Clark, Davis and Roby win ‘Live Wide Open’ scholarships

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 5/26/19

Winners of the 2019 Dustin Ledford “Live Wide Open” Foundation essay scholarships were recently announced.The 9th Annual Dustin Ledford “Live Wide Open” Scholarship Foundation's Golf …

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Clark, Davis and Roby win ‘Live Wide Open’ scholarships

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Winners of the 2019 Dustin Ledford “Live Wide Open” Foundation essay scholarships were recently announced.

The 9th Annual Dustin Ledford “Live Wide Open” Scholarship Foundation's Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, June 8, at Chatata Golf & Country Club in Cleveland.

The tournament was established in the memory of Dustin Ledford, who was killed by an alcohol and drug-impaired motorist in 2010. He was 24. His parents are Kim and Danny Ledford.

The golf tournament helps fund the scholarships, which are awarded yearly to local high school graduates from three local high schools who submit essays regarding the dangers of alcohol abuse and how it has affected their families.

Scholarship winners for this year include Cleveland High School’s Franciso Davis, first place; and Caroline Balmer, runner-up; Bradley Central High School’s Easton Clark, first place; Walker Valley High School’s Lauryn Roby, first place; and runner-ups Katherine Towne and Chase Lawson.

First place winners were awarded $1,000. Runner-ups received $750.

Ledford was known for having an adventurous spirit and life.

During his funeral, a relative remembered him for his active lifestyle,  remarking that Dustin “lived wide open.”

His mother, Kim Ledford, agrees the phrase sums up the life of her son.

“It’s the way he lived, Ledford said, “from jumping off a railroad bridge into the Hiwassee River to body surfing down the Ocoee River at night after they turned off the water to jumping off the roof of a barn into the Tennessee River — he lived wide open. Of course, those are things momma didn’t know about,” said Ledford, who was unaware of some of her son’s rambunctious, youthful exploits until later. “He lived wide open — a lifetime in 24 years.”

Ledford also loved sports and played baseball at Bradley Central High School, where he was known as a left-handed pitcher. He graduated in 2004.

The four-man select shot beings at 8 a.m. Breakfast will be furnished by Bojangles and lunch furnished by Shane's Rib Shack.

A  2019 vehicle will be awarded for a hole-in-one by Don Ledford Automotive. Auto Simple will be awarding a $10,000 prize for a hole-in-one.

In his essay, Cleveland High School's Davis, who was born in the Philippines, described his life before he was adopted by Kraig and Athena Davis.

“We were poor as I was growing up in the Philippines,” Davis wrote. “My father was a farmer and my mother didn’t have a job, and she just stayed home to take care of us. It was hard and my father didn’t make a lot of money. In fact, it was just enough for us to live and survive.”

Davis said his father would spend his meager earnings on alcohol.

“My father used the money that he made to buy alcohol, instead of using it to buy food for us,” Davis wrote. “When he was drunk, he did things that he wouldn’t do if he wasn’t. Sometimes when he got drunk, he would chase me around with a machete, trying to kill me. He did that without even realizing it because that’s what alcohol made him do.”

When Davis was 14, a massive typhoon struck the Philippines. He said his parents refused to evacuate the area prior to the storm, but agreed that he could leave with two other siblings, a brother, 9, and a sister, 8, to take refuge in a shelter inside a school. Although a massive storm surge nearly destroyed the the building, all three miraculously survived.

When they returned home, they discovered that it had been swept away by the storm. His parents and 4-year-old sister did not survive.

Davis and his surviving brother and sister lived in a Red Cross camp for six weeks until they were transported to the United States in 2013, where they lived in an orphanage until all three were adopted by the Davis family in 2017.

Davis has thrived since his adoption.

“I love my life,” he wrote. “Sometimes it has been struggle, but it has been a blessing in general. I believe that God saved my life in the storm because He has a purpose for me in this life. I think he is going to use my testimony of the hard times early in my life when my dad was drunk, how my family had to struggle to have enough money, to the terrible tragedy of the storm and losing my mother and father and sister, to coming here to America to live with my new family."

He plans to attend Cleveland State Community College, where he will major in mechatronics.

Bradley Central High School's first-place winner Easton Clark described how alcoholism affected his family, resulting in the suicide of his grandfather. However, the legacy of alcoholism was not passed on to his father, who raised Clark's family in a stable, religious home.

Clark said the death of his grandfather was “the worst and best day” of the lives of his father and uncles.

“The worst, because they lost their father and the best because, for the first time, the boys could go to sleep without fear in their hearts,” Clark said.

Clark said a student pastor took his father under his wing. His father eventually graduated from college, earned a master’s degree and married. They have five children, including Clark.

“Alcohol has greatly impacted my life,” Clark wrote. “It is a part of my heritage, but not a part of my legacy.”

Clark will be attending CSCC. He plans to attend either Lee University or the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, after he earns his associate's degree. He plans to major in exercise science.

Walker Valley High School student, Lauren Roby in her essay  discussed her boyfriend's mother, who was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver in 2003.

"His mom was killed on impact on her way to Bible study," Roby wrote. "Her husband lost his wife, her sons lost a devoted mother and her family lost a wonderful sister and daughter."

Roby said her boyfriend's mother has missed out on "some of the most monumental moments Matthew has experienced."

"On the day of his signing to play baseball for Lee University, he had a picture of her in his shirt pocket and now that picture resides in his car as a reminder of her love for him," Roby wrote.

"Personally, the death of his mom has completely changed my perspective on life and has shown me just how precious life is," Roby wrote. "I feel my emphasis on living wide open is more important to me now that I know Matthew's story ... that means I love harder, cherish times with others more and learn to forgive faster.

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