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Sandusky charity: Shutdown plan must happen soon

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MICHAEL RUBINKAM | August 3, 2012 03:54 PM EST | AP

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The charity for troubled youths started by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky more than three decades ago said Friday its plan to transfer programs and assets to a youth ministry needs court approval soon or it will no longer be feasible.

The Second Mile can probably hold out another three or four months before it will have to shut down altogether, David Woodle, the charity's interim president and chief executive, told The Associated Press.

"The fundraising's drying up, so we are using our reserves," he said. "We need to make a firm decision here very shortly just because of the fiscal requirements."

The State College-based charity was financially crippled by the child-sex abuse scandal involving its founder and onetime public face. After a six-month internal review, The Second Mile concluded in May that it could not continue, and asked a court for permission to transfer programs and millions of dollars in assets to Houston-based Arrow Child & Family Ministries Inc.

But the plan has stalled amid procedural delays and opposition from lawyers for Sandusky's victims. A new judge from out of the area was assigned to the case last week.

Woodle said The Second Mile can't wait indefinitely.

"Plan B is we would have to just shut down the organization," he said. "You could run it until the last penny, but at some point, if you're really going to keep these programs going under somebody new, we've always anticipated that some of these assets will need to leapfrog. ... We're either going to transfer it or everything is going to have to go away."

The Second Mile had been one of the largest providers of youth social services in Pennsylvania until Sandusky's November arrest. Donations dried up, volunteers fled and organizations that once referred children to The Second Mile severed ties.

The charity has since pared down staff to about nine, but still managed to run one of its most popular programs, Summer Challenge Camp, at locations in Downingtown and Huntingdon. About 300 kids signed up.

Sandusky, a retired Penn State assistant football coach, started The Second Mile in 1977 and later used it to find his victims. He was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys and awaits sentencing.

While a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that top Penn State officials concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky, less is known about The Second Mile's role in the scandal, including the extent of former CEO Jack Raykovitz's knowledge of a 2001 complaint that Sandusky had molested a boy in the Penn State football team showers.

The charity hired former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham to conduct an internal investigation. It ended in May without having produced a report.

Woodle said Friday that Abraham's review was never meant to uncover potential wrongdoing by Second Mile officials – but to help the charity determine whether it could save itself. He pointed to a Nov. 14 statement on The Second Mile's website that said Abraham's law firm would "conduct an internal investigation to assess our internal policies, procedures and processes; and make recommendations regarding the organization's future operations."

Yet Abraham herself, speaking to reporters that same day, hinted the review would be far more investigatory in nature. "We need to find out how deep this went, who knew about it, when did they find out about it and what was done or not done," she told a news conference.

And a week later, The Second Mile released a statement that said the charity was "doing everything in our power to investigate and understand what happened."

Woodle acknowledged the confusion but said Friday, "We don't have $7 million to do a Freeh report, to be honest with you. We're not trying to hide something. This thing was always about, what's the future?"