May 9, 2014 7:19 PM by Kathrene Herndon, KSBY News
It's a story that has captured the hearts of many, going viral on social media in just a few days.
Three-year-old Ryan Saldana, with his long, curly red hair, was hit by a truck and killed when he went after a Frisbee that flew onto the road at a family member's home last Friday.
Shortly after his death was announced by family friend Alissa Circle on her blog, the social media community rallied together to show support for Ryan's parents, Jacqui and Dan.
Even though the Saldanas do not live on the Central Coast, one of their supporters does, and she wanted to help.
Lisa Leonard is the owner and creative director of San Luis Obispo-based company Lisa Leonard Designs, and the mother of two boys, ages 10 and 11.
She has created Ryan's Necklace, a brand new design featuring a silver heart and red ribbon tied to the chain.
The ribbon symbolizes Ryan's red hair, Leonard says.
Like many of the people in the social-networking world, Leonard never met Ryan, but knew his mom through social media. They both blog, are on Instagram and have worked together in the past, she says.
On Monday, Circle wrote, "Today as I sat with Jacqui she gave me the honor of sharing her story. Not the whole story, but just a slice. A cracked window into a story that she needed to be told because she needs, they need, our support. They need us to rally They needs us to pray to share to love to remember........ Ryan."
She promised Jacqui that Ryan would not be forgotten, and asked her readers to share a picture from Jacqui's Instagram feed and post it with words of encouragement.
Finally, she asked that readers tag those pictures #RedBalloonsforRyan.
Since that May 5 request, more than 33,000 pictures on Instagram have been posted with that hashtag; people from all over posting everything from words of encouragement to fundraisers and auctions for Ryan's parents.
Leonard says, so far, around 300 orders have been placed for the necklace, which she says is filled with meaning.
"The response has been overwhelming," Leonard says. "I think that the story has really gone viral because Jacqui had a presence online and people know her online and care about her and they know her family just from photos on Instagram and that type of thing, so to see her experiencing such a tragic loss has resonated with the community and really sent ripples throughout the community."
Leonard says orders are coming in from all over the country - even internationally - and calls what happened last Friday "every mom's worst nightmare."
Leonard says she has been in touch with a close friend of Jacqui and they told her they are grateful for the support.
She adds, "I think social media is just so fascinating because while these are people maybe we haven't met in real life, we come together as a community and, you know, with the way we reach other people online and how news travels fast, seeing all these people come together to do good is just so incredibly powerful."
Ryan's necklace is $36 and Leonard is donating $5 of every purchase to the Saldanas. You can check it out here.
A Go Fund Me account has also been set up for the family and three days after being created, more than double the original $25,000 goal has been raised.
To view the support on Instagram, search #redballoonsforryan.
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