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Camp Good News Parents Have Second Thoughts

This article is more than 12 years old.

Six people besides Sen. Scott Brown now say they have been sexually abused at a Christian camp on Cape Cod. Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said two more victims came forward Thursday, alleging that they had been sexually assaulted at Camp Good News in Sandwich.

Even parents who were some of the camp's biggest fans are having second thoughts now.

Camp Good News

No one answers the door at the Camp Good News office on Route 130. The driveway disappears into the trees beyond a metal gate. In front of the gate, a white-haired man in an SUV waits, then drives out to the visitors' parking lot beside the highway. He asks me to leave.

"I'm calling the cops," he warns. " OK?"

I ask him who he's with.

"I'm with... I'm with the world, OK?" he says.

The camp's owner, Faith Willard, is at her home nearby. The 78-year-old opens an upstairs window, softly says something inaudible, smiles and shuts the window again.

"Had [Charles Devita] not killed himself on the premises, my son would feel more comfortable going back there."

Dawn Marie Daniel, parent of a Good News camper

This week, Charles Devita, a former counselor at the camp, killed himself on its grounds. He had been accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy 26 years ago.

Devita's mother says she contacted Willard years ago to warn the camp she suspected her son was a pedophile. But Thursday, a public relations firm hired by the camp said Willard and Devita's mother had only ever had one phone conversation in which Devita merely asked that her son call her.

Parents Question Camp's Safety

Dawn Marie Daniel has a 15-year-old who has been going to Camp Good News for years. She remembers the first time she saw the camp.

"I just wanted to go there myself," she says. "It was like heaven."

Last year, Daniel's son received the "Most Spiritual Camper" award. He wanted to go back this summer. She says she can't imagine sexual abuse going on at the camp.

"He would tell me, " Daniel insists. "He would tell me. He's a talker. He would definitely tell me."

Daniel says her son has had nothing but good things happen to him at the camp.

"I know they did good work there, and I would hate for all that to be overshadowed," Daniel says.

But when I ask her if she would send her son there again this summer, she hesitates.

"Well, once I think I find out a little bit more," she says. "I'm only saying that because my son is kind of disturbed."

Her son knew Devita as the man who made pizza for the kids.

"He didn't know him well, but he knew him enough that he's a little bit nervous to go back there, obviously, because of what happened there now," Daniel says. "Had he not killed himself on the premises, my son would feel more comfortable going back there, but I think because this happened there, I don't think I could send him there right now."

Daniel says camp officials have not reached out to parents.

Jennifer Dougherty and her 14-year-old son, Liam, live in back of the camp, in a subdivision where they say they are surrounded by the Willards, the family that owns Camp Good News. Liam went there one summer when he was 8. He is familiar with the counselors who spend summers living in the neighborhood. The Doughertys say they never heard any allegations of sexual abuse at the camp.

"So we were very surprised," Jill Dougherty says, "kind of disappointed that these people were around, and saw them often driving around and, having kids here and playing, that part of it is a little bit disconcerting."

After he stopped being a counselor, Devita became the camp's maintenance guy, and Dougherty says she and Liam would see him drive by probably 10 times a day, waving and very friendly.

"You guys never had a problem with him?" Dougherty asks her son.

"No, he seemed nice," he replies.

"Yeah," she says, "so we were very surprised."

Dougherty says she's disappointed, too, with Brown for not pursuing his alleged attacker.

"Maybe he should come out and say: 'Find out who the  person is, because that person could be around,'" she suggests. "And we live around here, and maybe the person is around here, and we have children, so I don't think that person should be out roaming the streets if he's a sex offender."

From the town beach nearby, you can glimpse part of the camp across the water, white clapboard houses on a green slope, and the shimmering pond that promises summer already. But this coming summer seems to hold little promise for Camp Good News.

This program aired on April 8, 2011.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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