Why We’re Here: Dustin Ledford

Dustin Ledford had a contagious smile! His mother, Kim, says that’s what she remembers most about him. A handsome athlete, he enjoyed four wheeling, camping, swimming, and any kind of water sport, but he LOVED baseball! Family was important to him. He was adopted, but deeply loved his Momma and Daddy. It was this relationship with his adoptive parents that probably taught him to open his heart so wide to Serenity, his girlfriend Lindsay’s daughter. She was very special to him. He had been like a daddy to her since she was nine months old.

On July 9, 2010, Dustin called his dad, Danny, around 5:30pm to wish him a happy birthday. Kim and Danny were celebrating Danny’s birthday by staying overnight in Calhoun, Georgia, not far from their home in Cleveland, TN.

A few hours later, Dustin called Lindsay, just before midnight to say he was on his way over. She asked him to stop by the store for eggs and bacon. A security camera showed Dustin leaving Walmart at 12:03am on July 10. Dustin was unaware that reports had just come in of a wrong way driver in Bradley County when he headed southbound on APD 40, a four lane highway. Officers had not yet located the 2002 Ford Taurus when, six minutes after leaving Walmart, the driver, who was on methamphetamine with a BAC of .24, collided head-on with Dustin’s 1990 Toyota Camry. The impact, estimated to be as powerful as if Dustin had been driving 120 mph, broke every bone in Dustin’s body and caused the engine of the Camry to push through the dashboard and rupture his aorta. He died about an hour after the crash. The impaired driver had been out on a liquor run, leaving two young children sleeping at home alone who were found when officers went to the home to notify next of kin that she had been in a crash.

Kim says “It is a terrible phone call and one I never want any parent to receive. One that says your child has succumbed to his injuries.”

At 24 years of age, Dustin had been working as a lifeguard, but had decided to go into the Navy. He was planning to enlist in August of 2010. He never got the chance. He didn’t get to watch Serenity grow up. (She was just 3 1/2 years old when he was killed.) He was never married or had any children of his own.

Dustin’s mom and dad have worked tirelessly to make sure his memory is not forgotten and that he did not die in vain. They have lobbied for legislation reform in his name to make penalties more serious for poly-substance abuse drivers. They raise money with local partners through an annual golf tournament to fund the Dustin Ledford Memorial Scholarship awarded to area high school students each year. Kim wrote a book called “Live Wide Open” about Dustin and the hope and faith that helped them get through losing him. And they volunteer with MADD sharing their story in schools and with offenders at Victim Impact Panels in hopes that those who hear it will resolve to NOT drive impaired.

Kim says, “Our beautiful boy always affected everyone in the room. His story (of being killed by an impaired driver) has affected many more. Hopefully his legacy will be that we can work together for no more victims.”