By Dan Colton
for The Beacon
Katelyn Spang realized she’d hit rock bottom, but determination and help from a local business owner would turn her life around.
It was in March 2017 when police took her into custody for drug trafficking in Washington County. She was just 24 and caught in the midst of a heroin addiction.
Dependent on drugs Spang said were supplied by her boyfriend’s family drug network, her routine revolved around acquiring narcotics by any means. That meant daily runs to Milwaukee to pick up and transport heroin back to Campbellsport, Wis., she said.
“All I looked forward to was making sure I had my fix for the day and to not be dope sick, going to Milwaukee and back,” Spang said. “It was every single day like that.”
The life she’d built –one centered around the harmful chemicals her body then demanded – was about to come crashing down. Police had been investigating the drug enterprise for two years, building a case all the while, before the investigation culminated in the arrest of several people including Spang and her former boyfriend.
Yet out of the ruin, Spang said she found a way to rebuild a bridge into the future.
Shortly after the March 2017 arrest, Spang discovered she was pregnant. She battled through the detoxification process while under incarceration, Spang said, knowing her health was no longer solely about herself.
Then, two months later, she was bailed out. The severity of her situation was apparent, and Spang said she became committed to staying clean.
“Once I got out of jail, I was pregnant with my daughter, and that’s what kept me clean,” Spang said. “But I was craving so bad.”
She entered a 90-day inpatient treatment center and graduated from the program. Exactly one week later, her daughter Hailey was born.
But the hope brought on by the birth her daughter was overshadowed by an impending prison sentence. All Spang could do was continue to strive for better and hope the judge would cast a lenient judgement.
“After I graduated … (I was still) fighting my case, tying to prove to the judge that I wanted to change my life,” Spang said.
The judge noticed Spang’s strides in the right direction, and she was granted 90 days in outpatient treatment before imprisonment. That gave Spang three months to spend with her newborn, and during those months, Spang said she spent nearly all her time with Hailey.
The dedication was especially strong, Spang said, because her first child was adopted by her sister years before. She wasn’t willing to repeat the same mistakes.
Rebuilding her life wasn’t enough to halt the wheels of the court system, however. On Jan. 11, 2018, Spang was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the charge of drug trafficking.
Spang didn’t serve all three years and was released early on good behavior.
But while Spang remained locked up, her daughter Hailey was placed in a foster home. Those initial days of confinement proved crushing to Spang’s spirit, she said. She feared losing her daughter forever.
“When I had her, I was with her for almost three months, like 24/7,” Spang said. “…I knew I was going away, and I didn’t know what was going to happen (with Hailey). That was the most fearful thing I felt.
“The only though I had in my head is (the foster family) … will want the child for their own, and I have no control of anything. I was overthinking, scared, no idea what’s going on with myself. I was clueless, hopeless, all the above.”
Little did Spang know, Hailey’s foster family would prove to be a saving grace.
Hailey was placed with Jenny and Dustin Veldkamp, local residents and owners of an essential oils company, Simply Earth, in Hingham.
“We got called … and there was a three month old baby,” Jenny Veldkamp said. “And we said, ‘Yes.’”
Veldkamp began to bring Hailey in for visits with her mom.
“We developed a relationship and went to visit (Spang) with Hailey,” Veldkamp said. “Then when she got out she would have Hailey on the weekends. We really saw in her that she wanted something different in her life, but without an army of people, she was never going to get it. She was so alone.”
As a result, Veldkamp offered Spang a job with her new business venture, WildRoot Natural Deoderant, to make essential-oil deodorants at the Simply Earth building in Hingham.
“When these moms get out of jail, they have absolutely nothing,” Veldkamp said. “…We decided to risk it and we hired her.”
But Spang said she’d never held a normal job in her life. It was difficult adjusting to a workaday lifestyle with eight hours spent toiling away – nevertheless, there was a reason to make it work.
Spang wanted to make a life for Hailey.
“I’d never had a job before,” she said. “I’d never been active during my addiction … and I wanted those eight hours to be over.”
The daily grind wore her down, but slowly, Spang began to bear the fruits of her labor. And with WildRoot Natural Deodorants now available to purchase online, it’s only the beginning.
“As more time went by, all I wanted to do is work,” She said. “Because now I see the success that’s coming from it, and I have people that are proud of me.
“I’m trying to make them more proud. I’m trying to be proud of myself.”
And while WildRoot is on the market, Veldkamp said Spang’s progress is at the heart of the story.
“Her baby got her mom back, and the whole cycle is cut because we were willing to give her mom a chance and give her a leg up,” Veldkamp said. “The whole cycle has changed for her. Honestly, it’s better than any business win. It’s better than anything because you get to watch a mom and a baby be together.”
The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to affect communities all throughout the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 702,000 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses between 1999 and 2017.
Heroin and synthetic opioids are the major contributor to the statistic, according to the CDC.