When one dad lost his six-year-old daughter in a DUI crash, he was devastated. He couldn’t help but blame the drunk driver at the heart of the accident. However, the identity of that individual would make his loss even more heartbreaking.
Rick Ellis comes from the city of Cabot in Lonoke County, Arkansas. In August 2003, he and his partner at the time, Christy Johnson Ellis, welcomed a child into the world – a little girl who they decided to name Lindsey.
It’s safe to say the birth of his daughter had a life-changing effect on Rick. All at once, the new father had something to focus on. As a result, he threw himself into being the best father he possibly could be.
Ellis didn’t shy away from the extra responsibilities of being a parent. And in time, it was those everyday moments he came to cherish most. “I was a father that warmed a milk bottle every morning,” he explained in a 2016 Facebook post. “[I] changed her diaper, rocked her back to sleep like clockwork every day!”
However, it wasn’t until years later that Ellis would realize just how precious those memories were. That’s because in 2010 Lindsey was involved in a car crash. Tragically, the accident would cut short her young life.
At the time, Lindsey had been staying with her mom, Christy, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And according to Ellis, the six-year-old had been enjoying herself on the break. She was out playing at the beach every day – just like on a vacation.
“[Lindsey] was having a time of her life playing in the sand, watching the ocean, feeling the love of nature,” Ellis explained on his Facebook page. “Not a worry in the world.” However, things were about to take a tragic turn.
According to Ellis, Christy had been up two days partying. Throughout this time, he claimed she’d been drinking and taking drugs. Then, apparently, things came to a head when Christy had an argument with her boyfriend who, Ellis alleged, then beat her up.
It was then, claimed Ellis, that Christy decided to drive Lindsey back home to Arkansas. But tragically, the little girl died on that journey when her mom – who was still under the influence – crashed their car in Beaumont, Mississippi.
“I promise you neither of them saw it coming,” Ellis later said on social media. “My little girl Lindsey Kay Ellis was asleep in the back seat as her mother drove off the road and landed 65 feet below on another interstate. Upside down – [they were] both crushed instantly.”
In an instant, the distraught dad’s life fell apart. And understandably, his grief consumed him. He struggled to make sense of his terrible loss, especially given the tragic circumstances of it.
“Everything changed,” Ellis said. “All I had was memories and it took me some time. But, a fire was started inside the heart of a father that wanted to save as many people as possible before his time was up.”
Amid his grief, Ellis realized he was in a unique position to change things. So he decided to use his voice to inspire people struggling with addiction to seek help. And to do so, he posted a moving plea on Facebook.
Ellis’ emotional video opens with him standing in a graveyard. “I’m gonna tell you something. Life isn’t about getting high,” he says. “If I can help anybody — I want you to listen to me.”
The tearful dad then goes on to explain his little girl lost her life because her mother “wanted to get high, drink, drive, party and have fun.” But, he says, “It didn’t work out too well.” He then flicks his camera to Lindsey and Christy’s grave, saying their deaths were the result of out-of-hand partying.
“You wanna get drunk?” asks Ellis. “You wanna play around? You want to be stupid? This is what happens,” Ellis warns. “This is my precious little girl who was killed in a drink-driving accident. Her mother had been partying for two days,” he added. “Everything was great, right? Well it ain’t so great now.”
At this point, Ellis can no longer hold back his tears. “If you are struggling with addiction, if you are struggling with alcohol, I hope this can help you,” he says. “Don’t let your loved ones look down on you — six feet in the ground – because you couldn’t handle life.”
“Pull your bootlegs up. Grab a hold of life. Make something of it,” he pleads. “Make mom and dad proud, even if they’re not here no more. Fight for something, stand for something. There’s plenty of drunks in this world and you don’t need to be one.”
After posting his plea to Facebook, it soon went viral. More than 600,000 people shared his appeal and 100,000 reacted to it online. Moreover, Ellis was inundated with messages of support. “God bless you. I am so very sorry for your loss,” read one. “I shared this post in the hopes that your message reaches that one person that really needs it.”
In the years since Ellis posted his video, there’s no way of telling how many people his plea helped. However, it’s clear to see his newfound purpose had a profound effect on him. While still honoring his little girl’s legacy, Ellis has managed to move on with his life. These days, he teaches kids how to fish and he recently got married.