Former Second Mile camper recalls good times, no problems

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A Sharpsburg man who attended The Second Mile charity's sleep-over camp at Penn State University three summers in a row when he was in junior high school in the late 1990s said he has nothing but good memories from the experience.

"It was a regular summer camp except it was at Penn State," said the man who was recommended for the experience by a counselor at the Fox Chapel Area School District because he was the son of a single mother.

"We stayed in the dorms. We did everything from swimming to hiking to bowling," said the man, now 25 and a college student who asked that his name not be used. "I definitely enjoyed my time there."

That's not to say he wasn't troubled by the allegations that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky met the young boys he is alleged to have sexually assaulted through the State College-headquartered charity he founded in 1977 to help at-risk youth.

In fact, he was so troubled when the scandal broke he has spent considerable time thinking back to those days more than a decade ago when he was 12, 13 and 14 years old to see if he could remember Mr. Sandusky doing anything to another boy -- or to himself -- that was inappropriate.

"I wondered if I forgot something. I've thought about it just because people do repress things, but I can't think of anything at all. I've thought about it for a long time and nothing ever really came out of it but also everything that I remember was in public.

"He was always friendly and nothing went up like a red flag. He would play with the kids my age in the pool a lot but it was a Penn State facility and there were other people around.

"I thought 'What a nice guy, what a decent guy taking time out of his own life and using his own money to set this thing up,' " he recalled.

He remembered meeting football coach Joe Paterno at least two of the three years he attended the camp and playing games in Penn State's indoor football athletic facility. Mr. Paterno gave them a "pep talk" each year, he recalled.

One thing that stands out for him is that on one occasion in the late 1990s Mr. Sandusky told the young man and several other campers that he soon would be head football coach at Penn State.

"He said to a small group of us that he was going to be head coach at Penn State within five years. He was very definitive about it. I always wondered why that never happened but now I guess I found out why," he said.

As for his personal experience attending the camp, "I got exactly what I went for. Obviously if [the allegations] are proven, it is very troubling somebody would do that to kids."


Michael A. Fuoco: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.


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