Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Youth Football Leaders Face Charges over Hazing Boy Tried to Flee from Abuse at Overnight Camp

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Youth Football Leaders Face Charges over Hazing Boy Tried to Flee from Abuse at Overnight Camp

Article excerpt

A roadside tussle between three young boys last month sparked a larger abuse investigation that resulted in criminal charges filed this week against three leaders of the Homestead-based Steel Valley Midget Football Association.

Authorities said one of the boys involved in the fight was attempting to run away from an overnight football camp that was being held at Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County from July 7-12. The other two boys told police they had been instructed by a coach to "bring him back," which they were attempting to do when the officer saw them pulling his shirt and pushing him.

Aaron Knight, Michael Todd and Loren Ford, the organizers of the football association's Camp Ruffhouse, were charged Wednesday in Somerset County with two counts each of endangering the welfare of children, a felony. State police said Mr. Knight is the association's president, Mr. Todd was the camp director and Mr. Ford was executive director.

Authorities said the football camp leaders looked the other way as some of the boys in their care hazed each other, fought and watched pornography during the five-day camp.

Boys at the camp were divided into two groups, the Mighty Mites, who range from 11 to 12 years old, and the Midgets, who are 13 and 14.

The Steel Valley Football Association is not affiliated with Steel Valley School District, school officials said.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on July 11, Officer Shane Stinedurf with Forbes State Forest received a report about three young boys fighting on the side of Copper Kettle Highway. Two of the boys were wearing football pads and pushing and pulling at the third boy.

The officer said the two boys stopped as soon as he pulled up, and shortly afterward, Mr. Knight pulled up in a white SUV and ordered the three players to get in the vehicle, but one of them took off running.

When the officer caught up to him, the boy refused to go back with "them," according to a criminal complaint. The boy told the officer that the other boys had kicked and slapped him to prevent him from running away. He told police he had been sick for a few days and had rashes on his arms, but said the adults in charge hadn't done anything about it.

Mr. Knight told the officer that the boy had been "a pain" all week and that the camp organizers had informed his mother and that the boy refused medical treatment.

The other two boys told investigators that they were ordered by the coaches to chase the other boy back when he was seen running away from the camp.

When the officer called the boy's mother, she said the camp never informed her of any health issues related to her son. One coach had left her a voice mail several days before and said her son wanted to come home because the other boys were teasing him, but she thought he was just homesick and wanted him to remain at camp. …

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