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Zero Signal Zero Signal is offline
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Old Jul 13th, 2003, 04:53 PM        Summer camp fight club!
July 21 issue — He was so excited about his first trip to sleep-away camp that D. J. Rawls dreamed about it for months beforehand. But the way the slight, blond 10-year-old describes his stint at Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Center is more the stuff of nightmares.

D.J. AND OTHER Bedford County, Va., campers say that during the weeklong session that ended July 5, they swam, hiked—and punched each other out at the urging of their counselors, who charged $1 a head to watch the mayhem. Eyes were blackened. Noses were bloodied. A hand was broken. And at least one of the 9- to 13-year-old campers was knocked unconscious.

In bungalows packed with as many as 50 boys at a time, counselors—all teenagers themselves—made and accepted bets of up to $4 apiece on the outcome of the matches, D.J. says. Those who refused to participate, he claims, were confined to their bunks. If the campers were injured, “they [the counselors] told us to say we had fallen out of bed” or had been “hit in the face with a basketball,” D.J. told NEWSWEEK. “They told us that anyone who told their parents or someone else would get in trouble.”

But D.J., who fought at least five bouts, did eventually tell his parents, and the Rawlses told the cops. Last week more than a dozen campers contacted by local law enforcement confirmed the main elements of D.J.’s account. Five counselors, all under 18, are suspected of involvement. Prosecutors are grappling with whether and how to assign charges in a case where everyone directly involved is a minor.

It’s also unclear where the adults were during the melees. The camp had grown-up chaperones assigned to each cabin, and an outside security firm patrolling the grounds after hours. But none of them seemed aware of what was happening—even though D.J. claims the bloody bouts were taking place nightly. Becky Gilles, the camp’s director of programming, says: “We had no idea any of this was going on.”

Meanwhile, people in this close-knit rural Virginia county are still puzzling over exactly how and why the fights began. And despite some angry answering-machine messages, the Rawlses say they don’t regret coming forward. “We’re not interested in a lawsuit lottery ... we just want to make sure other kids are safe,” says D.J.’s mother, Poppy. For its part, 4-H says it’s still investigating what it describes as an “isolated incident,” and that those suspected of involvement have been suspended pending the results of law-enforcement probes. A host of unanswered questions may still surround the events at Smith Mountain Lake camp, but in the Rawls house, at least, summer camp has lost its charm.

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El Blanco El Blanco is offline
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Old Jul 13th, 2003, 05:26 PM       
The first rule of Kamp Krusty is you do not talk about Kamp Krusty.

The second rule of Kamp Krusty is you do not talk about Kamp Krusty.
according to my mongoose, anyway.
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