Authorities in Somerset County say the Homestead-based Steel Valley Midget Football Association ran a football camp in Laurel Hills State Park last month that allowed and encouraged hazing and physical abuse.
Somerset District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said “Camp Ruffhouse,” which ran for 11- to 14-year-olds from July 7-12, first came to police attention when park-goers reported that an 11-year-old camper was being assaulted along a park road by two older campers. He told officers he was running away from the camp because of abuse from other campers and “mistreatment” by coaches, Lazzari-Strasiser said.
Another camper’s family contacted police after he came home from camp with a black eye and swollen lip, reporting that the younger players were routinely hazed by the older ones.
“Both juveniles report that camp staffers were told about the chronic abuse…but the problems were never addressed,” Lazzari-Strasiser said. “Rather, they report that campers who complained were called snitches, told by coaches to hit their aggressors back, and even punished by being made to run laps or stand in the middle of hitting drills.”
The District Attorney’s Office filed two counts each of endangering the welfare of childen, a third-degree felony, against Steel Valley Midget Football Association Director Aaron Knight, Executive Director Loren Ford and Camp Director/Leader Michael Todd.
The charges were filed with Magisterial District Judge Sandra Stevanus Wednesday. Court documents showed Knight and Todd had been arraigned and released on $75,000 unsecured bonds, but Ford’s paperwork did not yet show his status as of late Wednesday morning.
The District Attorney’s Office noted that the football association wouldn’t give investigators a list of campers, so investigators are asking anyone with information who attended the camp to contact Laurel Hill State Park rangers at 814 445 7725 and ask for Officer Peck.