DENVER -- A colorful mural outside Ellis Elementary School pays tribute to a little boy who was known for his smile and kindness to other students.
Caden McWilliams attended the elementary school until May 2018 but did not return in the fall because his mother intended to provide home schooling. No one knew the little boy was in trouble until his body was discovered in a storage unit. Authorities believe it had been there for months and was encased in concrete.
The boy's tragic and untimely death touched teachers, students and parents in the community. Brooke Webb, President of the Parent Teacher Association, wanted to do something to honor the 7-year-old boy. She helped organize a candlelight vigil after his death and it led to a fundraiser for a memorial.
"If anyone had known that he was facing that kind of torture and abuse, we would have wanted to step in and do something," said Webb.
She said the school already had plans for a mural and she knew it would be a fitting way to remember Caden. A GoFundMe page quickly raised enough money for a mural that would be dedicated to him.
During the design process, the artist met with students at the school and asked them what they would like to see in the artwork. At the beginning of the school year, students helped bring the mural to life by helping paint it.
The 121-foot mural off Dahlia Street features a tree and bumble bee because Caden enjoyed nature; there's also a dinosaur too.
"I hope that when people see the mural and see the bench we’ll obviously remember Caden and the amazing kid that he was, and also think about the care and the joy that we have at our school," said Nelia Pena, a teacher at Ellis Elementary School.
A bright orange bench outside the school's entrance was also dedicated to Caden and a nearby tree was planted in his honor.