Baby Eli captured the hearts of many in 2015 when he was born without a nose — a rare malformation that affects just one in 197 million people. So we were devastated to hear that the toddler passed away at the age of two on Saturday, June 3.
Eli's dad, Jeremy Finch, spoke to Alabama news site Al.com about his son's death, saying, "He was very, very bright and happy, always smiling and giving everybody fist bumps."
He went on to add that Eli, who had just celebrated his second birthday on March 4, was a popular little boy. "He touched a lot of people's lives. A lot of people cared about him."
Eli was born prematurely and with congenital arhinia, of which there have only been 47 reported cases. Doctors performed a tracheotomy when he was just five-days-old.
Jeremy also wrote on his Facebook page, "We lost our little buddy last night. I'll never be able to make sense of why this happened, and this will hurt deeply for a long time. But I'm so blessed to have had this beautiful boy in my life!"
The grieving father continued, "He finished his race a lot earlier than we would have liked, but it was God's time to bring him back home. I'll forever look forward to seeing him at the gates of Heaven waiting on me to give me another one of his famous fist bumps! I love you little man."
A Go Fund Me page has since been set up to cover the cost of Eli's funeral. "If we raise more than we need, the excess will be given to charity in his name," Jeremy explains. "Thank you all for your outpouring of love and support during these tragic times."
The campaign has since surpassed its $12,000 goal, raising over $19,000 in just one day. Our thoughts are with the family as they continue to mourn little Eli's death.
This story originally appeared on Closer.