By: Rebecca Miller
Tragedy is not a word we like to think about, but tragedies happen in our world anywhere anytime. Dealing with a tragedy causes people to search for ways to make it have some meaning, and also to help others not have to go through the same horror from which they are hurting.
Three years ago, in July of 2016, in Metamora, a small town in Northwest Ohio, just such a tragedy occurred when 20 year old Sierah Joughin was kidnapped and killed by a local man. Sierah was riding her bike home on Fulton County Road 6, having said goodbye to her boyfriend of seven years, Josh Kolasinski, just minutes before. James Worley, her killer has since been convicted of kidnapping and murder and is on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institute.
Josh and his family along with Sierah’s mother Sheila Vaculik, her siblings and other family members, have chosen to deal with their grief using a method that has become very helpful to many in the past few decades. Holding a Memorial Ride or 5K Run/Walk, founding organizations that can help others, or raising funds to assist in preventing tragedies has become a beneficial part of the fabric of Northwest Ohio and probably of many places all over the country.
In the Fall of 2016, as the family sat around together, they raised the question about starting a self defense class for girls, to keep others from going through what Sierah did, and to do it in memory of her. Keeping Our Girls Safe, or KOGS, “just seemed like the right name,” Josh’s mother Nikki Kolasinski shared.
“We knew that if this had happened to someone else and Sierah was here, she would have been right in there pushing to do this. So we, as two whole families, run KOGS and the Motorcycle Ride together.” She added, “We are a family of faith and if it weren’t for the Lord’s help, we wouldn’t make it. It changes you. It changes your soul and the way you look at everything. We choose as a family not to let the evil overcome us.”
Another family member, Sierah’s Aunt Tara Ice, has also begun a safety organization for younger girls called Sierah Strong. Mrs. Kolasinski explained that they are not connected, but that all of the family is doing all three programs, working together in love and because of their strong faith, to do whatever they can to keep other girls safe from what happened to Sierah.
Those involved in the KOGS incorporation are President Josh Kolasinski, Treasurer Mary Kolasinski Troutman (Josh’s sister), Secretary Nikki Kolasinski (Josh’s mother), along with Board members Nick Ice (Sierah’s cousin), Bob Kolasinski (Josh’s father), Sheila Vaculik (Sierah’s mother) and Kelsie Langenderfer ( Sierah’s best friend).
The KOGS program is offered free of charge as the funds to cover it are raised through the KOGS Annual Memorial Ride. The most recent ride held in July 2019 had 680 bikes! Archbold High School has welcomed the free self defense class, along with Evergreen, Napoleon and other schools, as the news spreads of it’s availability.
One group who has taken advantage of these professionally taught defense classes is the Archbold High School Volleyball team. Coach Jill Holdgreve shared about how they got connected, how it is conducted and what it has done for the girls. “Sierra played at Evergreen when I was coaching there and she played against the Archbold team so we coaches were affected by the tragedy and how close to home that was.”
She continued, “I wanted to put the Archbold kids in a position to know what they would need to do. It is a great resource and why not use it. When they actually did the class I had all the moms come with their daughters and practice what they learn together. It’s being built into our school curriculum, now. Archbold just adopted it and all the senior girls will go through it. The Volleyball team is definitely going to keep doing it.”
The trainers are Lt. John Roof from Wauseon Police and Officer John Pinkstaff from Sylvania City Police. The class is held once, for two hours, with the first hour covering legal aspects and the second is hands on. In a previous interview, Josh expressed it this way, “They learn what to say and how to act if approached, and if it goes further, what necessary actions need to be taken.” As it says on their website, “Keeping Our Girls Safe’s mission is to help create a community where violence against women doesn’t exist.”
To find more information contact KOGS on FaceBook, or check them out at kogsafe.com. KOGS is a non-profit 501c3 charity.
Rebecca Miller may be reached at email@example.com