Will Comcast Continue to Be a Second Mile Donor?

The company was chummy with Sandusky's charity. What now?

On Monday, the Jerry Sandusky-founded Second Mile released a statement to donors recommending they give money to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR): “Effective immediately, we ask that you join us in this commitment to sexual abuse survivors by sending your donations to PCAR to support sexual abuse prevention and as well as the counseling needs of sexual abuse victims.”

One of Second Mile’s donors that already has a relationship with PCAR is Comcast, which was listed in the $50,000-or-above section of the Angels Society in the charity’s 2010 annual report. This year Comcast sponsored the Second Mile’s Southeast Region’s “Send a Kid to Camp” bowling tournament, which raised $17,000 for its residential summer camp.

The relationship has been mutually beneficial. In May 2010, Henry R. Lesch, the executive director of Second Mile’s Central Region, submitted a letter of support to the FCC on behalf of Comcast in its bid to merge with NBC. The letter said, in part:

For a number of years, Comcast has been a generous donor to support our programs ensuring that our efforts thrive and services expand. Additionally, Comcast has provided in-kind services for The Second Mile to inform viewers on our foundation as a thirty-five plus year old organization that has experienced tremendous growth and relevance in our schools, communities and families.

Like The Second Mile, Comcast has established a tradition of commitment to improve the lives of children throughout our community and beyond. For that, we endorse their continued growth and prosperity as a valued donor and participant in our mission to improve our opportunities for children to reach their potential and achieve their dreams.

Comcast has not released a public statement about its relationship with Second Mile or about its donor status should the charity survive. Beth A. Bacha, vice-president of communications of the Northeast Division of Comcast Cable, said via email, “as I’m sure you can understand, it’s simply too soon for us to speculate on any future plans.” When asked if Comcast would be donating to PCAR, Bacha wrote: “I can’t talk to any future plans, but I can tell you that we have an existing relationship with and history of support to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.”

From a public relations perspective, now might be a good time for Comcast to clarify its position, as other large corporate donors have done—their responses ranging from outrage to trepidation. From the Patriot News:

“We won’t be giving to The Second Mile for the foreseeable future,” said Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark and Highmark Foundation.

…. Bank of America spokesman T.J. Crawford said the company was “completely shocked and appalled” by the allegations against Sandusky. “In light of the horrific nature of the current situation and the historic ties between The Second Mile and its founder, we are re-evaluating our continued involvement.”

“We are suspending all philanthropic and volunteer contributions until we know more,” said Crawford.

Not everyone is pulling their support.

“We’re sticking with The Second Mile,” said Monica Jones, spokeswoman for Sheetz.

Sheetz contributed more than $70,000 to The Second Mile in the past five years. The company’s executive vice president of marketing, Louie Sheetz, sits on the board of directors for The Second Mile. He and other Sheetz family members have made individual donations.

Jones said the company supports many organizations that help underprivileged children in Pennsylvania communities, and “we continue to believe in the core mission of The Second Mile.”

The Hershey Co. contributed more than $112,000 to The Second Mile in the past five years.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” spokesman Kirk Saville said.