The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund
  Christian Dantey
  Elijah Christopher Straw, age 2

Elijah Christopher Straw passed away in a tragic car accident on May 1, 2012 at the age of 6. He was exactly one week away from his 7th birthday. Almost from the moment of Elijah's sad passing, the communities of Aspinwall, O'Hara, and Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania responded with love, care, and support which has been an incredible source of comfort and strength for the entire Straw family.

Just one of the many kind deeds of these amazing friends and neighbors was the initial establishment of The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund. The fund's purpose is to "pay forward" into the greater Pittsburgh community in Elijah's name, especially for places, ideas, events, and causes which were dearest to him.  These principles, places, and activities can be broadly summarized as empathy, friendship, science, parks, playgrounds, and baseball.

Empathy & Friendship:
The Elijah Straw Helping Hand Award

Elijah was a very compassionate little boy who was committed to fairness in his friendships and his play.  To honor this special aspect of Elijah’s character and personality, The Elijah Straw Helping Hand Award is given quarterly at O'Hara Elementary School for students who have demonstrated exceptional friendship, empathy, and/or citizenship. Students are nominated by O'Hara teachers and staff, and the award is given every grading period of each school year. Recipients of Elijah's Helping Hand Award are given a gift card to Barnes & Noble, a certificate of merit, and a pizza gift card for the child's family. Most importantly, the student is awarded the chance to donate a monetary amount equal to their B&N gift card to the local charity of his or her choice.

For a full gallery of present and past award recipients, and listing of the charities they have endowed, please visit the Honorees page of this website!

Carnegie “Museum On The Move” & Cretaceous Seaway Initiatives

Christian Dantey
Elijah with Dunkleosteus terrelli

Elijah’s dream was to become a scientist.  He especially loved nature and biology, and dinosaurs and prehistoric fish particularly.  During one of his many visits to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland, Elijah noticed the unexpected absence of one of his favorite exhibits:  the skull cast of the mighty Devonian shark-eater, Dunkleosteus terrelli.  Elijah was so concerned about the “missing” exhibit that, with the help of his father, he contacted the Carnegie’s Curator of Vertebrae Paleontology, the great Matt Lamanna, to inquire about the whereabouts of the “Dunky.”  In response, Dr. Lamanna invited Elijah to a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s bone archive rooms.  During this tour, Elijah got to visit his beloved “Dunky” (which was only temporarily in storage), run his hands along the lower jaw and teeth of the Tyrannosaurus rex type specimen, and get a first-hand look at a wide variety of other prehistoric fossils, mostly from the Mesozoic era. 

To honor Elijah’s love of science and his deep connection to the Carnegie Museums, The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund has committed to a five-year funding contribution to The Carnegie Museum of Natural History for two major initiatives:

  1. Museum On The Move (MOM): In 2018-2019, The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund will help the Carnegie to offer the Museum on the Move program to approximately 9,000 young people at 19 sites.  Designed for children and young people who have emotional, cognitive, and physical disabilities, the MOM program uses CMNH-generated research and collections to present off-site scientific classroom lessons at partner sites throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, including schools, hospitals, and shelters.

    Children participating in the Museum on the Move program

    Children participating in the Museum on the Move program

  2. Refreshment of Cretaceous Seaway:  Along with “Dinosaurs in Their Time,” the Cretaceous Seaway exhibit at the Carnegie shows the diversity of life during the Cretaceous Period.  This hall brings to life the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow ocean that existed in the Midwestern United States 80 million years ago.  The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund has committed to a three-year grant (from 2019-2021) to help fund a multi-phased refreshment of the Seaway’s physical space.  These enhancements will create a richer, more immersive experience for the more than 400,000 visitors to the museum each year.

    Cretaceous Seaway Exhibit, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    Cretaceous Seaway Exhibit, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Parks & Playgrounds:
Aspinwall Riverfront Park & Elijah Straw Memorial Playground

When efforts began to convert several acres of Allegheny Riverfront property into a park, playground, and walking trail, Elijah emptied his piggy bank to make a donation, and he eagerly looked forward to playing with his brother Rowan at the park. In the days leading up to the park’s groundbreaking in November 2013, The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund was honored to make another donation to help purchase the bulbs needed to plant for the ceremony. In 2014, all proceeds from the First Annual Elijahfest 5K & Field Day were donated to the Riverfront Park.  Last but not least, two recipients of the Elijah Helping Hand Award have donated the charitable portions of their awards to Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

Rowan Digging

Rowan Straw plants a bulb in Elijah’s honor at Aspinwall Riverfront Park

In 2018, The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund made a significant donation via the Pittsburgh Foundation to purchase all new non-toddler equipment for the playground at Ben Killian Park in Aspinwall.  This area of the park was officially renamed “Elijah Straw Playground” via Aspinwall council resolution.

Rowan Digging

Elijah Straw Playground, Aspinwall

  Christian Dantey

Little League Sponsorships

Elijah was a proud player for the Aspinwall Royals.  In tribute to Elijah’s love of baseball, The Elijah Straw Memorial Fund has proudly sponsored five separate little league baseball players in the greater Fox Chapel area between 2013-2016.  The Fund will continue to sponsor little league players as needed.

All donations will be noted on this website, so check back frequently if you are curious about what the fund is doing to help greater Pittsburgh.

Please consider donating to the Elijah Straw Memorial Fund via the Pittsburgh Foundation using the link below:

The Pittsburgh Foundation

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Beautiful Elijah

Beautiful Elijah

About The Fund

About Elijah




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