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Stone Foltz's family meets son's organ recipient, a Wadsworth man getting second chance at life

Scott Herold from Wadsworth received Foltz's liver and agreed to a face-to-face meeting with Cory and Shari Foltz.

DELAWARE, Ohio — Stone Foltz was a Bowling Green State University student who died in March, 2021, after a night of being hazed. It happened at a function of what is now a former BGSU fraternity. Foltz drank a full handle of vodka himself. In the days that followed, the family had to make a decision about organ donation. Today, Stone’s family is starting to meet and hear from some of the people who received Stone’s organs. And, the Foltz's invited WTOL 11 to be a part of one of those meetings.

On a chilly, cloudy January morning, Cory Foltz, knowing he was about to meet one of the recipients of his son’s organs, grabbed the letter they had received. In more than a year’s time, Cory and Shari Foltz have sent letters to all the transplant recipients, just hoping for a response. Cory said he wanted to reconnect with the words and the emotions, just hours before the face-to-face. 

Since the tragedy, Stone’s aunt, DJ Williams, has done her best to be a conduit. She helps to drive the mission of the foundation and shoulder the monotony that is sometimes the media. On this day, she secured Stone’s former high school, Buckeye Valley High School in Delaware, Ohio, for the meeting location as school was out due to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

After meeting in a classroom, Herold extended his hand to Shari Foltz.

“Shari?” he asked.

“Let me give you a hug,” she responded.

Shari Foltz said her son Stone was 16 when he told her he wanted to be an organ donor, but she never imagined his gift of life would come just four years later.

Introductions continued as Herold greeted the family of the donor who changed his life. Stone Foltz's parents, his brother A.J., and his little sister.

“And you must be Jersee,” he said to Stone's sister. He bent down to give the grade schooler a warm embrace. “Nice to meet ya.”

This is just a part of Cory and Shari Foltz’s life now. It’s how they make the connection -- the life connection -- to Stone.

“We write letters in the beginning if we choose to,” Shari said. “We wrote them to all the recipients. We don’t know any information about them at that time, basically telling them we want them to reach out.”

After the criminal charges. After the trial. After announcing the start of the foundation in their son’s name. And as sad as it is, this is the next chapter. But, they want it to be a story of hope.

“To have our son in someone else,” Shari said. “It’s just, and how many lives he’s saved, it means the world to us.” 

“It does,” Cory said. “Today is a very special day.” 

Tracy Kropp with Life Connection of Ohio said the organization has guided the Foltzs through the organ donation process.

“What brings joy to a donor family is meeting one of their loved one’s recipients and seeing them living life - being healthy - being happy,” Kropp said. “That’s all they can ask for.” 

Credit: WTOL 11

A new chance at life   

Scott Herold was near death when he got Stone’s gift of life, his liver. But the recovering alcoholic and father of two has experienced what Life Connection of Ohio says is common, and that’s feeling guilty about it all. 

“There's so many times where it's that survivor's guilt,” Herold said. “It's like, (I) really didn't deserve this because of how I live my life and how I got here.”

Recipients often feel a sense of guilt, Kropp said.

“Because they’re alive,” she said. “It’s because their loved one has died. Even though we know that they didn’t die to be a donor - but because they died - this miracle was able to happen - and the gift of life was given.”

Life given before the Foltz family could even process the life they had lost.

The Foltz family asked Herold when he received the life-saving surgery.

“I had mine on the eighth,” Herold said

“Ok. So next day…yeah,” Shari said.

Stone Foltz died on March 7, 2021.

A legacy of life

For the last year, Cory and Shari have traveled near and far, speaking to college students as part of the “I am Stone Foltz Foundation”. They’ve shared not only their hope of putting an end to hazing, but also their legal team’s desire to end Greek life on college campuses around the country. Many of those trips have involved each member of the family including Stone’s younger brother and sister. 

“Never once did anyone think to this day that we’d be sitting here meeting someone who has part of my brother,” said AJ Foltz, Stone’s brother who is now a freshman in college. “It’s gonna be hard. For me, it’s gonna be hard trying not to be teary eyes or anything. But, it’s just, I hope this isn’t the last time that we get to meet someone who has part of Stone. 

These meetings have to be agreed upon by both the donor family and the recipient. And that doesn’t always happen. The family is working tirelessly to make a life connection with the heart recipient, whom they believe is a woman in her 20s. That meeting has not yet been arranged.

“The hole that was there is never gonna go away but it (meeting the recipients) softens it,” Cory said. “So being able to meet Scott today is huge. It helps us, positive-wise, bury some of those sad moments.”

Sober for four years now, Herold told the Foltzs he will never disrespect the gift of life he’s been given. It's a sentiment the his family champions as well.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to Stone,” said, Lisa Callahan, Herold's sister. “The gift that we were able to have - when we think of the gift - it also comes with sadness for your family. So please know when we think of happiness - you’re in our heart as well.” 

For Shari, Cory, AJ and Jersee this is just the beginning. Stone’s right kidney went to a teenage girl and his left to a pre-teen girl. Both lungs went to a man in his 50s. His corneas gave someone sight. His tissue donation helped more than 100.  And though they’ve lost, they say through this process, it helps them feel as if they’ve gained something.

“Anyone that loses their child is always gonna feel the grieving process,” Cory said. “But being able to see the positive, see the silver lining, see the light at the end of the tunnel is big.

Herold is not out of the woods when it comes to his health. Although the prognosis is good on his new liver, he's currently on a kidney waiting list. 

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