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Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

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Eliza J. Norton Foundation: Bringing a community together

Co-founders+of+the+Eliza+J.+Norton+Foundation+%28EJNF+%29+Julie+and+Mark+Norton+celebrate+at+Gillette+Stadium+for+being+recognized+as+Myra+Kraft+Community+MVP+award+winners.
Credit: Risa Burgess
Co-founders of the Eliza J. Norton Foundation (EJNF ) Julie and Mark Norton celebrate at Gillette Stadium for being recognized as Myra Kraft Community MVP award winners.

With the support of the town of Wayland, the Eliza J. Norton Foundation (EJNF) has been able to make an immense impact on improving children’s sports while also bringing the community together.

The foundation launched in January of 2023 following the tragic death of Wayland resident and Claypit Hill elementary school student Eliza J. Norton. Since then, it has blossomed into so much more than residents could have imagined.

“It’s incredible how in such a short period of time, Julie and Mark assembled a great team of volunteers, friends, family members and community members to make things possible,” Eliza J. Norton Foundation Advisory Council member Risa Burgess said. “There really isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for this foundation and this family.”

Through the EJNF, co-founders Julie Norton and her husband Mark Norton look to empower and enable participation in athletics for all children. They hope to reciprocate the kindness they felt after the passing of their daughter.

On October 1, 2023, over 1,000 people attended the “Celebrate with Heart” event held at the Cochituate ball field.

“Kids were singing, dancing, playing,” J. Norton said. “KISS 108 D.J. Mikey V was there [along with] a bunch of volunteers, students, sports teams, businesses and families [who] came together to have a really meaningful community experience.”

The “Celebrate With Heart” event was meant to serve as a “thank you” for the support the Norton family has received following Eliza’s passing.

“We started [the foundation] in honor of our daughter,” J. Norton said. “At first, it was really helpful for us to have a place to put our energy [into] and now it’s turned into this awesome sort of way to increase community and help kids that need it.”

Their goal is to continue Eliza’s legacy by providing children with access to experiences in athletics and beyond with a focus on teamwork, good sportsmanship and community building.

“We just had her second annual Play With Heart tournament where we raised over $40,000 to donate back to [various sports teams but] hockey programs in particular,” J. Norton said. “With the money donated, we were able to set up scholarships and buy equipment for underprivileged kids.”

EJNF distributed $10,000 in scholarships to Eliza’s former Hockey program, the East Coast Wizard Hockey Program (ECW). The EJNF website states that “$2,000 scholarships will be awarded to up to five ECW players for whom tuition is a hardship, and who embody her spirit of teamwork, sportsmanship and fierce determination both on and off the ice.”

So far, the EJN Foundation has sponsored a holocaust survivor to talk to Wayland students, hosted two Play With Heart 3v3 Hockey tournaments, planned Build With Heart and organized Read With Heart.

“We heard all these stories about Eliza sticking up for kids in school and accepting her friends for who they were,” J. Norton said, “Then, when we were thinking about books she liked, we noticed they also had this theme of loving yourself and sticking up for others.”

Read With Heart has gifted over 65 of Eliza’s favorite books to children, schools and libraries as a way to bring kindness into the community and spread Eliza’s messages of confidence, teamwork and persistence.

“Now you’ll see kids going to school, bringing flowers to their teachers,” J. Norton said. “It’s really like a moment for everyone to really stop, pause and do something kind for others really in honor of our special little girl.”

All of the work of EJNF hasn’t gone unnoticed either. On June 6, the foundation was honored at Gillette Stadium as a Myra Kraft Community MVP Award winner for their contributions to their community.

“Being recognized as one of the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award winners is truly an incredible honor, because community is really the root of what the Eliza J. Norton Foundation is all about,” J. Norton said. “The work we are doing matters so much to me, and to be recognized in this way means that it matters to others as well. Seeing the joy, camaraderie and confidence that our outreach provides continues to inspire us to find new ways to help more people, and this award will enable us to do just that.”

For more information on how you can help support EJFN, you can visit https://elizajnortonfoundation.org/

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About the Contributors
Addison Voight
Addison Voight, Staff Reporter
Addison Voight, Class of 2026, is a first year reporter for WSPN. In her free time she enjoys playing soccer, reading, watching movies and spending time with her family and friends. Contact: [email protected]
Ben Jackson
Ben Jackson, Staff Reporter
Ben Jackson, Class Of 2025, is a first year reporter for WSPN. He plays football, basketball and lacrosse for the high school team. Outside of school he enjoys swimming and playing video games. Contact: [email protected]
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