‘He was all about other people’: Gastonia pastor speaks about youth director who died in skateboarding accident

Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:06 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - A Gastonia church congregation is grieving after the death of a beloved member of its community.

Ryan Wolford, an associate pastor and youth director at Firestone Wesleyan Church, died after a skateboarding accident last week.

The accident happened at a youth event last Friday, according to Firestone’s lead pastor, Don Avore. Avore said Wolford and one of the local youths had been riding a skateboard and the youth director was seriously injured after a bad fall.

“We don’t know exactly how the accident happened, but the impact of the fall resulted in a severe head injury,” explained Avore.

He said Wolford was taken to a hospital and was ultimately placed on life support, but did not survive his injuries. He was just 46 years old.

Avore spoke to WBTV in an interview Tuesday evening, detailing Wolford’s personality and contributions to the church.

“Ryan was a kind of friend anybody would want to have and he would literally give you – I know it sounds like a cliché- the shirt off of his back,” said Avore. “He didn’t have a lot because he gave it all away. He gave his time, his resources. He was all about other people.”

The lead pastor said Wolford worked with the young members of the church as well as the college-aged members.

“He was a crazy guy and that’s what made him a good youth pastor. He connected with kids so well. When I first met him five years ago, some of those little things would annoy me a little bit here and there because he was a big kid,” explained Avore. “Even though our personalities were kind of opposite, we just grew together, loved together, served together.”

He said he wasn’t surprised to hear that Wolford was involved in a skateboarding accident, but it was tragic to learn how seriously his friend had been hurt. Avore explained that Wolford died doing something he really enjoyed.

“If Ryan could’ve picked a way to go into heaven, it would have been on a skateboard and we believe that’s the way it happened, that he went into heaven on a skateboard,” said Avore.

The pastor explained that even in death, the youth pastor is still helping people. Wolford was an organ donor.

“Just today Ryan gave multiple organs and we pray for the recipients of those organs to receive them and for new life to be given to them,” said the Firestone Wesleyan pastor.

Even though Wolford is gone, the lead pastor is confident his friend’s life lessons will live on at the church.

“Ryan, we love you. What you did in this life had a great, great, impact and what you’re going to do after you’ve gone to heaven is going to have an even greater impact,” said Avore.

Wolford is survived by his wife, Cindy; sons Kyle and Brock; daughter Ryan Nicole; daughter-in-law, Katie and grandson, Luke.

A funeral service will be held this Saturday at Firestone Wesleyan Church. It will be followed by a big youth event.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide assistance for Wolford’s family. A link to the page can be found here.

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