Second Mile youth programs set to start

The Second Mile will start up two of its yearly mentoring programs for schoolchildren this week as charity leaders continue their work toward figuring out its future.

Their No. 1 priority is to not forget about the children they serve, said Dave Woodle, the charity’s interim CEO.

“We’re still determining the best future operations of the programs under other charities’ leadership,” he said. “Even if it’s one program, we want something to continue.”

The charity founded by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky called off plans in August to transfer millions of dollars and its youth programs to a Texas-based organization, Arrow Child and Family Ministries Inc. The plan had been to transfer the assets and close down.

Attorneys for three victims in the Sandusky case, who originally objected to the transfer, gave their consent to that move in court papers filed in September.

Now, the charity continues to run at its headquarters on South Atherton Street and employs the staff needed to run its programs. Officials hope to find other organizations to take over the programs the charity runs.

The charity has enough money “to run into next year,” Woodle said. “We’re in good shape, in relative terms.”

The two programs set to start back up this week, Friend and Friend Fitness, pair up adults with children in the hope of fostering positive role model-mentor relationships.

College students across the state — including at Penn State, Lock Haven University, Millersville University and Altoona’s Penn State campus — volunteer for the Friend program, whose participants are of elementary-school age.

The Friend Fitness program is available only in Centre County for adolescents.

The Second Mile also offers summer camps, and this year, more than 300 teens from across the state participated. At an awards ceremony at one of the camps this summer, participants spoke highly of the experience, saying it taught them life skills like resourcefulness and self-confidence.

Woodle said he’s working, behind the scenes, to find homes for all those programs. That could mean having different organizations taking over the programs, depending on what organizations are willing to do so in different areas across the state.

“Our goal is look how is the best to continue serving those kids who need our services,” he said.

The Centre County Youth Service Bureau would be happy to pick up the Friend Fitness and Friend programs offered locally, said Andrea Boyles, the organization’s CEO.

Boyles said the Friend Fitness program is “incredibly beneficial” and works similar to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program offered by her organization.

The Second Mile had selected Arrow Child and Family Ministries to take over its programs and receive its assets after a search process earlier this year. Charity officials liked that Arrow already had a presence in Pennsylvania and its mission in helping children and families in crises.

That got put on hold when The Second Mile called off the transfer. Meanwhile, Arrow is waiting to see what happens next.

“We supported (The Second Mile’s) decision to request the stay and continue to be interested in the transition of programs when determined appropriate,” said Arrow spokeswoman Faye Eson.