By Mark Ambrogi
Bryan Langford will be the first to tell you his son, Justin, had a fabulous life. It was just way too short.
The 2009 Zionsville Community High School graduate died in a vehicle accident in Arizona in 2014.
“He packed more in his 23 years than most people do in 100,” Bryan said. “We were very blessed and thankful for each day we had with him. We want to inspire others. He was always smiling, and he had a contagious laugh. He couldn’t stand to see people sad. We knew he wouldn’t want us here continually mourning, no. Go make a difference and do something good.”
Bryan and his wife, Janice, have started Justin’s Run 4 Hope, set for May 14 in Whitestown. The run is on the two-year anniversary of the accident. He died three days later.
“The overall theme is giving hope,” Bryan said. “Organ donation is one of the primary means where we are trying to raise awareness. The proceeds from the race will go STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) scholarships that are in Justin’s name here in Zionsville and Vanderbilt.”
Last year two ZCHS seniors received two $1,000 Justin David Langford Memorial scholarships.
Justin, a Vanderbilt graduate in mechanical engineering, was a summer intern for three years at Allison Transmission in Indianapolis and had been working full-time as calibration engineer for Allison for just more than one year.
He was working in the hills of Flagstaff, Ariz., when the flat-bed utility truck he was driving flipped. Justin died three days later.
Justin’s brother, Kyle, a 2013 ZCHS graduate, is a junior at Vanderbilt. The biomedical engineering major wants to be a doctor.
Bryan, Janice, Kyle and Justin’s girlfriend, Kelsi Buckley, plan to compete in the four-mile run. Janice said Justin had an engagement ring for Kelsi, a ZCHS graduate, and planned to pop the question later in the summer.
“I am looking forward to seeing all of our friends and family come together to celebrate Justin’s life and enjoy the day together as well as raise awareness for the incredible act of organ donation,” said Kelsi, a registered dietician in San Antonio.
Kelsi said a run is a fitting tribute to Justin, who she described as health-oriented and an avid runner at times.
“He found every possible reason to celebrate and this is as great of a reason as any,” Kelsi said. “Although his version of celebrating usually involved chocolate and ice-cream. I will definitely be enjoying a post-race ice cream cone in his honor.”
Kelsi’s parents, who live in Carmel, and her younger brother Garrick also plan to run.
Gift of life
For Justin, being an organ donor seemed to be the right thing to do from the start.
“Justin was the first one in our family to suggest it when he was 16 and getting his driver’s license,” Janice said. “He made sure we were OK with it.”
Justin’s heart, lungs, both kidneys, both corneas, liver and pancreas, along with tissue and bones were all donated.
“Justin’s right kidney has given complete life to a 2-year-old,” Bryan said. “More than 25 people received his organs and either have life or have life extended.”
Fernando Zazueta’s heart was working at 10 percent of full capacity when he received Justin’s heart at age 51.
Zazueta later wrote a letter to the Langfords: “I deeply appreciate receiving this transplant. It would mean the world to me if your family would approve to meet me. I want you to see this heart has brought back life, hope and happiness to an old man who had lost hope and given up on himself.”
The Langfords took a quilt square, representing Justin’s life, to a Donor Network of Arizona annual event in mid-March and were able to meet Zazueta.
“A lot of people have misconceptions of organ donations, thinking, ‘I’m too old or I’m too young or I’m too sick,’” Bryan said. “Register, and they’ll decide if they can use organs or not.”
Run 4 Hope
The race starts at 9 a.m. May 14 in Whitestown. HopeFest will be held at the Langfords’ church, New Hope Christian Church, 5780 S. Main St., Whitestown. In conjunction with the race, there will be a health and wellness fair, along with information on organ donation, relational and spiritual strength and STEM education.
There is four-mile run/walk, a one-mile walk and a children’s quarter-mile run. Prices increase April 18. All proceeds go to scholarships in Justin’s name at ZCHS and Vanderbilt.
For more, visit justinsrun4hope.com.