BY ELIZABETH SOLENDAY
After experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare, three Baldwin teachers have managed to turn their personal pain into positive support for others.
In 2010 math teacher Richard Ralston and his wife lost their daughter, Abbey, shortly after her birth. Then in 2012, culinary arts teacher Beth Fochtman and math teacher Rich Fochtman lost their son, Logan, just before he was born.
Both families, though, have found ways to heal through positive projects for the community.
Since they lost Abbey, the Ralstons have hosted a holiday toy drive every year in honor of her.
“The first Christmas after we lost Abbey, we wanted to give children toys to try to fill the emptiness of her not being with us,” Ralston said.
They started small, but the drive took off quickly through social media and word-of-mouth.
Recently, the toy drive has been expanded to include donations from both the high school staff and his wife’s co-workers at her job.
This year was the biggest toy drive they have had yet, requiring a U-Haul truck to take all 361 toys to Toys for Tots.
“I think it’s a great thing to turn something sad and negative into something positive for people who need it,” Ralston said.
The Fochtmans also decided to turn such a sad day for them into something positive for other people.
They asked the high school students and teachers for help, and their request was simple: do something kind for another person in honor of Logan.
They called the project Be a Hero 212 Day, encouraging everyone to do a good deed for another person on Feb. 12, which was the date that Logan had died.
The Fochtmans asked for people to share their good deeds on social media with the hashtag #BeAHero212, and they also put a box in the main office where people could write down and turn in descriptions of their good deeds.
The response was overwhelming, and spread quickly beyond the high school.
“We did not think this idea would pick up as quickly and as extraordinarily as it did. We were so touched by every single person who did something,” Beth Fochtman said.
Getting support from the elementary schools was especially gratifying, she said.
“One of the most touching things was definitely the elementary students from Whitehall who wrote down the good things they were going to do. It was unexpected and sweet. It brought me to tears,” Fochtman said.
The Fochtmans hope to take their project district-wide next year, with hopes that even more students and teachers will participate. The Ralstons also plan on expanding their toy drive and continuing their efforts to honor Abbey.