7-Year-Old Remembered Through Viral 'Mr. Awesome' Self-Portrait

UPDATED 04/25/2014 at 12:00 PM EDT Originally published 04/25/2014 at 11:40 AM EDT

Calder Sloan: Boy Remembered Through 'Mr. Awesome' Self-Portrait
Calder Sloan's 'Mr. Awesome' self-portrait
Earlier this month, the unthinkable happened to Carla and Chris Sloan of North Miami when their 7-year-old son, Calder, died after being electrocuted in his own swimming pool.

In the days following, Sloan family friend Jim Cahill sought a way to honor Calder's outgoing spirit. Cahill decided to share a self-portrait Calder had recently drawn, entitled "Mr. Awesome" (his Dad's nickname for him) on his Facebook page and asked his friends to post pictures of themselves on adventures with "Mr. Awesome." The words attached were written by another friend to describe the boy's spirit: "Adventure. Laughter. Kindness."

Hundreds responded immediately. People posted pictures everywhere, from golf courses to airplanes, tagging Chris and Carla Sloan so they could view the outpouring of love. The overwhelming response – pictures from strangers, politicians, and even celebrities– has been cathartic for the family. Seeing thousands pay tribute to their son has provided a small level of comfort in this heartbreaking time. "We've been shown more sunshine in our dark abyss than possibly imaginable," Chris Sloan tells PEOPLE.

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What started as a small viral movement has expanded into a national coming-together of strangers from around the country. The drawing was broadcasted on the outside of American Airlines Arena – home of the Miami Heat – while the team's Chris Bosh posted a picture of himself with Mr. Awesome. Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Steve Harvey, George Stephanopoulos, National Geographic magazine, and numerous police forces across the country have joined in honoring Calder's spirit. "We even saw one from Australia," says Sloan. The #MrAwesome hashtag is now one of the top trending terms on social media. 

Calder's story is also helping to educate others on pool safety. "The Mr. Awesome picture is great, but the most important thing here is that the awareness is saving lives," says Sloan. Experts have advised that pool owners should always use licensed electricians and should be aware of any loose fittings or corrosion on lights – which is often a sign of too much electricity flowing into a pool light.  

The Sloan family has set up a legacy foundation in Calder's honor through his school, this way his brother Caleb "will be reminded of his beloved brother each day he goes to school."

If you want to join in honoring little Calder's memory, post a picture of Mr. Awesome on one of your daily adventures and hashtag #MrAwesome. "This kid was told he was going to change the world, and he did," says Sloan.

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