staffers must be trained on preventing exposures to potentially lethal foods and recognizing the symptoms and being able to treat an allergic reaction.
Food allergies should also be posted in the classroom and where food is served, the guidelines reportedly said.
The Silveras said in their statement they plan to donate a portion of the money donated to the nonprofit FARE, or Food Allergy Research & Education.
“[W]hile we remain absolutely devastated over the loss of our sweet son Elijah, the outpouring of love from across the country has inspired us to ensure that his death did not happen in vain,” Thomas Silvera said. “As Elijah’s parents, we will use our voices to draw attention to *completely preventable* life-threatening allergic reactions in U.S. day cares and schools. These preventable tragedies must come to an end.”