Camp investigation reveals serious health and safety concerns – NBC Connecticut


A south Kent youth camp that voluntarily relinquished its license in August has failed to ensure the health and safety of its campers, according to a state investigation. The operator was also fined $ 1,500 for opening without the proper license.

NBC Connecticut Investigates spoke exclusively to concerned parents and a camp worker about the issues.

In July, parents attempted to bring their children back from Camp Shane in southern Kent after being told the camp was closing just weeks after the summer session. It was the alleged experiences of these campers at camp that sparked a joint investigation by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

A camp in Kent closed abruptly on Tuesday as two state agencies intervened to investigate.

“If you look at their website and look at the staff who were supposed to be there. I feel so neglectful even sending my child there, ”said Megan Thompson, who lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

For decades, Camp Shane has boasted of being a fun, family-friendly, one-of-a-kind, medically supervised weight loss camp for children with locations across the country. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the camp has only opened one location for the summer of 2021, at South Kent School.

But Thompson and other parents told NBC Connecticut the camp had broken its promises.

“I thought it was (staffed by) medical professionals,” said Ramona Schwartz of Ashville, NC. “I sent him needles (for his meds) and everything.”

Thompson said what she witnessed when she picked up her 16-year-old was surprising.

“There was no adult to see. All these meds that were just in the toilet, meds from someone sitting still, all of these things that shouldn’t be around the kids, ”she said.

Thompson said she took a photo of pill bottles on a bathroom sink, which she shared with state investigators.

In its final investigation report, the OEC noted that “multiple violations relate to drugs,” including “four prescriptions for controlled substances” left unattended.

Investigators also found that the campers were not being properly supervised at all times.

When Camp Shane closed in July, NBC Connecticut spoke with camp founder and director David Ettenberg, who blamed the early closure on understaffing. Ettenberg said staff members continued to quit due to the camp’s Covid-19 protocols, which did not allow them to leave the premises.

“Devastating, truly devastating. I love this campsite. I like children. I know parents really, really count on us, ”he said at the time.

NBC Connecticut has followed up with Ettenberg on several occasions since then regarding the allegations made by the parents. He responded in an email writing, “Wow! It’s all wrong, ”but did not elaborate or return further requests for comment.

Peggy Artigas of Florida was the first parent to contact NBC Connecticut Investigates. She went to pick up her daughter after saying that an overwhelmed camp counselor called her about a medical issue her daughter had encountered after hours of exercise.

Artigas said his daughter told him she did not feel safe at the camp.

Bella D’Ambrosio is the employee who called Artigas.

“There is no doctor, no nurse,” she said. “It was heartbreaking asking my staff for the simplest safety and protocol requirements for these children.”

D’Ambrosio said she was hired as a camp director just days before the camp opened this summer, and said she resigned days after witnessing the disturbance. She contacted the Early Years Office to express her concerns.

“If I stayed, I would tolerate the treatment the camp was given for these children,” she said.

A state inspector made an unannounced visit to Camp Shane on July 8 in response to a complaint. Five days and ten complaints later, the OEC announced a joint investigation with the DCF. The camp closed its doors the same day.

During its investigation, the state learned that an 8-year-old girl was seriously injured at the camp.

When asked by NBC Connecticut about the incident, Ettenberg said four adults were present when the camper fell and an athletic goal post fell on him. But the state report said “staff could not identify what exactly happened.”

Camp Shane moved to Pomfret, Connecticut, in 2019, after decades of operating in New York City. Camp Shane was also previously operating in other parts of the country. For the 2021 term, the camp has moved to South Kent School.

NBC Connecticut Investigates reviewed the 2019 Camp license records, which showed Camp Shane was required to come up with a corrective action plan in response to several violations. Ettenberg attributed this to the habit of operating in a new state.

In July, NBC Connecticut asked Ettenberg if he thought opening camp this summer was in the best interests of campers.

“They were missing activities yes, but they were always, always, always safe. And really not until the last few days, the kids were happy, ”he said.

State investigators concluded, “Overall, the operator of this camp opened and accepted campers without preparing for the camp season. There was no leadership, minimal staff, no specialists, and no preparation for the needs of campers. The serious medical needs of campers were not met when the operator did not provide anyone trained to provide the necessary medication, did not prepare staff for emergencies, and did not request assistance medical professional qualified in a timely manner.

According to the OEC investigation report, at the time he surrendered his license, Ettenberg denied any wrongdoing.

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