By Denise Dick
Photographs of a smiling, laughing Teddy Foltz-Tedesco formed a collage in front of the altar at Northside Baptist Church at Teddy’s Memorial Service on Saturday.
That’s how those who loved the 14-year-old boy who died Jan. 26, 2013, five days after being beaten by his mother’s then-boyfriend, want to remember Teddy.
“Please remember him the way he would want us to remember him, as a kind-hearted child who always cared for others,” said Shawn Tedesco, Teddy’s father.
Teddy loved the Pittsburgh Steelers, history and talking about U.S. presidents. He loved to go to church, and he was a hero to his younger brothers, whom he protected, Tedesco said.
The memorial at the Goldie Road Church had been scheduled for Jan. 26, the one-year anniversary of Teddy’s death, but was rescheduled because of cold weather.
Tedesco said he wants something good to come from his son’s death. He’s working to form the Team Teddy Foundation, which will work to raise awareness of child abuse, how to report it and the ways to help children.
He’s also advocating Teddy’s Law, legislation that would make it illegal for a parent to pull a child from school during an open child-protection case, stiffen penalties for torturing a child and other changes to protect children. A Facebook page has been set up, titled Teddy’s Law, to inform others.
Teddy’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, removed Teddy and her other two sons from public school to homeschool them when school officials suspected abuse.
Her former boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, pleaded guilty to murder and other charges last summer and was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison.
Widdersheim was sentenced to 15 years in prison on four counts of child endangering and a count of obstruction of justice for allowing Bush to abuse Teddy and his younger brothers.
Court records detailed the abuse, which include Bush repeatedly punching Teddy, slamming his head against a wall, forcing him to stand outside until frostbitten, making him walk on hot coals and hitting him with pool sticks and bars of soap.
Tedesco wants to make sure other children don’t endure what his son did.
“I want Teddy to be a beacon of hope for other people,” he said.
Sara Foltz, Teddy’s maternal grandmother, said she also is trying to use her pain to help others. She recently spoke at a Hubbard Block Watch Group about child abuse, instructing members of signs to watch for.
The Rev. Brian Picard, pastor of the church, told those attending the service that there is a message of hope even in this tragedy.
“In his loss, we can say there’s hope for other kids,” said the Rev. Mr. Picard.
Family and supporters released paper lanterns into the night sky to conclude the service.