FLORENCE, Ky. – Hundreds turned out Saturday to support the family of Dawson Elder, the 3-year-old killed when a vehicle crashed into his mother’s broken-down car on I-275 three weeks ago.
But there’s nothing anybody can say or do to fill the void in their hearts and in their lives.
“He loved everybody … and was happy all the time,” said Dawson’s mother, Megan Ritter.
Dawson’s dad said his son’s smiles that could light up a room.
“That’s what I remember most - his smiles,” said Jake Elder.
Ritter watched her 1-year-old daughter, Ainslee, play outside Muggsbee’s Sports Bar, where friends and family gathered for a fundraiser.
“I’m thankful I have Ainslee,” Ritter said. “It’s hard for her. She looks for Dawson. She has a picture of him. She plays with his toys.”
Their lives changed forever on May 2.
“I relive it every day. I can feel it, hear it, see it every day,” Ritter said.
Her car had a flat tire on the bridge over the Licking River. She was stranded. She waited for help from her family.
“I remember texting her,” said Ritter’s friend, Amanda Damon, who organized the benefit. “She’s like, ‘No, I got it. I got somebody on the way.’”
But before help could arrive, a car crashed into Ritter's in the emergency lane.
“I miss him. It’s just not fair," Ritter said.
The past few weeks have been tough for family and friends.
“It’s been really hard,” Damon said. “If anything, I’m trying to stay strong for her. She’s been so strong.” “
It’s hard, but I don’t have a choice,” said Ritter. “I know he’s with me in my heart. That’s kinda what keeps me going.”
“He had such a big impact,” said Dawson’s dad. “He was a fighter. He was so smart. So happy all the time. Never met a stranger.”
That could be said of all the people at Muggbees. There were no strangers, just friends, family and folks wanting to help.
“It’s amazing how many people have come together,” said Ritter.
There were gift baskets, a raffle, a silent auction - all to help the family.
Dawson’s mom knows how tough moving forward will be.
“We don’t get to make any more memories. Just trying to cherish the memories we have,” she said.
“Dawson used to always say, ‘I love you to the moon and to the stars,’ so we say that every night."
Ritter said there’s a push to rename Kentucky‘s Move Over law to Dawson’s law. She hopes drivers will slow down when they see a broken-down car or tow truck on the road to prevent another tragedy.