Allegations of inappropriate conduct: A church camp in Ohio is under investigation after young campers report they were forced to participate in a secret “Hug Club” that may have been sexual in nature.
According to reports, counselors at Camp Akita, a church camp for youth operated by the First Community Church in Grandview Heights, Ohio, initiated what is being called the “Hug Club.”
According to Scott Nicoll, the Executive Director of Camp Akita, the children were told the club’s purpose “…was to end fighting in the world by being kind and showing compassion to each other.”
However, apparently one of the ways of being kind to one another is to “sexually grind” against one another. Nicoll outlined the six types of hugs the counselors demonstrated by stating:
The most concerning of which, was demonstrated as putting your hands on the other person’s waist and rocking your hips back and forth.
Styled after the movie “Fight Club,” the 9- and ten-year old boys indoctrinated into the “Hug Club” were instructed by counselors not to discuss the “Hug Club” with parents or other adults.
Last week officials from Camp Akita issued a letter to “members and friends” of the church stating in part:
We were contacted after the close of the last session of camp by family members with concerns about a self-programming activity developed to build community. As we understand it, the activity, called “Hug Club” was conceived independently by the counselors and was modeled loosely after the 1999 movie “Fight Club.” The activity’s expressed outcome was to encourage campers to bring peace into the world and show kindness and compassion for one another. The activity, however, does not appear to have been executed in an age-appropriate manner, appears not to have been in line with the mission and vision of Camp Akita and was reported to include inappropriate elements.
A well qualified professional who is not affiliated with the church or Camp Akita has been retained to do an independent investigation into all allegations.
Cindy Harsany, Executive Director of the First Community Church, told NBC4:
Right now, I can tell you that this is the most important thing that this church is doing today, tomorrow and as long as it takes, to make sure we have gotten to the bottom of this, that we know every detail and we have done everything we need to do. We have seen the hurt and pain of some of this and we want to make sure that that doesn’t occur again.
Understandably, parents are not happy about the “Hug Club.” The parent of one child, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote:
Our reaction was shock about what happened…We would like a thorough investigation. We will not send our kids back.
So far no criminal wrongdoing has been discovered, but the investigation continues.
Watch the report from NBC4: