COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One year ago this week, two parents in Delaware County got a phone call that would change their family’s life forever.
Cory and Shari Foltz’s 20-year-old son, Stone, was being taken to the hospital after his roommate found him unresponsive. Stone Foltz died three days later of alcohol poisoning on March 7, 2021.
Stone was pledging the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Bowling Green State University. Investigators blame his death on hazing.
From caring for Stone’s younger siblings to honoring his legacy and fighting to end hazing altogether, the Foltzes say staying busy has carried them through a year of grief.
“It’s been a long journey, but it seems to have flown by fast,” Cory Foltz said.
When Stone died, authorities said his blood alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit to drive, had he been old enough to drink. Stone would have turned 21 last fall.
Stone’s parents celebrated his first birthday without him with a charity basketball event supporting the foundation formed in his name.
“I feel that it was the best thing that we could have done because we knew that Stone would not want us sitting home, being sad and just mourning him not being there, and not being able to celebrate,” Shari Foltz said.
The Stone Foltz Foundation funds scholarships and acts of kindness, something Stone’s parents said he was passionate about.
“It’s been good when we’re able to help others,” Cory Foltz said, telling NBC4 that the foundation will donate to organizations that support Stone’s favorite things, including basketball and animals.
Last fall’s “Hoops 4 Change” event came on the heels of another milestone: Collin’s Law, named for Ohio University student Collin Wiant, which took effect in October.
Wiant, a former Ohio University student, also died in a hazing incident.
The law expands the definition of hazing and increases criminal penalties for it.
“To push that and to get it to go through meant everything to us, because now it’s a felony,” Shari Foltz said.
Still, the Foltzes said more can be done to save lives.
“Since Stone Foltz died in March 2021, we’ve had three more kids die in hazing events across the country. We’ve had seven that have been severely injured, and we’ve had 24 fraternal organizations be suspended or expelled from their college campuses,” Rex Elliott, the family’s attorney, said. “It’s terrible because every time it happens and it’s in the news, it takes them right back to March of 2021, when they got that phone call that their son was on the way to the hospital and incapacitated.”
“Is (Bowling Green) doing everything that they should? No. Are we happy? No,” Shari Foltz said.
Since Stone’s death, Bowling Green State University expelled Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and implemented a new anti-hazing policy, which it calls “zero-tolerance.” The Foltzes said it’s not being enforced.
“It’s not actually what we are saying zero-tolerance is,” Shari Foltz said. “We’re saying zero-tolerance is one strike and you are out. Zero-tolerance – they’re still suspending.”
A statement from Ben Batey, BGSU’s Chief Health and Wellness Officer and Hazing Prevention Coordinator, said:
“BGSU’s zero-tolerance policy has severe sanctions which have resonated with our students. However, reactive measures alone do not eradicate hazing. We are leading conversations in the state for K-12 and college professionals with the first-ever Ohio Anti-Hazing Summit, we have created a university-wide hazing prevention coordinator position, we led the adoption of the anti-hazing principles for public universities in Ohio, and we are fully leveraging partnerships with law enforcement. Above all, we continue to empower our community to step up, recognize, report, and to hold one another accountable. BGSU, and every college and university, must continue to work to eradicate hazing, together.”
The Foltzes said they will continue pushing for accountability at the university level, as well as from national fraternity organizations. They will also continue speaking at high schools and colleges.
“Our message is also for these students to understand that you are the one that can save a life as well,” Foltz said. “You’re the ones that can stand up and make that change and say something — do something. Whether it’s call 911, mention what’s going on, get help, go to the school or university helpline – whatever it is, they’re the ones that can do it.”
Before they continue their work to eradicate hazing, the Foltzes say they plan to pause on the anniversary of their eldest son’s death.
“We’re going to get away as a family and hope that we can watch some DVDs and see memories of Stone when he was little, and just cherish those memories and be together as a family,” Foltz said. “I think the biggest message is (to) look at how our lives have changed. There’s not a moment when we wake up in the morning, when we go to bed at night, throughout the entire day, that we don’t think of Stone.”
Eight people have been charged with Stone’s death. Two have pleaded guilty, and the remaining six are scheduled to head to trial in May. The Foltzes also filed a lawsuit against the defendants, which Elliott said is still in the discovery phase.