Penn State scandal threatens to destroy the Second Mile charity
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The child sex abuse scandal engulfing Penn State -- and raising questions about what university officials knew and when they knew it -- is rapidly expanding to include the Second Mile, a children’s charity founded by alleged child abuser Jerry Sandusky.
On Monday, the charity announced that its board of directors had accepted a resignation letter from the organization’s longtime chief executive and had replaced its attorney. It also promised to launch an internal investigation into the organization’s policies and practices.
But whether the shake-up and self-analysis will quell concerns about the organization remains to be seen.
At a minimum, CEO Jack Raykovitz was alerted almost a decade ago to an allegation of inappropriate behavior involving Sandusky and a young boy, according to the grand jury that filed charges against Sandusky. He also was told that Penn State had barred Sandusky from bringing young boys on campus, the report said.
The Second Mile has acknowledged that Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley told Raykovitz of the allegation in 2002. The charity said in a statement: “Mr. Curley also shared that the information had been internally reviewed and that there was no finding of wrongdoing. At no time was the Second Mile made aware of the very serious allegations contained in the grand jury report.”
According to the Second Mile’s online newsletters, Sandusky continued to be a strong charity presence, appearing in photos and writing a regular column through the fall 2009 newsletter. Sandusky had resigned from any involvement in the organization by spring 2010.
“It was within the Second Mile program that Sandusky found his victims,” says the first page of the grand jury report on the allegations that Sandusky molested at least eight young boys over the course of 15 years. In all, he faces 40 criminal charges. Sandusky has denied any wrongdoing.
Phone calls to Second Mile for comment were not returned Monday.
There are also questions about how long the financially ailing organization can afford to keep its doors open. The organization’s 2010 annual report said it “had a $228,000 loss in our net cash flow for operations,” causing it to dip into its “rainy-day fund.”
The Second Mile, founded in 1977 by Sandusky, describes itself on its website as “a statewide nonprofit organization for children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact.” It adds: “The Second Mile plans, organizes and offers activities and programs for children -- and adults who work with them -- to promote self-confidence as well as physical, academic and personal success.’
The charity says it has helped hundreds of thousands of children over the years by providing enrichment programs such as sports activities, counseling, educational services, a leadership academy and more.
The Second Mile has had plenty of high-profile donors and supporters, including Penn State itself, which donated money even after high-ranking university officials were told that Sandusky had been seen sexually assaulting a boy on campus, according to the Associated Press
Penn State donated between $1,000 and $1,999 to Second Mile in 2009, and its Altoona campus donated between $2,000 and $4,999 that same year, the news service said. The charity also counted U.S. Steel Corp., the University of Pittsburgh, the Pepsi Bottling Group and Frito-Lay among its financial supporters, the Associated Press said.
Many bold-faced names have given their support and praise to the program over the years, including then-President George H.W. Bush, who pointed to it in November 1990 as one of his “thousand points of light.”
The charity also boasted a roster of high-profile sports figures on its honorary board of directors, including Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. PennLive.com reported that both men say they were unaware they had been named to the board.
Others are scrambling to distance themselves from the charity.
“For an organization with a responsibility for children not to be able to protect them, it’s hard to justify an existence,” Pat Sullivan, principal of Grace Preparatory High School in State College, Pa., told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sullivan said his campus would review its relationship with Second Mile.
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch