By Lindsey Acton
When Kathleen Haley Ramsey married her husband Jeff in 2009 after 23 years of dating, she never imagined he would be her husband for a short time. Their courtship resulted in a heartbreakingly short marriage. Seven years after their wedding, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma.
“He lived with brain cancer for 18 months, and he died in my arms,” Ramsey said.
They built a rich life, filled with friends and a close-knit family. In his final months, Ramsey talked about the possibility of becoming a mother after his passing.
“I had told my husband, ‘One of these days, someone is going to drop me off a baby, and I’m keeping it,’” she said.
Motherhood did not arrive in the form of a baby but found her in unexpected ways.
Ramsey met Kodie Skelton when he was 17 and a high school student at Harris Academy in Brownsburg. Skelton had been in 23 foster homes and part of the foster system most of his life.
Ramsey’s home was Skelton’s last. She became a mom, just like she told Jeff. In a way Skelton arrived, but he was not a baby.
“Kodie just kind of appeared in front of me,” she said through tears and smiles. “I had told him before that if he ever got sick of that foster home (that he was in), he could come to me.
“The first anniversary without my husband was coming up, and I planned to go to Rick’s (Cafe) Boatyard, to cry on my first anniversary without him. My phone rang, and it was Kodie. He needed to talk to me. He was arguing with his foster parent, and he said ‘I need to talk to you right now.’”
Ramsey made herself and her home a safe place for all the neighborhood children and never went to Rick’s that day. Instead, she turned her car around and found herself at a Mexican restaurant in Speedway with her sister Cynthia and Skelton.
“That night he said, ‘Well, it looks like I’m up for adoption again,’” Ramsey recalled.
That was the first night Skelton saw Ramsey’s home, and she told Skelton she would contact his caseworker and he could pick out a bedroom.
Ramsey did, and Skelton never left. It became their home. His foster placement was official July 4, 2018.
From that moment forward, Ramsey was a mother. Parenting a teenager was anything but idyllic.
“It was not easy,” Ramsey said. “He was in high school. He was a teenager. He was stubborn, and that was not easy.”
Soon after they moved to Plainfield, but he remained a Harris Academy student, where he became involved with public safety training.
“We moved to Plainfield and got him involved in Ben Davis ESEC and EMS, and when he got there, he ended up in the fire program. And it made him amazing. He found out what a brotherhood is in public safety,” Ramsey said.
As Skelton began to discover himself, their bond deepened. With his tax check he asked to go to the store, telling Ramsey his purchase was personal and she needed to stay in the car.
“He came out with his arms full and a grin from ear-to-ear with three skillets, several different gift cards, my favorite lip balm and a coffee maker because he couldn’t decide what to get me, so he got me all of my favorite things,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey realized that Skelton arrived in her life exactly when he was supposed to. “I needed him and he needed me,” she said.
But Skelton’s and Ramsey’s story together was not meant to be a long one in this lifetime.
On April 26, 2020, Skelton, was dressed in safety gear and went with four friends to visit biological family members when they got in an accident that resulted in Skelton’s death.
He was 19 and died a hero.
“He wanted to show them who he had become,” she said.
As Skelton and another woman were thrown from the vehicle, he shielded his friend, sacrificing his life to save hers.
Since 2020 Ramsey has worked tirelessly to make Skelton’s passions in foster care and public safety come to life through a foundation Kodie’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Heroes.
She wants to empower and equip children from the foster care system who want to enter public safety by providing clothing and equipment.
“In the system, there is a lot of red tape, so I am taking away all the red tape,” Ramsey said. “Let’s get you into school. I will help them get whatever they need so it’s not a hurdle.”
This mission hasn’t taken off in the way that she hoped, Ramsey believes Kodie’s Kids is made for more. Skelton’s best friend Austin’s desire to train volunteer fire departments took off.
“We have given away two sets of equipment to both the Monroe Township and to the Coatesville volunteer fire departments,” Ramsey said, noting each received two adult and two infant dummies and two AED trainers.
The ability to help a department like the one that saved her son, Ramsey says, is what keeps her going.
“When we walked out of that building for the first time, we all cried,” said Ramsey, who wants to donate to all 833 volunteer departments in the state.
Kodie’s Kids raises funds through a golf outing July 14, trash bag sales and dine to donate events.
“If we can change other kids’ lives and help them save the lives of others, because that’s what they need, to be needed — if they want that, I am going to make sure that they get it,” Ramsey said.
Support Kodie’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Heroes
Kodie’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Heroes, a Hendricks County-based statewide charity, has a dual mission to provide public safety tools and training to Indiana volunteer fire departments and financially support out-of-home youth in the Indiana foster system and the homeless population.
Tools include two adult and two child training mannequins and two AED trainers and cost about $900.
Kodie’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Heroes will raise funds through a golf outing and trash bag sales.
Golf Outing: July 14, WestChase Golf Club, 4 Holloway Blvd., Brownsburg. Register at indypsf.networkforgood.com/events/53263-2nd-annual-public-safety-golf-outing-benefitting-kodie-s-kids.
Trash Bag Sales
Cost: $13 roll
Pick up trash bags at Hendricks County ICON, 5252 E. Main St., Avon; My Dad’s Barbershop, 9060 Crawfordsville Road, Suite 2, Clermont; Heritage Lake or call (317) 258-5584.