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Aloha Foundation apologizes after finding more past sexual misconduct by boys camp counselors 

  • Empty cabins at Lanakila, a summer camp for boys on the north shore of Lake Morey in Fairlee, Vt., are shown on Monday, Feb., 4, 2019. The Aloha Foundation says an internal investigation has found that three counselors sexually abused campers there more than three decades ago, and that top camp officials didn't go to police at the time. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/4/2019 11:44:07 AM
Modified: 2/4/2019 10:29:30 PM

FAIRLEE — The Aloha Foundation is apologizing to former campers and their families after documenting allegations of sexual abuse involving a total of three counselors more than three decades ago at Lanakila, a summer camp for boys on Lake Morey.

An internal investigation conducted over the past two years found two additional victims of a former counselor identified publicly by the Aloha Foundation in October 2017, according to a letter the Fairlee-based foundation sent late last month to more than 10,000 former campers, counselors, parents and community leaders.

And the inquiry uncovered two additional counselors who allegedly abused children at the camp, the letter said.

In at least one instance, camp leaders were told of the abuse but attempted to manage the problem “without involving the Board of Trustees, other directors or law enforcement,” the letter said.

“We are devastated to learn any children were victimized while at Lanakila, and we apologize to those of you who attempted to come forward but did not receive a supportive, prompt, and immediate response,” officials said in the letter, signed by Aloha Foundation Executive Director Christopher Overtree, Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Pughe and past Chairwoman Emelie Ventling.

The nonprofit oversees several camp programs, including Lanakila for 8- to 14-year-old boys and Aloha for 12- to 17-year-old girls on Lake Morey, and Aloha Hive for 7- to 12-year-old girls on Lake Fairlee.

The foundation says it has reports and information about alleged sexual misconduct by three Lanakila counselors totaling 12 incidents, including one 1980 abuse case that was first reported to camp authorities in 1990. The nonprofit also received a report of an incident that took place in 1962 but has not publicly disclosed details “because of inconclusive information.”

The investigation began in fall 2016 after a former staff member contacted the Aloha Foundation and said the nonprofit had failed to appropriately respond to an incident in the 1980s.

The inquiry was conducted by former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney, who is now an attorney in Manchester, N.H. Phone messages and an email left for Delaney on Monday were not returned.

“We conducted this investigation because we felt our constituents and the affected children deserve our honesty and closure,” Overtree said in a phone interview on Monday.

As a result, the foundation has worked to review its procedures and training to best protect children, he said. The nonprofit also has shared its findings with the Fairlee Police Department and Vermont State Police, according to Overtree.

It’s unclear whether law enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation into the alleged incidents. State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said he could not provide immediate information.

Camp counselors have been mandated reporters since at least 1994, but it was not immediately clear whether the law applied to them before then.

Messages left Monday for Orange State’s Attorney Will Porter and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were not returned.

“It has been incredibly frustrating to me that no one has really done much,” said Lebanon resident Alden Hall, who says he was sexually abused by then-counselor John Hall — they are not related — while attending Lanakila as a camper in 1981.

The Aloha Foundation said in 2017 that John Hall inappropriately touched at least one camper in 1983, but was allowed to return to the camp “in a more restricted role” after completing treatment with a mental health professional. He was ultimately fired in 1987 when another incident was reported.

Alden Hall, who is now a physician, said he told then-camp director Barnes Boffey about the assault after running into John Hall at an Upper Valley event in 2010. And while Boffey was apologetic, Alden Hall said there was no follow up.

When he learned of Delaney’s investigation following the 2017 report, Alden Hall called the investigator and shared his story. He also left messages for Fairlee and State Police, but never heard back from those agencies.

“It just seems like the response (from law enforcement) has been minimal on so many fronts,” Alden Hall said. John Hall, who declined to answer questions from the Valley News after the 2017 letter was released, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

In its letter last month, the Aloha Foundation identified a John Nimock as one of the two other counselors responsible for abuse. Delaney investigated several reports that Nimock “took advantage of his status in the Lanakila community” to inappropriately touch children between 1977 and 1982.

Nimock was allowed to remain affiliated with Lanakila even after complaints were presented to Paul Pilcher, who was then director of the camp and executive director of the Aloha Foundation, and Boffey, who was then the assistant director of Lanakila, according to the letter. The two officials ultimately fired Nimock in 1990, after receiving a letter about a 1980 incident, according to the Aloha Foundation.

Pilcher died in early 2018, and attempts to reach Boffey on Monday were unsuccessful.

At the time of his dismissal from the camp, Nimock was teaching middle school English and coaching high school wrestling in Danbury, Conn. He lost those positions in 2000, when he was convicted of two felony counts of risk of injury to a minor. Police reports at the time said Nimock showed pornographic movies to middle school boys inside his Connecticut home in 1999 and also had wrestled with the boys in their underwear, according to the Associated Press.

He pleaded guilty, was given a suspended sentence and placed on two years probation, the AP reported. Phone numbers listed for Nimock were out of service on Monday.

Delaney also received a report that former Lanakila counselor Mark Tougias inappropriately touched a camper in 1978.

Although the incident wasn’t reported at the time, the investigation found that Tougias was fired by Pilcher in 1982 based on a separate report from another camper, the foundation letter said. Tougias could not be reached for comment on Monday.

“We and the Board of Trustees apologize deeply to those who were abused, their families, and the entire Aloha community,” the foundation’s recent letter said. “We know the pain cannot be erased by our actions today, but we hope some solace will come from our fervent commitment to ensuring the past is never repeated.”

Foundation officials said the current investigation is closed, but that they “remain available to receive additional disclosures and will take appropriate measures as necessary.” The letter said people could reach Overtree at the Aloha Foundation or Delaney at his law firm, McLane Middleton in Manchester, N.H.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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