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Mom has lesson for kids selling charity chocolates

Karen Dmyterko has a message for parents whose children are doing charity chocolate bar sales.

Do your homework, and be careful.

The Kitchener woman's 13-year-old son, Matthew Kesselring, was picked up in Kitchener on Thursday afternoon to sell chocolate bars.

A few hours later Dmyterko got a call from her distraught son, holed up in a McDonald's washroom in Burlington. He said he had been pushed and shouted at by a customer outside a bank, and he wanted to come home.

Dmyterko had no idea her son had left town that day, and was under the impression he would be closely supervised as he sold chocolate bars to raise money for a charity called Kare for Kids.

Anxious and worried, she called police and Trevor Landry, the sales supervisor who was responsible for her son.

Dmyterko's husband picked Matthew up, shaken but unharmed, from a Burlington police station later that afternoon.

For his part, Landry said he didn't realize how upset Matthew was and told Dmyterko he would drive the boy home after picking up the five other teens he was working with that day.

He said he went back to McDonald's immediately, met with Matthew and the police and offered to drive him home. But the offer was refused.

Landry has worked in chocolate bar sales for about 10 years, starting as a teenager himself. "I know exactly what these kids are going through. I would never just abandon them."

He also said he thought all of the parents were aware the children were, on occasion, leaving the area.

Dmyterko wants to make sure other children don't find themselves in a similar situation.

Matthew initially found the phone number for the sales gig on a telephone pole."That should have been a red flag," Dmyterko said.

She thought she had checked things out thoroughly after speaking to Landry on the phone, getting his licence plate and cellphone number, and sending Matthew's older brother along on his first sales day.

Before the Burlington incident, Matthew had worked with Landry for two weeks making from $25 to $100 a day.

On one occasion, Dmyterko said she gave Landry permission to take her son to Brantford and Woodstock.

George Marton is a director of the Toronto-based Kare for Kids, which assists children with medical issues. He said a chocolate distributor is responsible for the sales and his charity just receives cheques from them.

"We rarely have problems," he said. "And if we had a lot of problems with one distributor, we would discontinue using them."

Staff Sgt. Wally Hogg of the Waterloo Regional Police fraud branch said he is aware of charity chocolate bar sales but hasn't heard of any problems with them. "But parents should understand what their kids are getting into and whether it's a legitimate charity."

In hindsight, Dmyterko wishes she had gotten a written contract. She suggests children doing this type of work carry a cellphone at all times, and parents should drive by regularly to make sure they're safe. "I wish I would have followed my intuition."

Source: Waterloo Record

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