There’s no need to explain to NPQ Newswire readers about Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach charged with sexually abusing young children entrusted to his care—and at a program for “at-risk” children at a nonprofit he founded called Second Mile, no less. In the wake of these allegations, detailed in a grand jury report, the president of Penn State University, Graham Spanier, and the now less than iconic coach of the Penn State football team, Joe Paterno, have lost their jobs for having participated in what looks to have been a cover-up. Other Penn State heads may also roll—as well they should—but that doesn’t undo what is alleged to have happened to young kids at the hands of Sandusky.
But what about Second Mile? What do we know? And where is it now? It requires a deeper investigation than we can give it here, but a few interesting dynamics have emerged:
- Sandusky established Second Mile in 1977 to help “at-risk” kids in Central Pennsylvania, though over the years Second Mile expanded statewide. When the news came out that Sandusky was spotted raping a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers, few people mentioned that the boy was African American. The victims, we suspect, were largely from African-American families, faced with the challenge of reporting a white football coach hero working for a white football coach icon (Paterno) at a virtually untouchable university. Just consider this description of Sandusky’s MO at the nonprofit: “Sandusky, who is married, usually met his victims, the grand jury report said, in their second year at Second Mile camps on the Penn State campus, when they were 7 to 12 years old. He gave them lavish gifts, took them to Eagles games, Penn State practices and home games. They often stayed overnight at the Sandusky home, sleeping in the basement. Sandusky would then initiate sexual encounters with the boys in a basement bedroom, Penn State locker room showers and other athletic facilities, according to the grand jury report”.
- The focus on “Joe Pa” has unfortunately taken away attention from the victims of this situation, the children who were participants in Sandusky’s Second Mile charity programs. If you need a description of what happened to the eight victims identified in the grand jury report, read this report from the International Business Times. Fox 29 News reports that another nine victims have come forward or come to the attention of the Pennsylvania State Police.
- The Second Mile was aware of several of the charges of child abuse, one going back to 1998, the first of at least three incidents brought to the attention of Second Mile officials. However, others at Second Mile behaved much like Sandusky’s former colleagues at Penn State and did nothing. Details of Second Mile’s awareness of allegations against Sandusky are in this Post-Gazette article. These reports, however, contradict Second Mile’s clearly dishonest contention that it was never aware of any allegations about Sandusky with Second Mile kids.
- As of last week, Sandusky’s name disappeared from the Second Mile website. Particularly poignant is the removal of this line from the Second Mile history: “Since 1977, The Second Mile has followed the path of its founder, Jerry Sandusky, to help Pennsylvania’s children achieve their potential . . .” In Sandusky’s autobiographical book Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story, published in 2000, he explained why he created the organization: “I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t have the same opportunities that I did, and it bothered me.” Like the Penn State students still standing by “Joe Pa,” there are Second Milers speaking up for Sandusky, such as a booster of the program from York who, according to the York Dispatch, said that “he doesn’t think people should forget all the lives Sandusky has touched in a positive way”.
- Several sports and Hollywood celebrities have had their names associated with Second Mile as members of its “honorary board,” including former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr., former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, golfer Arnold Palmer, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris, former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jack Ham, and actor Mark Wahlberg. Ripken and Holtz have had their names removed from the Second Mile website. According to a spokesman for Ripken from his foundation, “In the nonprofit world, people end up on an honorary board and sometimes they don’t even know they’re on it. It doesn’t really mean anything.”
- Although former Penn State linebacker, NFL player, and Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen was identified by his current employer, ESPN, as having been an honorary board member, both GuideStar and Second Mile’s form 990s identify Millen as a member of the governing board. Like Harris, Millen appeared on television to ask that viewers judge Joe Paterno for his overall history at the school, not just this one event, though Millen gave his statement amid tears. The lists of board members and honorary board members have disappeared from the Second Mile website, but as a courtesy we offer the names of the official governing board as posted by GuideStar, to ask whether these people knew what their responsibilities might have been to the children in Second Mile’s care and their families:
Second City Governing Board Member
Chairman & CEO, NanoHorizons, Inc.
Principal, Precision Medical, Inc.
Certified Financial Planner, uFinancial
Retired, Deloitte Tax LLP
President, Airgas Safety, Inc.
Sen. Jake Corman
Pennsylvania State Senator
Owner, DeAngelo Brothers, Inc.
President, Susquehanna Bancshares, Inc.
Retired, Hershey Foods Corporation
Senior Vice President, Highmark Blue Shield
Executive Vice President, Leonard S. Fiore, Inc.
Anne Deeter Gallaher
Owner, Deeter Gallaher Group LLC
Chairman, Keystone Real Estate Group, LP
President, Tri-Emerald Financial Group
Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Techbldrs
Vice President and General Manager, Turner Construction
ESPN Football Analyst,
Real Estate Developer & Manager, CEI, Inc.
Vice President, Wealth Advisor, Morgan Stanley
Retired, Bank Chairman, Waypoint Financial
CPA, Walz, Deihm, Geisenberger, Bucklen & Tennis
Real Estate Appraiser/Developer/
Realtor, REMAX Centre County
President, Steve Seltzer Honda
Corporate Attorney and Community Volunteer
Executive Vice President for Marketing, Sheetz, Inc.
Realtor, Kissinger Bigatel Brower
Retired, Bank of America
Owner, Automated Records Centre
Regional Vice President, Paradigm Partners
Certified Brain Specialist
Director, The Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University
We neither understand “honorary boards” people don’t even know they’re on (Andy Reid’s contention) nor large governing boards like Second Mile’s, where members were able to go simultaneously blind, deaf, and dumb when it came to even sensing that there might be something a little odd in Jerry Sandusky’s interpersonal relationships and overall behavior with the Second Mile kids. There is a moral responsibility faced by this board for potentially having ignored information about Sandusky that other people around the country or even in Pennsylvania were picking up on and reporting.
Anyone reading this has to be disgusted by the alleged behavior of Sandusky and the serial inaction by Paterno and others at Penn State. Paterno’s various statements reveal his interest: to protect the university rather than the children, allegedly molested over the years by the former assistant coach who had “retired” from Penn State in 1999 (after he was caught showering naked with a kid at Penn State) but still had the run of the facilities and an office there as an emeritus professor.
But what about Second Mile? Are we to believe that from 1977 to 2010 or 2011, no one—except the kids—had an inkling of troubling behavior by Sandusky? Are we to give Second Mile board members and staff the kind of pass for their inaction on specific reports the way that Paterno thought he could slide by at Penn State? Are we to assume that the prosecutors who let Sandusky off over the years when presented with specific charges and evidence didn’t think of taking a look at the organization at which Sandusky allegedly procured his victims?
Anyone who understands the patterns of sexual abuse has to realize that if eight victims have been identified in the grand jury report—and maybe nine more have been identified to the police since the news about Sandusky went public—knows that the numbers have to be much higher and will probably include children whose families didn’t and won’t come forward. Anyone who knows anything about the sexual abuse of children must be aware of the deep psychological scars this will have caused. The victims of child sexual abuse have much higher rates of depression, alcoholism, drug use, and suicide than the general public. Penn State may be found culpable for providing the facilities for some of Sandusky’s alleged acts of molestation, and Paterno may need to hire a criminal defense attorney, but Second Mile may be no less culpable than Paterno (or than Penn State President Graham Spanier and Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary—who witnessed one of the alleged rapes). It may very well turn out that Second Mile board members and senior staff turned a blind eye to the abuse of children under their care.