By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Audrey Walker showed up to Papa’s Sports Bar on Sunday, the day of the first Teddy Foltz Memorial Poker Bike Run, not knowing quite what to expect.
She figured a few people would show up for the event, which was intended to pay tribute to the 14-year-old victim of child abuse who died Jan. 26, 2013, and to help other children who are living in fear, just as Teddy, of Struthers, and his younger twin brothers had.
When Walker, the house manager of Sojourner House, spotted the sea of bikes that flooded the sports bar’s parking lot, she was overwhelmed. More than 230 had shown up to participate in the 90-mile bike run, while 100 or so more had attended the event for the spaghetti dinner, the raffle and the auction — or simply to donate to the cause.
“It was really huge,” Walker said. “Just to see the support that came out for a child, it was a beautiful thing.”
On Thursday afternoon at Papa’s Sports Bar on Poland Avenue, Walker, on behalf of Sojourner House, accepted two checks totaling $8,275 from Kelly Plummer, Teddy’s godmother and one of the bike run’s organizers. Coupled with a previous donation, the event raised almost $8,500 for the organization, which provides crisis intervention, advocacy and shelter for Mahoning County’s victims of domestic violence.
Plummer explained that not long into planning the bike run, she knew that the proceeds from it should go toward a local organization, and especially one that helps area women and children. She didn’t anticipate that less than a week after the event, however, she would be able to hand over such a sizeable donation.
“The outcome was a huge success, and I am appreciative of all the support,” Plummer said, noting that she hopes to continue the event next year. “I’m speechless. It means more than words can say.”
The donation will be used by Sojourner House to continue its existing services, Walker said. It will be used to purchase clothing, food and other necessities, for example, and also to fund transportation for both women and children.
Walker added that Sojourner House can accommodate up to 26 temporary residents and that they can “come to the shelter at any time of the day or night.” Plus, there is no charge for any of it.
For more information about Sojourner House, which is located in a confidential location in Youngstown, call 330-747-4040.
“Someone’s always there,” Walker said. “Domestic violence also happens at 3 o’clock in the morning, not only at 3 o’clock [in the afternoon]. People should know there’s a place for women and their children.”
In addition to earning money for Sojourner House, the bike run also helped Shannon and Mike Benzenhoefer of Struthers recruit more interested members for the local chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse International that they’re starting up. The organization empowers abused children to not feel afraid, and members lend both their physical and emotional support to participants.
“They adopt the child into the biker family,” Shannon explained. “We’re hoping it can change even one child’s future. That would be worth whatever time, money and effort we put in.”
The chapter, which will cover Northeast Ohio, is still looking for new members; contact the Benzenhoefers at email@example.com for additional details.