Eli Burton named first-ever junior Stockyard Days grand marshal

The 2017 Stockyard Days parade will be led by a local boy with a big heart.

In March 2015, 8-year-old Eli Burton saw a homeless man with a sign asking for help on the side of the road. That single encounter got the wheels turning in the young boy’s head.

The first-ever Junior Stockyard Days grand marshal, Eli Burton, poses with a heap of Eli Packs that were assembled with help from the New Brighton Lions. (Submitted photo)

“He was overcome with emotion on how that person needed help,” said Eli’s mother Nancy Burton. “We talked to him about ways we give back to the community but then a few miles down the road he was stuck with emotion again. It got to the point where he said he wanted to trade his life with that person because he had everything and they had nothing. He wanted to do something right away.”

Later that night, Eli Packs were born.

An Eli Pack, which is put together for less than $5, is a care package filled with essentials like water bottles, dry socks, snacks, tooth brush, tooth paste and hand sanitizer. When it is cold, hand warmers and a list of uses for a bandanna are included.

Currently, the packs are wrapped in a bandana, and sealed with a hand signed note from Eli stating: “I hope this helps you today! With love, Eli.”

Since 2015, over 550 Eli Packs have been assembled and distributed in Chicago, Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and around the Twin Cities Metro. Friends and family have also distributed the packs on road trips throughout the United States.

Since the conception of Eli Packs, donations have been received from the family dentist, a friend’s orthodontist, church members, generous friends, and family. Most recently, the New Brighton Lions donated $500 and labor to help put together 135 Eli Packs at Adagio’s restaurant in New Brighton.

Eli, Now 10, will be a 5th grader this fall at Bel Air Elementary in New Brighton. Eli is an active member of the Cub Scout pack 106. He is also a student of piano, guitar and Kung Fu. He enjoys basketball and baseball with the Irondale youth programs and divides his free time between the trampoline, reading, and watching puzzle and science videos online.

When asked how Eli felt about being the first-ever junior grand marshal Nancy Burton said, “He is a little hesitant because he doesn’t like being the center of attention but he is excited to get the word out about Eli Packs.”

This year’s parade, which will feature clowns, bands and more than 40 floats, will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10. The parade route will be the same as previous years beginning on 1st Ave between St. John’s Church and Health and Rehabilitation of New Brighton, heads down 10th Street to Old Highway 8, past City Hall and then west on 8th Street. The parade will then turn south on 8th Ave and return to Old Highway 8 ending in front of Oak Grove Community Housing.

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