Event in honor of Jayliel Vega raises autism awareness


Family and friends are preparing to say their final goodbyes to 5-year-old Jayliel Vega.

This was a story that pulled on heartstrings here in the community, all across the country, and even the world.

The boy who was diagnosed with autism went missing from a New Year's Eve Party on Thursday. On Saturday, his body was found in the Lehigh Canal.

"We were heartbroken like everyone was and we just wanted to do something for the family," said Nicos Elias, the owner at Nicos Elias Funeral Home.

After he received a call from the mayor's office asking if there was any way he could help, Elias said he didn't think twice.

"We are providing the services and all of the merchandise at no cost to the family," said Elias.

Elias said it wasn't long before others in the community began calling him to donate their services as well.

"The cemetery spaces are being donated, the flowers are being donated, the casket is being donated," said Elias.

This was a story that hit home for so many people.

Tens of thousands here in the community and beyond, followed Vega's story, praying, and even searching for the young autistic boy who ran away from a family's new years eve party, barefoot and without a jacket.

Hearts across the city broke when divers found Jayliel's body in the Lehigh Canal on Saturday.

Now the family is inviting the public to the viewing and funeral service tomorrow.

"The reason they want the public to come is because of such an outpouring from the community that they got, they want everyone to get a chance to see him and pay their respects," said Elias.

The public service will be held Friday at Calvary Temple Church on Winchester Road in Allentown from 2-7 p.m with a religious ceremony at 5 p.m.

Guests are asked to wear white.

"They like the day to be more of a celebration of Jayliel's life than mourning his death," said Elias.

The family will have a private service on Saturday before the burial.

The family says they will not be accepting donations.

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