Every summer, coaches and athletes with Penn State ties returned to State College and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for The Second Mile.
Lenny Moore, a pro football Hall of Famer, served as honorary chairman of the nonprofit’s celebrity golf tournament one year. So did Kyle Brady, who helped lead Penn State to an undefeated season in 1994, a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory.
The Suhey brothers — who the university has called members of “the first family of Penn State football” — also made regular appearances on the Blue and White golf courses.
“There’s no doubt that The Second Mile golf tournament was the social event of the season,” said Jerry Fisher, a former board member of The Second Mile and Penn State sports radio host. “It was a three-day event that everybody wanted to be a part of.”
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Both The Second Mile and Penn State have been embroiled in a national scandal the past two weeks, since former Penn State coach and The Second Mile founder Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing eight children over 15 years.
From the moment that Sandusky founded the charity in 1977, it was inextricably intertwined with Penn State football, a connection that fueled its growth into a nonprofit with about $9.5 million in assets and that served thousands of children across the state.
“Since it grew out of Centre County, many people who were Penn State alumni were exposed to it,” said state Sen. Jake Corman, a Penn State graduate who joined The Second Mile board in 2010. “And the mission of helping children is a mission that a lot of people want to be involved with.”
The Second Mile’s connections with Penn State are too numerous to count.
It sends its Nittany Lions Tips trading cards, featuring Penn State athletes and positive messages, to more than 1,755 school counselors each year.
The university sold 40.7 acres of land to The Second Mile in 2002. It also has made donations to The Second Mile.
The featured guest at this year’s Second Mile’s Celebration of Excellence was Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. And this summer’s golf tournament celebrated the 25th anniversary of Penn State’s 1986 national championship football team.
“The founder was so well thought of by his former players that they wanted to come back and help,” said Corman, R-Benner Township. He added: “That would help entice people to want to participate in the golf outing. ... You’d also get a chance to play with an NFL star or a Penn State star.”
The Second Mile Golf Classic has raised more than $240,000 the past three years, and after expenses are subtracted, the event has earned between $120,834 and $143,118 for the nonprofit, according to tax forms filed with the IRS.
Its Celebration of Excellence event has netted between $96,931 and $117,076 in each of the past three years.
Few other Centre County fundraising events that don’t fall directly under Penn State’s umbrella raise as much.
Fisher, the former Second Mile board member who has spent a career in radio covering university sports teams, helped organize the golf tournaments in the 1990s and 2000s. He said The Second Mile’s golf tournament paved the way for other fundraisers, like Penn State Coaches vs. Cancer, benefiting the American Cancer Society, which started in 1997.
“I think the Second Mile golf tournament in its heyday really set the bar for how to run a golf tournament and have it be successful,” Fisher said.
The Centre County Youth Service Bureau, which has about a $4 million budget and runs the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, doesn’t have any fundraising events that bring in net revenue in the $100,000 range. The Centre Hall Relay for Life, which involves year-round fundraising by participants, raised $204,000 in 2010 and $188,000 in 2011.
Overall, The Second Mile recorded annual revenue — grants and donations — as high as $3.2 million and as low as $1.2 million in the past five years.
Fisher considered the relationship between Penn State and The Second Mile to be mutually beneficial. Penn State brought “star power” to Second Mile events. And Penn State students often volunteered with the nonprofit or did internships there.
“It was a natural fit,” he said, adding, “It was a feel good thing. You were helping kids. Everybody likes to help kids.”
Hired from within
Of the 35 people who served as members of The Second Mile’s state board in 2010, 25 studied at Penn State. Two serve as leaders of the university’s “For the Future” fundraising campaign. One is a member of the family whose name is on Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College.
Football appears in the biographies of several board members, including that of Daryl Milliner, the CEO of Regional Consulting and Solutions Group in Pittsburgh.
“Although Milliner has an abundance of responsibilities, he still serves on the board of numerous diverse organizations (w)hile still making time for his family, volunteering for his sons’ sports teams, participating in an array of community work, coaching the University of Pittsburgh Little Panthers, and of course Penn State football.”
With almost 23,200 employees, Penn State is by far Centre County’s largest employer. The next closest is Mount Nittany Medical Center with about 1,420, followed by the State College Area School District, state government, county government and Wal-Mart.
And The Second Mile, with a $2.4 million annual budget and several statewide programs, is one of the larger and more high-profile nonprofits in the county.
“You’d be hard pressed to find someone in the Centre County community that didn’t either volunteer, donate or serve in The Second Mile board,” said Corman. “It’s just a community organization, a community charity. It was created in Centre County, and it’s grown far past Centre County, but still, this was its origin.”
Tammy Gentzel grew up in State College, and has volunteered or worked for local social services agencies since childhood, including leading Community Help Centre for several years. She’s now executive director of Centre County United Way.
While she doesn’t know much about the specific ties between Penn State and The Second Mile, she said connections among the university, nonprofit charities and social service agencies are common in a tight-knit town with many civic-minded residents.
“It is a such a small community,” she said. “We all know each other.”
That’s one reason Centre County President Judge David Grine asked that a judge from outside the county be appointed to preside over Sandusky’s preliminary hearing in December. Those relationships have been dissected in recent weeks, as media outlets have reported that Leslie Dutchcot, the district judge who set the $100,000 bail for Sandusky, volunteered for and donated to the nonprofit, and that the chairman of The Second Mile board raised money for her campaign.
When it comes to Penn State, The Second Mile, and other prominent Centre County organizations and community members, there’s typically fewer than six degrees of separation.
Lance Shaner, who’s the chairman of a hotel business and an energy company, previously served on the state board of The Second Mile.
When his son, Matt, ran for the state House of Representatives in 2006, former coach Joe Paterno spoke at a fundraiser that brought in $12,000 for the campaign. In 2010, Shaner was the Penn State Renaissance Fund honoree. The award is intended to honor a person or couple for a lifetime of service to Penn State and State College.
Linette Courtney served on the state board of The Second Mile in the early and mid-2000s, while she was also a director of development for Penn State. Her husband, Wendell Courtney, served as counsel for Penn State from the time he passed the bar in 1980 until 2008. He then did work for The Second Mile, he says.
Dorothy and Lloyd Huck donated more than $50,000 to The Second Mile, according to the nonprofit’s 2010 annual report, and they are members of the Arthur C. and Evelyn M. Sandusky Society, which recognizes people who plan an estate donation. Lloyd Huck, the former president and chief operating officer of Merck & Co., was president of the Penn State board of trustees for three consecutive terms and is now an emeritus member.
His wife serves on the state Second Mile board.
“The fact that people support different organizations doesn’t mean there’s a connection. It’s just that they’re philanthropy minded,” said Lloyd Huck. “And they like to support things that they believe in.”
He said they also donated to Mount Nittany Medical Center and the Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania museum.
“We take a look at those things that are contributing to society,” he said.
Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619. Staff writer Chris Rosenblum contributed to this report.