"It was not a business decision, it was a hearts decision," Tennant said.
"Being an abused child, being raised in central Pennsylvania, having had a great intervention of a wonderful family and community there. ... If ever I could give back, this was the time to do it."
The Second Mile has served about 6,000 children a year through statewide programs, including summer camps, mentoring, and foster-care services, and was the preeminent charity in State College.
After charges against Sandusky went public, the charity’s fund-raising power vanished, its volunteer base shrank, and participation in programs suffered: Attendance at a four-day high school leadership conference dropped from 245 participants last year to 99 in April.
"The ability of the Second Mile to carry out its charitable purpose has been irrevocably compromised," the group’s 26-page court filing said.
With the charity’s founder allegedly having used its programs to find young and vulnerable victims, "it immediately became apparent that the allegations against Sandusky, especially as they focused on child sexual abuse, jeopardized the very existence of the Second Mile," the filing said.
The state Attorney General’s Office charged Sandusky, 68, with abusing 10 boys over a span of 15 years — allegations he has repeatedly denied. A grand jury presentment released in November said, "Through the Second Mile, Sandusky had access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations."
The foundation’s president of 28 years, Jack Raykovitz, reportedly knew as early as 2002 about assault reports connected with Sandusky. He resigned in November.
The Second Mile foundation has about $8 million in assets, including $3 million pledged for an unfinished educational and recreation center in Bellefonte. The foundation wants court approval to forward $2 million contributed for the center to Arrow instead, enabling it to run five of the Second Mile’s main programs for two years. After that, "Arrow will attempt to resuscitate and duplicate" the Second Mile’s fund-raising network to pay program expenses, the filing says.
Some, but not all, contributors to the Second Mile have consented to giving the money to Arrow. Those who oppose can intervene in Orphans’ Court. Court proceedings may be complicated, as all of Centre County’s Common Pleas Court judges have recused themselves from the criminal case because of ties to the Second Mile.
The foundation’s board began looking at options in November and agreed upon the asset transfer to Arrow last week. A seven-member task force reviewed more than a dozen other charities before settling on Arrow, a social-services charity founded in 1992 with a $32 million annual budget and offices in Texas, Maryland, California, and Altoona.
"People wanted to support the programs and they knew the benefits and they said they had to keep this going," said David Weddle, acting president and chief executive officer of the Second Mile.
"But we had a lot of supporters, whether it was from individual donors, corporations or foundations, saying, ‘With the Second Mile itself, in that image, we really have to sit back and see what happens.’ This allows them to support the programs under another proven charity."
The Second Mile plans to forward Arrow all its endowment and contribution money. Future court filings will address how to distribute proceeds from the sale of its State College headquarters, currently listed for $750,000, and other assets, Weddle said.
The foundation’s nine employees are being interviewed by Arrow, which plans new offices in State College, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. The Houston nonprofit currently serves children after they are placed in foster homes, so taking over the Second Mile will allow it to reach out to at-risk children before they get to foster care.
Tennant, 50, was raised by a foster family in Bedford after being abused by his mother’s live-in boyfriend while growing up in Washington, Pa. He would not address the allegations facing Sandusky — who also was raised in Washington, in a home above a youth athletic center — but he said the news of the charges forced him into "reliving some of my own experiences."
"What really disturbed me most was the story of the kids and the victims, and the quality of programs at Second Mile was getting lost, and ultimately services would be stopped for these at-risk kids," said the Arrow founder, who left the state in 1980 to attend Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.
"I didn’t want see to see that happen because I knew where I’d be personally if I didn’t have a community supporting me in my circumstances."