PITTSBURGH – The charity that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky founded is set to begin what may be its last series of youth programs, as officials wait for a court to approve a formal transfer to another nonprofit.
Second Mile CEO David Woodle said Friday that about 200 kids are enrolled for a program that's scheduled to begin July 15 in State College.
Prosecutors allege that Sandusky, who was found guilty Friday of 45 counts of child sex abuse, used the charity to locate victims, but some former Second Mile campers testified in his defense during his trial. Woodle declined to comment on the trial.
Woodle said it could take months for a court to rule on a request filed in May to transfer many programs to Arrow Child & Family Ministries Inc., a $36 million charity that operates in Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Honduras.
The legal petition to transfer programs to Arrow is essentially the findings of an internal investigation into the charity's future conducted by attorney Lynne Abraham, Woodle said. Abraham had previously served as Philadelphia's district attorney.
Abraham's investigation is complete, but won't be released publicly beyond what's in the court filing, he said.
Meanwhile, Arrow said it hopes to hire all of The Second Mile's current employees, but will move them to new offices in the area.
"They will become Arrow employees," said Faye Eson, Arrow's chief development officer.
Eson said Arrow hopes to ultimately provide the programs to the same number of children that The Second Mile served, but that will depend on fundraising. For now, the focus is keeping the Pennsylvania programs running.
"We could certainly envision expanding The Second Mile model to other states. We do think they're very well-designed programs," she said.
For now, there are no plans for former Second Mile board members to join Arrow's board, she said, though the group is open to the idea. Arrow will also create local advisory councils.
Woodle said he's happy with the transition petition, and with the programs that are set to begin soon.
"We've had higher years when we had more money. But it's not hugely different than last year," Woodle said of the enrollment.
The fact that the programs are happening at all may be a positive sign.
Sandusky's November arrest plunged The Second Mile into crisis. Donations dried up, volunteers fled and organizations that once referred children to the charity said they no longer would.
The Second Mile said in its court petition that it became immediately apparent that the allegations against Sandusky "jeopardized the very existence" of the nonprofit.
From its beginnings as a home for foster children, The Second Mile grew to become one of the largest providers of youth social services in Pennsylvania. The nonprofit thrived because of Sandusky's prominence as a defensive coach at Penn State, its close ties to university donors and leaders, and its use of Penn State's athletic fields for its camps serving at-risk children. The late coach Joe Paterno often served as master of ceremonies at The Second Mile fundraisers.
But its longtime CEO, Jack Raykovitz, came under fire for failing to inform the charity's board about 2001 and 2008 abuse allegations against the retired coach. Infuriated board members told The Associated Press in December that had they been kept in the loop, they could have taken steps to better protect children a decade ago.
Arrow, whose national headquarters are in Spring, Texas, a Houston suburb, was founded in 1992 by Mark Tennant, who grew up in Washington, Pa., and was himself abused as a child.
In a statement issued Saturday, Tennant sought to assure employees, volunteers, board members and Second Mile donors that Arrow "will always place the safety and well-being of children first."
If the court approves the transfer of Second Mile programs to Arrow, "know that these programs will be under the watchful eye of a founder who was a victim of the horrific crime of child abuse and has committed his life to offering hope and healing to other survivors," he said.