Hope through tragedy: Mother of teen killed in horse riding accident speaks

Destiny Stafford
Destiny Stafford

Fifteen-year-old Destiny Stafford was a firecracker with a contagious smile and heart of gold.

“She was sweet and caring, and would not meet a stranger,” said her mother, Kelly Stafford. “She loved to make people laugh. She was a good girl. She was a kind girl. She loved cheerleading and tumbling – at every game she’d do back handsprings from one end of the floor to the other – people could never believe how fast she was.”

Two days after losing her only daughter, Kelly sat down with WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham.

“I want to do one interview,” she said. “One interview only. This is too hard to talk about. I’m numb right now.”

Destiny, a Stuart W. Cramer High School student about to enter her sophomore year, died early Monday morning after a freak horse riding accident last Saturday left her brain dead.

“She was riding at her aunt and uncle’s in Kings Mountain,” said Kelly. “Her cousin was walking beside her and the horse. And she just fell off the back. When he went to help her and say, ‘Are you okay?,' she started to get up. That spooked the horse and the horse kicked her in the back of her head.”

The horse was Destiny’s late father’s. He died in an accident in 2003 when Destiny was only a toddler. Kelly has since remarried. She and her husband Chris have two little boys, 7-year-old Alex and 9-year-old J.R.

Kelly says they adore their older sister.

“My boys are just devastated,” she said. “They want to know ‘why?' They want to know who is going to ride roller coasters with them now, because she always did.”

At the hospital, doctor’s gave two options – donate Destiny's organs or keep her there as long as they wanted.

“I immediately knew Destiny would want to help others,” Kelly said.

Six of Destiny’s organs have been donated.

Her lungs went to a 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania.

Her two kidneys went to New Hampshire and Florida.

Her pancreas went to someone in Virginia.

Her liver was split between a 1-year-old and a 5-month-old, both kids in North Carolina.

Her heart went to a 17-year-old boy in Florida.

Also, her intestines went to research.

“God didn’t answer my prayers, but he answered the prayers of six other families,” Kelly said. “I don’t know why he didn’t answer mine. But I know Destiny would want it this way. It’s a blessing in itself. Without a doubt she’d want to donate and let herself live on in others.”

The organs were donated with help from LifeShare of the Carolinas. (You can contact them at 1-800-932-GIVE or at www.lifesharecarolinas.org.)

Kelly says the services for her daughter are open to the public, and that they want as many people there to celebrate her daughter’s life as possible.

The visitation is this Friday, July 31, at 5 p.m. at First Assembly Church of God in Gastonia.

The funeral service is Saturday, August 1, at 1 p.m. at the same location. There will be a public graveside service at Evergreen Cemetery in Belmont following the funeral.

Also, on Wednesday, August 5, a fundraiser will be held at Elite Fusion Cheerleading on 3119 South New Hope Road in Gastonia. It is a carnival-type festive affair with a silent auction. All proceeds will be donated to the family.

“I had no clue how many lives my daughter had touched and it means the world to me,” Kelly said. “I keep going through Facebook messages. I haven’t gotten to all of them yet, but I will. Please let everyone know I appreciate their words of comfort and am reading them all.”

WBTV is a news partner of The Charlotte Observer.