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Hurt by Sandusky, charity seeks to shut down

The charity for troubled youths started by Jerry Sandusky more than three decades ago and used by the retired Penn State assistant football coach to meet the boys he is charged with sexually abusing said Friday it is seeking court approval to shut down and transfer its programs to a Texas-based youth ministry.

The Second Mile said it has been financially crippled by the child-sex abuse scandal involving its founder and concluded after a six-month internal review that it had no other option but to close.

The State College-based charity began the legal process of dissolving itself Friday, submitting a plan to Centre County Court that would transfer its programs and millions of dollars in assets to Arrow Child & Family Ministries, a $36 million charity that operates in Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California and Honduras.

"While we are sad that the Second Mile will not continue running programs, we are heartened that the important work of helping children -- and their families -- reach their full potential will go on," said David Woodle, the charity's interim president and chief executive.

The announcement was widely expected after Sandusky's November arrest plunged The Second Mile into crisis. Donations dried up, volunteers fled and organizations that once referred children to it said they no longer would.

Prosecutors allege that Sandusky found his victims through the charity he started in 1977 and committed many of his offenses inside Penn State football buildings. He has pleaded innocent to more than 50 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 alleged victims and awaits a June trial.

The Second Mile said in its petition Friday that "it became immediately apparent that the allegation against Sandusky, especially as they focused on child sexual abuse, jeopardized the very existence" of the nonprofit.

It considered attempting to restructure itself as a smaller organization -- or discontinuing its programs entirely -- but settled on a third option that Woodle said was the "most attractive in that the programs will be continuing and the kids who need those services" will continue to get them.

One popular program, Summer Challenge Camp, teaches life skills, conflict resolution and goal-setting to 300 to 400 troubled children each year. Arrow plans to maintain the camp, along with mentoring programs, an institute to promote leadership skills and support for foster families.

From its beginnings as a home for foster children, The Second Mile grew to become one of the largest providers of youth social services in Pennsylvania. The nonprofit thrived because of Sandusky's prominence as a defensive coach at Penn State, its close ties to university donors and leaders, and its use of Penn State's athletic fields for its camps serving at-risk children. The late football coach Joe Paterno often served as master of ceremonies at The Second Mile's fundraisers.