Conference followed by tragic car crash

October 8 was both a happy and a sad day for Mercer Students for Life. The organization hosted Mercer’s First Annual Pro-Life Leadership Conference in the Connell Student Center from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., but less than two hours later a fatal accident occurred involving four conference attendees.
At approximately 8:20 p.m. near Damascus Road outside of Gray, GA, conference speaker Kortney Blythe Gordon — a 28-year-old Field Director of the Students for Life of America — and her unborn baby of five months, Sophy Joy Gordon, were killed instantly when Gordon’s car collided head-on with another vehicle.
Two of the three passengers, Ginny Stone of Pregnancy Support Services, and Leo Buckle, a senior from the University of South Carolina, were transported by ambulance to the Medical Center of Central Georgia where they were placed in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit.
Jon Scharfenberger, a 22-year-old recent graduate from Ave Maria University and new Director for the Pregnant on Campus Initiative — a program specifically designed by Students for Life of America to help pregnant women attend colleges throughout the United States — was airlifted to the hospital due to severe injuries.
“Jon was saying the Our Father as he pulled himself out of the crumpled car, as a sign of fortitude and faith,” said Martha McAdams, a conference attendee and student at Georgia Health Sciences University who witnessed the accident and rushed to help.
The accident was the worst crash seen in Gray in over thirty years. “There was nothing left of the front of the car,” said volunteer fire chief Ronnie Malcolm.

Senior Megan Hamrick, former president of MSFL and current Wilberforce Fellow for the Students for Life of America, stayed with the survivors as she had interned with Scharfenberger and was a close friend of both him and Gordon.
Craig McMahan, Mercer’s minister, John Dunaway and Father David Kwiatkowski, a priest at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, visited and prayed over the survivors.
Wednesday, Oct.12, Mercer Students for Life held a memorial service in memory of Gordon and her unborn child and in prayer for all of those affected by the impact of the crash.
Pro-life groups around the country mourned the loss of Gordon and her unborn child, while others organized prayer chains for the passengers, particularly Scharfenberger as his condition was the most critical of the three.
After a brief period of sedation, Scharfenberger’s doctors removed the sedating medication in an attempt for him to breathe on his own, but this attempt failed.
While Scharfenberger’s condition improved for a short while, as he was responsive to stimuli and could cough and gag by himself when prompted, his condition worsened as his body began to fail him.
The doctors believed that a 72-hour induced coma would help to stabilize him.
While in the coma, Scharfenberger spiked a fever of 108 degrees, and although the fever was reduced to 101 degrees, his vital signs crashed.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 9:40 a.m. Scharfenberger died with his mother, father, sister and Hamrick by his side.
“Their passion was incredible, and so were their hearts. I can only hope [one day] to be the advocates they were for such an important cause,” said Stephanie Jensen, Treasurer of MSFL, in remembrance of Gordon and Scharfenberger.
“[Kortney and Jon] were an inspiration to everyone who met them, and they will continue to inspire [others] even though they have moved on beyond this world,” said MSFL member Melissa Plyler.
Gordon and her unborn child were laid to rest in Matthews, N.C. Scharfenberger was buried in Warwick, NY.
Ginny Stone and Leo Buckle are both expected to recover fully.
The Pro-Life Leadership conference featured 10 national speakers representing life-affirming organizations across the United States, including Students for Life of America, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, the Human Life Alliance, the Alliance Defense Fund, the Network of Politically Active Christians, the Black Pro-Life Coalition, Crossroads and Pregnancy Support Services.
The conference attracted over 50 attendees representing Mercer, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, Auburn University, the University of South Carolina, Georgia Health Sciences University and Aquinas High School.
Mercer faculty members showed support by hosting speakers and attending the general sessions of the conference.
Conference topics ranged from the teaching of Pro-Life Apologetics to working with pregnancy help centers and adoption agencies to make a positive change within the community.
“The pro-life conference was outstanding. It was so great to see so many [fellow] students so passionate about helping women and saving lives,” said Jen Tyra, Vice President of MSFL.
“Not only was I deeply impressed with the excellence of the presentations and how inspiring and practical they were, but I was intensely proud of the hard work our MSFL members put into making all the necessary arrangements: reserving the venue, printing the program, providing food, lodging, decorations, and providing welcome bags for the presenters. The external co-sponsors were so pleased that they want our MSFL to host another regional next year,” said John Dunaway, faculty advisor for MSFL.
Clarissa Price was a contributing writer for this piece.