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Mother reflects one year after losing young son

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

(BATESVILLE, Ind.) -- It's been one year since Batesville third grader Eli Riley passed away from an illness on November 17, 2022. We can't imagine the pain the family has experienced and are honored that his mother, Debbie, approached us to share Eli's story.

The following article was submitted by the Riley family:


This is a story about a boy; not just any boy- Eli Riley.

Written by Debbie Riley

If you asked me to describe Eli Riley in one word, I would say that is impossible, as many agree. The first word that comes to mind is dedicated. Eli was a true Bulldog.

He was the best friend you could imagine, kind and always helpful, caring and compassionate, absolutely hilarious, adventurous, curious, imaginative and very wise beyond his years. He looked out for the underdog and literally the dogs.

He felt something beyond love for animals and pugs just made him weak!

Eli has not only changed the people that he has met, he has also changed those he did not meet. His story is one for the ages and will continue to spark joy and determination.

Eli was just beginning his journey as a third grade student at BIS. He had many friends that he adored, as they adored him. Eli had a very special group of friends that met up with him on recess where The Big Brain Club was formed- he was the president. (He was also the president of the dog club he created at home!)

Those friends never left his mind, even while he was in the hospital. He disliked being away from them. To make up for it, he made them all a personalized name bracelet. He never had the chance to hand deliver them himself, however we took care of that for him. His class and his school fought hard for him to return by sending him cards, wearing red (his favorite color) and sending him an ever-so- sweet video.

Eli never forgot the Batesville motto, he lived it.

Eli took a deep breath of Batesville and slowly exhaled. He adored this town and the many wonderous places he visited. From the school playground to the park, he generated an abundance of energy to utilize every part of the jungle gyms. He was even a part of the ribbon cutting when the newest play area was opened at Liberty Park.

One of his all-time favorite activities was taking ninja class at the YMCA. Believe me, he practiced his ninja skills until the end.

From walking through town (sometimes taking one of his stuffed animals with him), enjoying the art murals and Easter egg decorations on his way to the library to check out books about the presidents and learning the ukelele, to stopping at Amack’s to get a cold juice box- he had a blast.

Speaking of the presidents, Eli knew all 46 presidents, vice presidents, first ladies, animals they may have had, their place and date of birth, place and date of death and their favorite foods!

Walking adventures at Brum Woods, movies at The Gibson and treasure hunting at The Old Schubox, running in The Fastest Kid in Town several times-he could not get enough.

Eli had many future dreams- to become a historian, a history teacher, a husband, a pug father and of course a YouTube sensation!

Batesville needed Eli just like Eli needed Batesville. He is unforgettable and magical.

Eli faced his biggest battle yet on November 17,2022 at the age of 8 years, 5 months and 13 days old. He was beyond brave and never gave up, not once. Remember, he was a ninja after all!

To sum Eli up, he was without a doubt selfless. His last request while in the midst of getting sick was to give his cousin Bella his stuffed toys and money. His words “If I do not make it through this.” Never once thinking of himself.

Eli continues his good deeds. A therapy dog program has been started in his honor at The Batesville Memorial Library and is picking up a very big fan club! He has been sprinkling his work beyond this as well.

Eli’s giving project, EFP- Eli for President, is just getting started. Keep an eye out for more to come!

-The Riley Family


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