An Open Letter to Joe White

March 13, 2014


Joe White, President

Kanakuk Kamps

Branson, MO


Mr. White,

I cannot begin the salutation with “dear”.  I do not look upon you dearly.  When I think of you, I feel pain and betrayal. 

We trusted you with our children. We looked up to you. We believed the things you said about camp and specifically, your camps. Over a ten year period, we sent our children to camp. We planned vacations around camp schedules. We worked sports around camp schedules. For years, I was one of you and your camps’ biggest fans. We bought your books. We gave to your ministries. We supported Kanakuk, K-Life, Kids Across America, and you. We believed in your mission. 

It’s been six months since we found out the truth about the real impact your camp has had on one of our children. He was sexually abused at the hands of Pete Newman. Oh, I could (and perhaps will) draft an entirely different letter to Peter Newman. But the things I have to say to him are different than the things I have to say to you. 

When I found out in 2009 that Pete Newman was arrested for child sexual abuse, I was shocked. It took me some time to even accept it. My heart was broken. We read your letter that indicated that he’d been fired and that the camp was assisting in the investigation. I thought my children were unscathed but was still heartbroken for the victims. And I even felt sorry for you. I thought you’d been just as fooled as the rest of us. I probably would have never changed my thinking if I hadn’t learned that, in fact, at least one of my children had been molested by Pete Newman. 

Learning the truth was earth-shattering for us. It’s taken us time to process it and I’m sure it will take us much more time to work through it. We learned that half of our son’s childhood was a lie. He was harboring a secret. He was filled with shame. Half of his childhood!! Just think about how this impacted his adolescence and who he is today. Half of his childhood was stolen from him and from us. Kanakuk was supposed to be a happy place — a safe place. It was supposed to be a place that showed him God’d love. Not a place that showed him perversion. Not a place where his young mind and body were assaulted. 

Since learning the truth, I’ve re-read your “former employee” letter of 9-14-2009 many times. In it, you state that you are working closely with the affected families. Did you really think those were all the affected families? We’ve never had you reach out to us. We’ve never seen you invite other affected families to reach out to you. It leads me to believe that you really don’t care. I understand the business side of things, but your camp is not supposed to be about business. Why haven’t you begged victims to contact you so you can help them? Don’t you realize that these formerly young boys are now becoming men? Don’t you want them to get the help they need so they can have healthy relationships with others and, more importantly, with God? But it seems like you just wanted it all to go away with the sentencing of Pete Newman. 

For the victims, it hasn’t gone away. They need help! They need counseling. I understand that some victims have had significant issues with depression, drugs, anger, and even suicide. Where is your care and concern? The abuse happened under your watch. 

And that leads me to a pressing question for you. Why haven’t you resigned? Why haven’t you taken responsibility and put the camp under different leadership? I no longer believe you were fooled. I believe that, at the very least, you chose to be fooled. You chose to look the other way. There is too much evidence of Pete Newman’s odd proclivities and evidence that you were aware of them. Why don’t you ‘man up’ and step down? I can only believe it is pride and arrogance that stands in the way. I understand what your family has built, but it is a house of cards built on the backs of young boys, at least in the 15 years.  You would gain more respect for accepting responsibility and coming along side the multitudes of victims than you do for pretending it was an aberration in your camp history. Even if it never happened at Kanakuk before Pete Newman (we already know it has happened after him), how can you ignore the victims? In good conscience, how can you accept kudos for the good things done at Kanakuk without accepting responsibility for the horrible damage done to young boys who were molested? How can you not do everything and anything in your power to try to help those boys and their families? 

Before last summer, I always thought of Kanakuk in positive terms. Now my heart twists when I hear that word. Even thinking of Branson causes a clench in the my stomach because every trip we’ve ever made to Branson was in connection with dropping off or picking up kids from camp. For all the good that I ever thought was done for my kids at your camps, I’d gladly have not sent a single child for a single term to avoid the harm that was done to one. Harm that we are still dealing with and that our child is still recovering from. 

Mr. White, are you truly third? 



A Victim’s Mom


4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Joe White

  1. I am posting this letter today as I continue to write about Peter Newman and his employment at Fellowship Memphis while awaiting trial. Thank you . The writer is a brave woman and I am praying for her son.

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