ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) – Losing a child is something parents don’t prepare for, but it’s a harsh reality that some face.
BJ and Tonya Wiglesworth were enjoying their day on Monday, December 16, 2019. The two had just finished a Sunday with their youngest son, JT, which was unusual as the 17-year-old usually went out with friends after finishing at church on Sunday.
JT died on that rainy day. His car hydroplaned and hit another car traveling in the opposite direction. He was driving from his car class to EC3 and heading to class at Central Hardin High School.
It is a day that parents remember very well.
“I got a phone call from Tonya saying she was pretty, quite hysterical and said John Thomas had had an accident and it didn’t look good,” BJ Wiglesworth said.
“I know, for me, I had actually gotten a text saying that ‘If you need anything, you know, John Thomas is a really good friend, and if you all need anything , let me know,” Tonya Wiglesworth said. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great. Thank you’, you know, I had no idea what the text meant. And at the time he was already dead, but it took several hours before I knew it. And so that was tough. But then the rest of the day was just like a dream.”
Within hours of learning of JT’s death, the parents had family who traveled two and a half hours to fill their home.
Between family and community, BJ and Tonya said they received so much support that they wanted to recreate this for other parents who lose a child.
Months after the death of JT, they created the association JT’s Way.
“There’s definitely healing and helping others and not only that, I couldn’t just let it die and have no purpose,” Tonya Wiglesworth said.
BJ is the President and Tonya is the Executive Director of JT’s Way.
The association helps families financially and puts them in touch with local resources to help with the loss of a child.
One of the first things the Wiglesworths remember doing after JT died was buying land to bury him.
“Obviously we didn’t have any cemetery land and they said, ‘All of this has to be paid in full for $2,000, paid in full before we can move on’, and it was done the next day, two days after the accident,” said BJ Wiglesworth. “You try to get up, take a shower, get dressed, then you hear ‘Oh, hey, we need $2,000,’ so my mind was doubting what we were going to do.”
The Wiglesworths are also sharing their own story with the grieving families, in the hope that they will learn from their experience.
BJ and Tonya recall being advised by the funeral home to purchase 10 death certificates for JT. While that might be typical for a deceased adult, they said it wasn’t necessary in JT’s case.
“It was to close checking accounts or whatever. He was a teenager still at home, he only had a checking account,” Tonya Wiglesworth said. “It was $10 each, there was an additional $100 for those death certificates, so I can share that information with the families.”
BJ and Tonya hope to continue developing JT’s Way.
“One of the things I would have really liked to have put in place (is) an emergency response team, then when there are a large number of victims, something like tornadoes or the bus accident from Carrollton, something like that, I want to be able to get there with you know, boots on the ground as soon as possible,” said Tonya Wiglesworth.
On Saturday, JT’s Way will host “The Journey Gala”. Part of the gala is a silent auction. The grand prize, a restored 1988 Iron Rock Camaro.
The car has been restored by the EC3 car class and will include a special plate with a special signature.
“On a plaque in the car that says ‘In Loving Memory of John Thomas Wiglesworth’, and it has Toby Keith’s signature and at the bottom it says ‘I Love this American Ride,'” BJ Wiglesworth said.
BJ Wiglesworth said that JT’s automotive professor at EC3, Tom Pitt, came up with the idea of getting Keith signed. Pitt spread the word and finally heard from Keith’s foundation.
“He made it,” said BJ Wiglesworh.
To view the silent auction website, click here. Bidding will close on Monday.
For more information on JT’s Way, click here.
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