WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Our children are our future, and one Wilson County resident is using his childhood experiences as a vehicle to help empower other children who have gone through similar experiences.
“I’ll tell anyone and everybody, my name is Keith Edmonds. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. I’m a survivor of child abuse and I’m an alcoholic.”
At 14 months old, Keith Edmonds face was held to an electric heater by his mother’s boyfriend. Doctors didn’t know if he would survive.
He later turned to alcohol to cope.
Edmonds, who will enter year five of sobriety in September, has found purpose in his life.
“Years of transitioning myself from a victim to a survivor has led me to create the Keith Edmonds Foundation. It’s something I wish I had as a kid and now God has brought me here. I had a conversation with God at age 35, and part of the deal with God was that I had to share my story and help other children. So now we’re here today to empower and assist child abuse victims.
The Keith Edmonds Foundation focuses on raising awareness and serving children who have suffered. The foundation created Camp Confidence this year, which is the only camp like it in the US. About a hundred kids participate in self-worth building activities designed to let them let their guard down.
“It’s about love, positivity and mentorship. and we have to get our arms around these children because they’re so vulnerable. Without this camp only God knows where these kids will end up. This is a camp that I wanted and I needed as a child, so we’re creating it now.
The foundation continues to foster those relationships month after month.
“Being able to get these kids in a community and let them know we love and care for them will ultimately empower them. When one empowered survivor, like myself, connects one-on-one with a child victim of child abuse, it allows them to feel empowered.”
Keith put together an event in April called Shine the Light to raise awareness. The event included a human pinwheel which is the national symbol for Child Abuse Awareness.
“In those efforts we got schools against each other here in Wilson County, so the school who had the largest attendance, and we counted the attendance of each child that came in for the human pin wheel, they were going to win an award.”
That award was named after Josh Osborne, a Lebanon teen who was the victim of a severe child abuse case and was found chained to his step mothers bed at the age of 15. Josh passed away in 2014 at the age of 24. Keith wanted to honor his memory.
“When I saw it on the news and everything that I read on Josh, is he epitomized what we’re trying to do! He was asked if he forgave his abusers, and he said “I did that a long time ago”. He always smiled and was always upbeat. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get these children to understand, that they can transition from a victim to an empowered survivor as well.”
Edmonds hopes his foundation and camp will continue to grow, but also says if he can impact just one victim….he has done their job.
“We’re not going to focus on the negative, we’re going to focus on the positive. These kids need to understand that what happens to them does not define them. And this is where their story begins.”
If you’re the victim of abuse, or know a child living in an abusive home, you can call the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline at 877-237-0004.