STREETSBORO, Ohio (WJW) – A Northeast Ohio family is turning their pain into passion. They are on a mission to prevent another family from losing a child.
Last fall, their 17-year-old son took his own life after becoming a victim of sextortion.
With the help of sponsors, Timothy and Tamia Woods organized the First Annual Walk/Run Day of Fun for the Do It for James Foundation at Streetsboro City Park.
There were various activities throughout the day Saturday, including a volleyball game between Streetsboro High School and St. Martin de Porres in Cleveland. But the young women were playing for a much deeper purpose.
“Our son was taken from us and it was because of sextortion,” said the teen’s father, Timothy Woods.
In November, James Woods, a Streetsboro High School senior track star, took his own life after becoming a victim of sextortion.
“It’s because of James that we’re here today. It’s because of James that people are starting to speak about sextortion,” said his mother Tamia Woods.
Police say James thought he was chatting with a teenage girl online.
After exchanging nude photos, the person, who police say was probably an adult, possibly not even in the United States, threatened to send the photos to his family and around the school if he did not pay money.
“As a parent, you teach your children what you know, how to get around it, live through it, whatever… but you can only teach them what you know and we knew nothing about sextortion and that’s why our son isn’t here anymore,” said Timothy Woods.
Even some of the teenagers we spoke to, with their parents’ permission, told us that they knew very little about sextortion until it happened to James.
“I’m not the biggest on social media, as other people are, but once it’s brought up, it’s like, wow, it really does exist in our world and it’s terrible,” said Madelyn Hajuc, an incoming senior at Streetsboro High School.
“It’s something that I think needs to be talked about too, like now, how I didn’t know about what it was until this happened,” said Jada Hodge, an incoming senior at St. Martin de Porres High School.
Runners paid $35 to participate in a 5K walk/run. There were QR codes all around for people to make donations.
The event included information tables, for mental health resources and law enforcement contacts. There was also a raffle.
Most importantly, the Woods family hopes to bring attention to sextortion to prevent other families from experiencing their heartache.
“They can leave today, knowing that they have options,” said Tamia Woods.
“If you become a victim of anything, just ask for help, be vulnerable one more time in your life. Ask for help. That way, you’re still here tomorrow,” said Timothy Woods.
The Do It for James Foundation expects to have similar fundraising events every year.
The money raised Saturday is expected to provide $10,000 for student scholarships.