600 X 400 school bus

Her Life: August 2, 2006 – March 12, 2012
Living Legacy: New legislation & new state law “Donasty’s Law”

The Story:

I was working on the He Knows Your Name gift program when Lighthouse Academy first contacted me. They’d received my contact information from a woman I was supporting in a local urban organization. The caller shared about his school’s needs and asked if I’d consider assisting some of their families. That marked with first connection with them.

The second came early one morning in March when the local news reported a bus accident. I was alarmed to hear that the bus was from Lighthouse Academy. The driver had crashed into a cement wall; tragically, he and a five-year-old child, Donasty Smith, had been killed on impact. I immediately called the school to learn if I could help the child’s family in my way. When they gave me the mother’s phone number, I called her the next day.

He Knows Your Name’s Role:

Danyelle Smith was spinning from the shock of the accident that had killed her little girl. She quickly shared that her greatest need was for help with the cemetery.  As is often the case, our journey began in the practical. The burial was arranged at no cost to the family and details for a headstone were soon in place. But the emotional and spiritual emerged as Danyelle and I spoke more about our lives. I learned that Donasty was survived by her sister, Erielle, who had survived the same crash that took Donasty. As soon as I met Erielle, I knew she was entrenched in sorrow, having witnessed her sister’s death: her grief was so real, I could practically touch it. Even as she wept while sharing her own story, Erielle reached out to comfort her grieving mother. What a little warrior she was in this tragedy! When Donasty’s birthday came hard on the heels of her passing, we gave Erielle an American Doll – whom she promptly named Donasty, in memory of her beloved sister.

Living Legacy:

Just as Erielle looked for the light in memories during the dark grief, so did her mother and their family. Together, they shared a passion to discover purpose in their pain. That passion ignited the reformation of Indiana state law requiring that all school buses provide safety belts to children. The new legislation was coined “Donasty’s Law”. On the day the new law passed, we joined Donasty’s family and community at the cemetery for a balloon release. With prayers said and loving words spoken, balloons covered with written memories of Donasty floated gently up and disappeared.

Danyelle reminds us that Donasty did not die for no reason. Her death had a purpose behind it – to get Donasty’s Law passed for seatbelts for children on school buses everywhere. Donasty left a legacy in her five short years of life.  It’s a challenge for anyone to ask, “What is my life going to stand for?”  If we wrote descriptions of what our names meant, what would they say?  Whatever the answers, we should mean that…stand for that.  Perhaps that reminder is the sweetest encouragement from a sweet little girl.

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