Mt. Juliet resident Keith Edmonds announced Monday he would continue his mission of empowering child abuse victims with his foundation’s Backpack of Love program.
Edmonds was 14 months old when an abuser held his face to an electric heater, resulting in third-degree burns and scarring. He turned his pain and suffering into something positive six years ago when he started to use his experience as a platform to bring awareness to child abuse.
He’s spoken at different organization’s conferences and recently formed his own nonprofit, the Keith Edmonds Foundation. The purpose of the organization is to empower victims in Wilson County.
“The Keith Edmonds Foundation is here to empower child abuse victims, and we believe a kid should get to be a kid,” he said. “Everything you see with the Keith Edmonds Foundation, and everything you’re a part of with the Keith Edmonds Foundation in empowering child abuse victims, is going to be exciting and upbeat. We deal with a very serious issue, but everything is going to be positive. These kids are dealing with a whole lot.”
Edmonds highlighted several initiatives with the foundation, including the Backpack of Love program.
“When a child is taken from that environment, there usually isn’t time for them to go back and get their favorite toy or stuffed animal or clothes. They’re taken to a place and almost have nothing,” Edmonds said.
The backpack program would supply children with essentials and goodie items when removed from an abusive environment. The Keith Edmonds Foundation would have backpacks ready to give to the children. The Department of Children Services would call the foundation and a member of the foundation would immediately take the backpack to the child’s location.
“On a few occasions, we may have to meet in a shopping center or on the side of the road, as example. The goal is to get a backpack to these children quickly and efficiently,” Edmonds said.
Backpacks contain essential necessities for kids of all ages who are entering the system. Each backpack is designed to be gender and very age specific. These backpacks include such things as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, children’s soap/body wash, children’s shampoo, changes of clothing for the child’s age, personal clothing (underwear, socks, pajamas) and age appropriate books and toys.
There are four ways people can get involved in the backpack program:
• Make a financial contribution: Preferred method as the foundation can purchase items in bulk or at a discounted non-profit rate. People can donate by credit card or PayPal by visiting the website at www.keithedmondsfoundation.org, or mail donation to P.O. Box 1870, Mt. Juliet, 37121.
• Purchase a backpack and fill it with love: Using a checklist, people can begin filling a backpack for a child of particular age and gender. Once the backpack is complete, people can drop off the backpacks at any of the drop-off locations.
• Organize a drive: Organize a business, church group, social group, school or community organization to assemble backpacks. If the group wishes, the foundation can come to any organization to speak about the program and present sample backpacks.
• Make a donation and have a backpack purchased and filled on your behalf: The average cost of a backpack can run between $30-50, however cost can fluctuate depending on age and amount of donated items. People can make a donation at keithedmondsfoundation.org. Donors can specify the age and gender of the pack they would like to fill.
“This is not a Keith Edmonds thing. This is a community thing and we have the opportunity to do something really special for the children like myself,” Edmonds said.
“In the 1980s there were 1 million cases of child abuse,” he said last month. “In the 1990s, it was up to 2 million, and in the 2000s, it was 3 million. Now, we’re pushing 4 million. Coming out with my story, I was able to tell the courage and strength that it takes to go from victim to survivor.”
Edmonds said child abuse is not only a problem in other parts of the country, but also Tennessee and Wilson County.
“Tennessee ranked 365th in the country in child well being,” he said. “There were 66,000 cases of child abuse reported in 2015. Some of those cases were incorrectly reported. If we look at those numbers and divide them by the number of counties in Tennessee, that means there were 700 cases in Wilson County in 2015. That’s almost two cases a day. If you look across the nation, there are cases reported every 10 seconds.”
To spread awareness about Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, Edmonds started making videos this year with area businesses. He compiled more than 100 businesses that made a video, including the Nashville Predators.
Next year, he plans to take victims to a Nashville Predators game, “buy them a Coke and a hot dog and just spend time with them. We want them to know they’re not alone. There’s no abuse for victims of child abuse. When you turn to drugs and alcohol, you’re in a community. So why not have a community for the victims of child abuse, when they’re in their informative years. I would be a better person if I was around like-minded people who were focused on my well being, instead of me try to deal with it on my own with drugs and alcohol.”
For more information or to donate, visit keithedmondsfoundation.org.