Do You Trust Summer Camps?

Community reaction to alleged abuse scandal at Camp Good News.

Each week, our council of experts and smart parents take your questions, give advice and share solutions in this parenting column. This feature will also be the place to drop in for a talk about the latest parenting hot topic.

So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start the conversation today with a topic and question:

Last month there were several stories regarding Camp Good News - a Cape Cod summer camp that has recently shut its doors amid scandal revolving around camp counselors and abuse of children.

Do you feel comfortable sending your child away to camp this summer? Do you trust the camp and the counselors where you are sending your child?

If you'd like to take part in deciding the discussion topic each week, email Kelly.Mello@Patch.com.

Christopher London May 11, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Kelly: In my estimation parents are far more aware of how to protect their children today than they were in the 1970's or 1980's. The 24/7 media cycle & internet may make it seem that child abuse & child sexual abuse is more prevalent or widespread now, but I hold that as a society, we are now just more aware of its existence & more willing to take the word of a child vs. an adult. Parents are increasingly sensitive to tell tale signs that something may be awry with their child. Likewise we are also more well aware of conduct by adults, which even if not predatory or abusive in fact, crosses the line of trust that parents will find ultimately find acceptable. If you examine the child sexual abuse scandal at Camp Good News (CGN), in particular with regards to the case of my former cabin mate, Ronnie May at CGN, ,what transpired in that situation would likely not be given as much opportunity to happen today. While the risk still exists, back in the 1970's it was not considered unusual for Ronnie May's Camp Counselor, Ernie Milnes, who was later convicted of child sexual abuse, to visit him at his home. In fact. Ernie Milnes, who was later convicted of abuse and now deceased, had a dinner in my parents home on a visit to NYC in the 1970's. (Part I of Answer, Part II to follow)
Christopher London May 11, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Fast forward to 2011, were an adult who was a Summer Camp Counselor seeking to visit a child in their home today, it would be politically incorrect and set off alarm bells. Is the current environment perfect? No. But it is far easier to verify individuals, organizations and their track records than ever before. Camps have at their disposal the services which engage in broad background investigations of prospective counselors, workers and staff that will include searches of criminal databases, court records &credit bureau reports. Any camp that does not conduct such investigations of those applicants who have direct or indirect access to children is negligent for not undertaking an effort to validate that applicants are citizens in relative good standing. Even proponents of greater privacy, will acknowledge that the security of the child is paramount and supersedes whatever privacy rights individual applicants may claim. (Part II of III)
Christopher London May 11, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Finally, I suggest that if you are to send a child away to Summer Camp, do not ship them off & forget about them for the summer. Regularly check in, visit them several times over the course of the summer. Consider also sending them to camp that is within comfortable commuting distance so that if you need to see your child immediately for any reason or place them at least within a close distance of a trusted relative. Likewise you can prepare your child to always communicate with you honestly. Instruct them that if anyone ever makes them uncomfortable or touches them inappropriately that should that be done, "mommy and daddy will not tolerate that sort of thing and will always come to your defense."
Aimee May 11, 2011 at 09:55 PM
I agree with the statement above stating that it's very important to always communicate with your child. Teach them to be aware and protect their bodies. As far as camps go... research is key. Word of mouth, recommendations, camp history, meeting the employees, cori checks and dropping by while your child is there. Do whatever it takes to keep our children safe!
Kelly A. Mello (Editor) May 11, 2011 at 10:22 PM
On that note Aimee, do you or any other parents out there have any recommendations for camps?
Aimee May 11, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Foxboro YMCA, Mansfield Summer Institute... and I was sending my kids to the Norton Summer Splash Program but it was cancelled due to low enrollment. :(
theforgivingbarassociation May 12, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Please donate to helping keep Camp Good News.....closed in order to save other donors from having to pay out 685,000.00 for ....utter irresponsibility. [Note 2] The Society has not appealed the entry of summary judgment declaring that, due to the motor vehicle exclusion, Markel had no duty to defend or indemnify the Society. [Note 3] The underlying claims arose from a one-car roll-over accident in which a fifteen year old camper, Stephen Horne, was seriously injured. The car, owned by the Society, was operated by a camp counsellor, Mark Inchley (an unlicensed driver). The settlement required the release of all claims against the plaintiffs and paid $635,000 to the injured camper. Arbella paid its policy limits, $500,000, and the Society paid the remaining $135,000. http://www.lexisone.com/lx1/caselaw/freecaselaw?action=OCLGetCaseDetail&format=FULL&sourceID=bdihja&searchTerm=egYd.KbDa.aadj.eejZ&searchFlag=y&l1loc=FCLOW http://masscases.com/cases/app/56/56massappct190.html
theforgivingbarassociation May 12, 2011 at 02:03 PM
The Globe previously reported that the camp, operated by the Society for Christian Activities, paid $20,000 in August 2008 to settle a civil suit filed by the parents of a 13-year-old girl from Switzerland who accused a counselor of inappropriate conduct, which involved a kiss. http://www.rickross.com/reference/clergy/clergy1280.html This settlement was a REPORTED settlement. Others have suggested a decades long pattern of male staff (and even male campers) having access to the applications of female staff and female campers for the sole bragged purpose of seduction and sexual abuse. Have a Nice Day!
theforgivingbarassociation May 12, 2011 at 02:39 PM
A large part of the problem is that when you have severe pornography addictions and/or character flaws in the Camp Leadership (as they do at CGN's very highest leadership), the leadership is very susceptible to being "forgiving", "permissive" and even "encouraging" of sexual dysfunction in subordinate staff (Chuck DeVita). Activities such as an "obsession" with Junior Boy SkinnyDipping (nude boy bathing not advertised by Camp Good News) went on for decades led by Camp Directors and Camp Head Counselors handpicked by Camp Directors. Recurring Sexual scandals between Male Staff and Female campers went unaddressed for Decades. Those dedicated professing Christians who pointed out the "pattern" were brushed off as "hateful", "mean-spirited" and "devils". But it's hard to brush off a United States Senator and TWO suicides...isn't it?
Christopher London May 13, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Kelly: You are to be commended for commencing this dialogue. There has been so much rumored about the CGN case. In due course, ultimately hopefully all the facts will come out and the liability of the institution and select individuals will be determined by our legal system. The most important thing to come of this scandal is to make parents aware that our world is never 100% safe for children. It is ultimately a parent or guardian's responsibility to guard the safety and security of a child. We must never take that for granted. Institutions and individuals so entrusted with their case do sometimes cover up abuse under the rationale that their aims are bigger than what may have happened to one individual. I do not share that view. While initially I defended CGN, there is just too much out there coming to light that makes me question why even one child ever has to suffer and it breaks my heart that I knew one who was suffering but as a young one myself I could not understand why Ronnie May was the way he was. Yet it is so clear to me now that the man profilied by the Boston Globe suffered for a long time. Even one child is far too many. No works are so important that even one child should be sacrificed. Parents protect your children, remain vigilant of those who you may grant custody to however briefly. And to those that violate that trust, know that your sins are unforgiveable.
punchmyticketihaveamnestia May 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM
The 10 step road to recovery for CGN 1. Announce cooperation & pretend to cooperate with the criminal investigation. 2. The criminal investigation drowns. 3. Invite Chris London to live in Chuck DeVita's (Stewart Brooks's old) old apartment (and chuck's pay as filed on his U.S.Tax Returns) to be the Camp's personal blogger (a.k.a. an appropriate venue of opportunity as defined by CGN. 4. Terminate all 13+ accusers AND U.S. Senator Scott Brown and offer them "forgiveness" for daring to challenge CGN. 5. Hire the famous Chris London Esq. Defense Attorney with a distinguished and undefeated Trial Lawyer Litigation record to represent you. (*Undefeated because London has never practiced law ever. 6. Offer every member of the Jury free lakeside vacation cabin time-shares for life. 7. Win back accreditation from the ACA OR convince the “peasantry” the ACA stamp of approval means nothing anyway. 8. Convince the peasantry to entrust their children to CGN's care and "christian ministry". 9. Not have yet another suicide, murder or "mental accident" at the Camp for at least another 6 months. 10. Invite ML Strategies (the Multi-Million Dollar Public Relations Firm with offices in New York and Washington DC to increase London's "Welfare". Hire the renowned Cultural Conservative George Will to write a highly supportive article in support of CGN in exchange for some juicy speakerships on the lucrative seminar circuit. London can write the lyrics. Have a Nice Day!
Christopher London May 13, 2011 at 12:48 PM
When I decided to speak up the above commenter is the kind of disingenuous stalker who has had little of import to add to providing constructive solutions and instead offers only ridicule from the comforts of his obscure and anonymous posts. When you decide to comment in earnest revealing your actual identity then perhaps someone will take you seriously. Me thinks, however, that some folks and I suspect I know quite well who they are or where they come from, seem to be hell bent on a personal campaign to discredit someone who actually might be making sense.
punchmyticketihaveamnestia May 13, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Christopher London 8:48am on Friday, May 13, 2011 When I decided to speak up the above commenter is the kind of disingenuous stalker.... Aren't you the same character who published online unverified photos and names (as opposed to documented court settlements, SUICIDES and more on CGN) of other children at the Cape Cod Daily in your eagerness and undisciplined (and most unlawyerly) attempt to insult and discredit United States Senator Scott Brown? Does that make "sense" to you? Perhaps you should stick to the practice of law ....er....welfare ....er..charity.
Christopher London May 13, 2011 at 03:03 PM
What I contributed has been commended by many folks both publicly and privately to opening the door to further information coming forth. My days at Camp Good News were mostly positive. That does not mean that they were in fact that way for others. I have gone on record, including on FOX News Boston as stating that my former cabin mate Ronnie May's account of suffering abuse at the hands of our then camp counselor Ernie Miles, rings true. My concern all along has simply been that the Massachusetts Senator has an opportunity to be a beacon of light to those who suffered similar abuse to that he allegedly suffered. And I think he has more to gain by aiding victims than remaining quiet. But I have moved on from Scott Brown. The issue of child sexual abuse is bigger than Mr. Brown. Sadly, it continues to go on in the shadows of our society in places where the trust of parents with their children is violated by counselors, teachers and others. I would prefer to live in a world where no child ever suffers any kind of abuse. No child should be an externality in our imperfect world. Reading Ronnie May's account in the Boston Globe truly broke my heart because I always thought he was a good and decent kid.
punchmyticketihaveamnestia May 13, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Dear Mejia, I notice in some of your posts you call this former camper person "Ron May" and in other blog entries you call him "Ronnie May". Are these the same person or are these different people? Is there some sort of distinction or part or "meaning" on your part in alternating between names (or is it mere carelessness?)
getajob May 14, 2011 at 01:05 PM
It's no great leap to realize that if one has emotional issues related to not keeping the name of your original father or being ashamed of your original father (however deserved) or having severe authority issues, one might go through life with issues of inadequacy,an inferiority complex, arrogance and an inability to relate appropriately. I suspect the camper in question prefers the name his Father gave HIM rather than the name favored by Ernie Milnes (convicted Tier 3 Sex Offender formerly of Camp Good News) and the Camp Good News Directors (addicted to Pornography at the very highest levels). Have a Nice Day!
Sheila Gaudet May 18, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I'm late on this one but to address the original question, my older has attended various camps over the years with no issues. I think you have to know your child as well as do your research at the camp. I agree with the statements above that there is a lot more knowledge about sexual abuse now than there was a few decades ago. Not only do camps do background checks on their employees and volunteers, but training includes appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Children are more familiar with the rules as well and may be more likely to report abuse. My work in youth development has included managing day camps and coordinating some overnight experiences for them and I know how much thought goes into those plans. My younger son is 8 and not emotionally ready yet for a sleep-away camp. He has some challenges with attention and social skills and communication and therefore I would be more concerned about him being susceptible to abuse than I would more older son who is more of an outgoing chatterbox with more self confidence.
sam hgouston May 27, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Curiously, A number of broad daylight murders and kidnappings also have Camp Good News as a common denominator.
k June 01, 2011 at 08:36 PM
absolutely not! I am not just talking about the camps listed above but day camps also. I hate when my family visits a tourist attraction and there are 50 little kids all with the same color shirt and maybe 5 or 6 teenager sin charge of all of them. really! I have no problems with teenager sbut little children can be unruly and cunning to their parents ( we have all been there) imagine being a teenager in charge of so many children when they are hot, tired, bored, hungry, just want to run around and not listen to the couselors. never mind the safety issues at being at a water park or public pool. children can drown in seconds with a parents eagle eye on them. too much resposability for too few counselors.
Sheila Gaudet June 01, 2011 at 08:47 PM
day camps are licensed (in Mass) by either EEC or the Department of Health and both have ratios that have to be maintained regarding number of staff to number of campers, depending on the age of the camper. There is also a separate ration for field trips. For instance, in most situations, 6 year olds require a ratio of 1 leader for every 5 campers and older kids it's 1:10 (considering that most teachers manage at least 25 students on their own). For field trips, the ratio is 1:8, I believe. And they do come and do random inspections of camps, ask for payroll records and time sheets to check ratios etc even after the fact. There are also rules about how old the teens can be to be in charge of various age groups and what types of training they must have. Public pools and water parks have additional staff in the form of their own personnel and lifeguards as well. Having worked in youth development for years, it's my experience that most kids behave better at camp than they do for their parents!
Joe June 17, 2011 at 01:40 PM
And they do come and do random inspections of camps, .... ----but not at Camp Good News. ** But not this year. This year Camp Good News is closed. I do hope it was something I said.
Sam I Am May 06, 2012 at 03:52 PM
As an update, it has since been reported that another victim able to document "apologetic" letters from Camp Good News about sex abuse occurring as early as 1969 (regarding Milnes) has come forward. As Milnes and sex abusers remained on staff at Camp Good News for decades, it would be reasonable to wonder if the historic and even more recent "apologies" from Camp Good News also have more to do with "defensive statements and legal strategies" than with truthfulness, safeguarding children or "Christianity" or even common sense. ** Further any parent considering a summer should be concerned about background checks for staff but even more concerned about the background of the Camp's Operating Leadership. There are many great reputable Summer Camps of every kind including Christian camps run by actual good and well meaning Christians that have NOT have had multiple legal settlements, multiple suicides and recurring patterns of sexual dysfunction, sexual scandal and sexual child abuse allegations by multiple accusers (including a United States Senator). Camp Good News is not one of them.
Sam I Am May 06, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Observing the recent silliness regarding a prominent Senate Candidates use of a 1/32 heritage to advance her social status, couldn't help bring a number of memories and questions regarding Camp Good News to mind on the subject of racism and bigotry and affirmative action. 1. Question: Is a certain Senate candidate more than 1/32 related to Camp Good News Sex Ringleader (alleged)? 2. Recollection: Never have I ever met a more racist and bigoted (and hypocritical) group of people than the leaders of Camp Good News who privately were routinely profane and disparaging of each and every nationality and race they encountered irregardless of their public self assessments of "diversity" and willingness to recruit children and staff internationally. The supposed suicides of both Stewart Brooks in 1985 and Chuck DeVita in 2011 cannot be adequately described as merely preventable and forseeable.
Sam I Am May 06, 2012 at 05:02 PM
What Summer Camp should you not trust? A Camp where there has been a long repetitive decades long background of problems with pornography among senior living and dead Camp Directors (as seen by multiple witnesses in multiple cases) probably is NOT a good camp to be entrusted with children. A camp where there has been a long repetitive decades long background of problems with sexual scandal probably is not a good camp to be entrusted with children. A camp where there has been a long repetitive decades long background of fascination with "nude nighttime bathing for boys and girls" probably is not a good camp to be entrusted with children. A camp where there has been a long repetitive decades long background of exposing children to child sex abusers with substantial allegations made by victims probably is not a good camp to be entrusted with children. A camp where multiple suicides have occurred among the Camp Operators and Senior Directors is not a good camp to be entrusted with children. A camp where multiple settlements in the tens of thousands of dollars have been paid out to settle claims against the Camp is probably not a good camp to be entrusted with children. Let's all be "forgiving" of children and suggest that they be entrusted to any other Christian Camp BESIDES Camp Good News.
Joe Anony May 29, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Now that Facebook has lost $40 Billion in market cap over 10 days AND many are pricing at worth around $13 a share it's time for the ....Camp Good News IPO! Ticker Symbol ....CBN (as in Camp Bad News).
Mister Roberts September 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM
In retrospect, after news reports have confirmed (including a letter from CGN claiming Milnes had been fired in the early 70's when he was not) multiple instances of sexual abuse at Camp Good News for decades, it's a GOOD thing that Senator Brown came forward. Although other accusers and reports of abuse had been dismissed and even tampered with for decades, harassing or ignoring a sitting United States Senator is another thing altogether. ...and a good thing too else, Chuckie Cheese DeVita would still be cordially and forcefully skinnydipping with 8 year olds and cordially groping 8 year olds.
Christopher London September 14, 2012 at 11:50 PM
punchmyticketihaveamnestia: Scott Brown has done enough to discredit himself frankly. Some day the dark side of Scott Brown will be revealed and those "bots" who try to bully those who attempt to shed some light on the opportunism of Scott Brown will come to realize you were defending a charlatan and a fraud. Scott Brown has Mitt Romney disease. He tries to be all things to all people. He is a an arrogant, misogynistic poseur who did some nasty things to people in his youth. As a sitting United States Senator, a Member of the Massacusetts Bar and JAGS Corps Scott Brown had a higher duty to level with the American people about whether his alleged "molestation" occurred at Camp Good News or the Sam Jones Basketball Camp at Stonehill College. Ask Scott Brown if he remembers a camp counselor known as "Rat Tail" who snapped towels at some campers in an intimidating manner, perhaps so much so that it pissed off Scott Brown. Ask Scott Brown if he has ever himself had intimate reltions with an underage woman or assaulted a woman necessitating her to be taken away in an ambulance. Scott Brown does not respect women. Scott Brown is a con-man.
Christopher London September 14, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Ron May, Ronnie May etc. = the same person. I do not question May's assertions. Ron was a well liked person, because beyond whatever social awkwardness we all had to a certain degree as kids, Ron had an infectious laugh and I was acutely aware of his intellect even before I truly began to notice distinctions among many of my young friends. Ron was particularly good at chess and patient in explaining complicated things to people less intelligent than he was. I have never had anything but positive regard and memories of Ron May. It has been so many years however, and I use the term "Ronnie" affectionately because we all liked and respected him as much as you could respect someone when you are 10-12 years old.
Christopher London September 15, 2012 at 12:30 AM
It is a good thing that Senator Scott Brown came forward? Has Scott Brown come forward to do something more than promote his book and his own victimhood? Scott Brown has Mitt Romney disease. He tries to be all things to all people. As a sitting United States Senator, a Member of the Massacusetts Bar and JAGS Corps Scott Brown has a higher duty to level with the people of Massachusetts about whether his alleged "molestation" occurred at Camp Good News or the Sam Jones Basketball Camp at Stonehill College, which he also attended, and whether that accuser is deceased or still at large. Scott Brown can make it very easy and just say yes, "it was Earnest Milnes who molested me too."
Jose Berlin January 25, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Obviously Christopher Mejia has relied on the charity of others rather than the practice of law or in search of truth. How many adults forget (or ever know) the names of any and every adult teacher, caregiver or stranger at the age of 10. It's entirely and equally likely Scott Brown remembers the incident clearly (as so many other victims have now independently confirmed similar incidents) without knowing the perp's name. In that case it would be wrong and unhelpful to name his accuser. Certainly it has now been demonstrated (example the letter from Camp Good News claiming Milnes had been fired when he had not) that multiple doctors and directors knew of very serious multiple child sex offenses for decades. Perhaps Chris should stick to welfare.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something