Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY —
Freely admitting she has no experience in raising money or starting a charitable organization, 36-year-old Kelly Plummer is nonetheless passionate about raising awareness of child abuse and ultimately hopes to be in a position to prevent it.
Plummer’s godson, 13-year-old Teddy Foltz of Struthers, Ohio, died earlier this year of injuries he allegedly received from his mother and her boyfriend. Plummer said she was a lifelong friend of Shain Foltz Widdersheim, Teddy’s mother, who is charged with child endangerment. Widdersheim’s ex-boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, also of Struthers, is accused of raping and murdering the teenager. The trial is set for June 24 in Mahoning County.
Prosecutors filed paperwork in March with the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that say Foltz was “subjected to abuse such as being repeatedly punched, having his head slammed against a wall, being forced to stand outside until frostbitten, being made to walk on hot coals and getting hit with pool sticks and bars of soap.”
“I have to do something. I have to find a way to let other children know they can’t be afraid to speak up. This is all new to me, and I don’t really know yet what I’m doing, but I’m going to do something,” Plummer said.
A Sunday afternoon spaghetti dinner and Chinese auction at First United Methodist Church in Hubbard brought in more than $3,000 in the first of what Plummer hopes will be successful fund drives.
“We sold 248 tickets. That’s a lot of people who got to hear about the issue right there,” she said.
Working with the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio in Sharon, Plummer is designating the money be used to help children who need to get away from their abusers and for a scholarship program that will memorialize Foltz.
Plummer, a nurse’s aide for more than a decade for Sharon Regional Health System, is getting advice and help from her boss, Mickey Gula, director of the Women’s Center. Gula noted April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, but reports focusing on the issue with every family when they have a baby.
“Shaken baby syndrome is unfortunately very common. Child abuse prevention starts right here, from day one. We have a video we show new parents and make them sign a paper saying we’ve educated them about it,” Gula said.
“It’s tough for parents, who may be stressed out themselves. They need to learn to safely allow a child to explore the world. Children need structure. But there is a line between structure and abuse. And when Kelly told me what she wanted to do in light of Teddy’s death, I was more than happy to be involved,” she said.
Foltz, who had 10-year-old twin brothers, was “a comical kid,” Plummer said. “He would go up to anyone and say ‘I think you need a hug.’ ” He loved going to church and singing “Amazing Grace” and spent a lot of time helping his elderly neighbors outside. “He loved being outside and he loved sports,” she added.
She and Foltz spent a lot of time together. She attended his sporting events and they went to the movies and bowling. They particularly enjoyed going out for Chinese food. “He loved to eat with chopsticks,” Plummer said.
“I was sure something was happening. There was a dramatic weight loss. He wasn’t allowed to play sports anymore for the last two years. He stopped contacting me,” Plummer said, “and he denied that anything was wrong, right to my face.”
Foltz died Jan. 26 in a hospital, where doctors said he had been sexually abused as well.
“I don’t want another child afraid to speak up. We need to build awareness in the community and teach people what the warning signs are,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists signs and symptoms of child abuse on its website: www.childwelfare.gov
Plummer would like to hear from others interested in raising awareness and hopes to form a small committee to help plan and do future events.
Contact Kelly Plummer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send financial donations to The Community Foundation of the Shenango Valley, c/o Teddy Foltz fund, 7 W. State St., Suite 301, Sharon 16146.