Prayers, kind words and financial donations have been pouring in from people of all faiths from around the world, for the family of Elder Taylor Ward of Vacaville, Calif. He is the LDS missionary who died from injuries received in a car accident near Rockford on Tuesday evening. An online fundraising effort is underway to help Ward's family with funeral expenses and the cost of transporting his body back to California.
Ward, 19, was critically injured after his companion Elder John Floyd, 20, of Deep Run, N.C. failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Highway 39 and 100 South in Bingham County. The missionary's vehicle was struck on the passenger side by Joshua Morris, 23, of Blackfoot. The two elders were part of the Blackfoot West Stake and had been serving their missions in the Blackfoot area for about two months.
Ward, who was taken to Portneuf Medical Center (PMC) in Pocatello after the accident with minimal brain activity, remained there until his family arrived from California to remove him from life support. Brenda Stanley, PMC's director of public affairs and marketing, confirmed that Ward died on Friday.
Professional photographer Christine Larsen of Vacaville, a family friend and an LDS 'visiting teacher companion to Ward's mother Deidre takes free photographs of local missionaries and makes them into a plaque with an engraving of the missionary's favorite scripture.
"This is how I got to know Elder Ward. I learned his favorite scripture, his most meaningful testimony, his hopes and dreams," she said. "He dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player."
Larsen said she was heartbroken when she heard the news about Ward.
"I was beside myself. I did not want to accept this news," she said. "I thought, 'What can I do? What can I do?' "
Larsen said that it was while she was giving the Ward family a ride to the airport to catch a plane to Pocatello, where they would say a final good-bye to their son, that she realized the financial toll that was hitting the family.
"The emotional burden is hard enough. The last thing this family needs is a financial burden, too," she said.
Larsen organized an online fundraising effort on Thursday that netted almost $12,000 in just 48 hours.
"A lot of the donations have come from California and Idaho, but we've had some from Spain, the United Kingdom and around the country. People have heard about this and they want to reach out to the family," she said. "Those who can't donate are offering prayers and emotional support."
Larsen said that the Ward family is touched and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and the kindness from strangers that has come their way.
While dining at Pocatello's 'Ruby Tuesday' Thursday night, someone paid for their entire meal ticket upon overhearing that they were Elder Ward's family.
Larsen said that while the family is devastated over the loss of their son, they were grateful that they had a chance to come and be with him one last time. As a final act of giving and kindness on behalf of their son, the family made arrangement to have his organs donated to someone who needed them.
A small service for Elder Taylor Ward was held in Pocatello that included local LDS Church officials, Ward's mission companion Elder Floyd, and [Joshua] Morris (who hit the car). A full funeral service for Ward will be held in Vacaville at a later date. Elder Ward is survived by his parents, (Deidre and Trevor) and siblings Brandon, 17 and Krista, 12.
"Deidre [Ward] is an amazingly strong woman," Larsen said of her friend. "While her heart is breaking, she is still holding on to the eternal perspective and the bigger picture."
For those who would like to offer a kind word and/or a financial donation to the Ward family go to: www.gofundme.com/TaylorWard .