By EMMALEE C. TORISK
With the exception of one, the six people gathered Friday afternoon around a table at Papa’s Sports Bar on Poland Avenue hadn’t known Teddy Foltz.
But though they had never met him — the polite and loving boy who endured years of abuse at the hands of his mother’s then-boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, and died Jan. 26, 2013, at age 14 from a blow to the head so severe he couldn’t recover — they were touched by his story. And they wanted to help other children avoid a similar fate.
So, on June 29, those six people and several others will host the first Teddy Foltz Memorial Poker Bike Run at Papa’s Sports Bar, 1639 Poland Ave., with all proceeds going to Sojourner House, which provides crisis intervention, education, advocacy and shelter for Mahoning County’s victims of domestic violence.
“We wanted to get the word out about child abuse,” said Kelly Plummer, Teddy’s godmother, who added that she also wanted to help local women and children in need. “No child should live in fear.”
Sign-ups for the bike run will begin at 10 a.m. June 29 and will be preceded by a $5 breakfast starting at 7 a.m. The bike run will start promptly at 1 p.m.
The cost is $15 for each biker and $5 for each rider. For nonriders, the spaghetti dinner costs $7. In addition, DJ Rockin’ Robin will perform, and both a 50/50 raffle and an auction will take place. Donations of baskets are still being accepted. For information, or to help out, contact Plummer at 330-720-4872.
Christine Leonard of Boardman added that although no one has officially registered for the event yet, she’s expecting at least 400 bikes to participate in the 90-mile bike run, which likely will last for about three hours.
She noted that the route will go past 28 Creed St., where Teddy had lived with his younger twin brothers and his mother, Shain Widdersheim. It’s also the place where Leonard met Plummer and other members of Teddy’s family during a balloon release that marked the one-year anniversary of Teddy’s death.
Leonard said she’s hoping that a crowd of people will gather at Teddy’s former home, which is now vacant, during the bike run to wave on the bikers and to show their support.
Stops for playing cards will be at State Line Tavern, 51962 E. Taggart St. in East Palestine; Guildford Lake Grille, 7094 Eastlake Road in Lisbon; BB Rooners Food and Spirits, 256 E. State St. in Salem; and Styx Bar and Pub, 3680 S. Meridian Road in Austintown. The biker with the best poker hand at the end of the run will be declared the winner.
Eddie Berg of Lowellville maintains, however, that anyone involved with the event, whether it’s through donations or participation, is making a difference in a child’s life.
“Any time you get to help another human being, it’s a good thing,” he said.
At the event, Berg and Debbie Stouffer — who manages Papa’s Sports Bar for her father and the establishment’s owner, Walter Krut — plan to perform a song that Berg recently wrote to memoralize Teddy. The song, titled “You’re An Angel Up Above,” includes lyrics describing how “this special child brings us all together as one” and how he wishes Teddy were here today.
Berg, who is the father of an autistic son, said he was simply horrified by the news of Teddy’s death, which he called “a travesty.”
Others involved with the event, such as Melissa Fellman of Cornersburg, felt similarly. She couldn’t help thinking of her own children.
“I can’t imagine a mother letting something like that happen,” she said.
Those involved with the event said they’re hopeful that people will walk away from Papa’s Sports Bar on that Sunday evening with a heightened awareness of child abuse — and be more inclined to speak out “when everything doesn’t look quite right,” Berg said.
“Maybe it will be the catalyst for them to say or do something,” he explained.
Others involved with the Teddy Foltz Memorial Poker Bike Run include Sara Foltz, Teddy’s grandmother; Elena Cruz; Johnny Miranda; Denise Sass; Brenda Shevetz; Bob Smrek; and Robin Summerville.