November 15, 2011

Camp Good News to reopen after sex scandal

11-15-2011 Massachusetts:

Nov. 14--SANDWICH -- Even as at least two new alleged victims have come forward, Camp Good News appears ready to reopen after a sex abuse scandal rocked the 76-year-old institution and forced it to close last summer.

"The time has come to unlock the gates at Camp Good News," the camp's website states in a bold headline on its main page.

There is no mention of the sex abuse allegations on the website, but they are alluded to in the description of programs that will be available.

"For the first time in 76 years, Camp Good News chose to take a year off to examine its policies and enlist a number of new agencies to improve and maintain the program," the website states. "...We have been working to refine the training and procedures to insure the safety of campers and refocus the camping experience on the core values set for by our founders: to build Christian character and enjoy the beauty of God's creation."

Camp officials and the crisis management firm hired in the wake of the scandal did not return calls seeking comment this morning. In April, the camp's accreditation was revoked by the American Camp Association and Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said a criminal investigation into the alleged sex abuse and cover-up by camp officials would continue.

Two attorneys for the more than one dozen victims who came forward said this morning that they both have new clients. Only one suit has been filed thus far, but the attorneys said more are coming and both expressed surprise about the camp's apparent plans to reopen.

"Since Camp Good News has declined to voluntarily resolve (these cases), we'll make them resolve them in the courts," said Carmen Durso, a Boston attorney who represents a woman who filed suit saying she was abused at the camp in the 1970s. "Our examination will show Camp Good News has not been an appropriate guardian for children in the past and there is no hope they will protect them in the future."

Camp Good News was thrust into the spotlight in February when U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's autobiography revealed he had been sexually abused as a child at a Christian camp on Cape Cod. Though Brown didn't name the camp, officials confirmed he went there and apologized to the senator.

Brown is credited by other victims with giving them courage to come forward, according to the attorneys.

In early April, a longtime employee of the Camp Good News who was still working there, Charles "Chuck" Devita, committed suicide on the camp grounds amid allegations that he had abused a 10-year-old boy at the camp in 1985. It was the suicide, the mounting allegations and the revocation of their accreditation that prompted Camp Good News officials to pull the plug on last summer's programs.

Sandwich Health Agent David Mason said the camp has not yet applied for reinstatement. The camp was allowed to rent its cabins to families last summer, but they did not open as a camp, he said.

According to the website, Camp Good News claims it is accredited. "Camp Good News is a state of the art summer camp program that is accredited by the American Camp Association and the Christian Camp and Conference Association," it states.

An official with the American Camp Association, which stripped the camp of its accreditation in April, did not immediately return a call this morning. ..Source.. by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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