LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — (KTHV) – An 8-year-old Little Rock boy who died from the flu exactly one year ago is still making an impact through the help of a foundation in his honor.
Tyler Dannaway, 8, became the first child to die of the flu in Arkansas after nearly four years in January 2018.
While his parents say losing their only son has been difficult, they feel it is important to carry on his legacy. Tyler had autism, but his parents said that never stopped him from being the best he could be.
"He had this miraculous way of charming people without even knowing it,” Steve Dannaway said.
Inside the Dannaway house, puzzles and toys remain untouched since Tyler passed.
"[They} have been on the ground for over a year,” Steve said. “He loved puzzles. He was literally siting there doing them the day before it happened."
Tyler is Steve and Teresa’s only child. They have since made it their mission to keep his memory alive by starting the Tyler Dannaway Foundation. It aims to provide better resources for families with autistic and special needs children.
"One of the things we came up with was therapy dogs,” Steve said.
Teresa said three dogs are waiting to be trained. Seven-year-old Cody, a rescue Labradoodle from Hot Springs, is the first dog to come from Tyler’s foundation. He will go on to provide comfort for his family and other kids and adults. He has about three more trainings to go through before he is certified.
"They'll give the love back like Tyler did. Tyler had an unconditional love and dogs have the same type of love,” Teresa said.
So far, the Dannaway's have raised over $15,000. Most of the donations to the foundation come privately through word of mouth.
"We're also going to be offering financial assistance for swim therapy to teach autistic kids how to swim,” Teresa said.
The Dannay’s ultimate goal is to open a sensory gym in Little Rock – where there currently are not any. The couple is also working with the Little Rock Fire Department to provide autism awareness stickers for buildings and apartments, so first responders know there's a person with autism inside.
They are still working on the sticker’s design, but hope to roll it out in the next few months.
"[Tyler] knew he had autism, he wasn't going to let that stop him,” Steve said. "He was really smart, had a really funny sense of humor and he was very mischievous."