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Camper's mom: Parents upset about reported fights

D.J. and Poppy Rawls
D.J. and Poppy Rawls

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(CNN) -- Police in Virginia are investigating allegations that counselors at a 4-H summer camp arranged fights between campers, charged admission to the fights and took bets on who would win.

The accusations were made against a camp last week at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, Virginia.

Becky Gilles, the program's director, said she is shocked by the allegations. "This is an isolated incident in one camping group that came here," Gilles said. "They were not employees of the 4-H center, and so the camp is still safe."

CNN Anchor Bill Hemmer spoke Wednesday to Poppy Rawls and her 10-year-old son, D.J., who said he suffered a black eye after being involved in fights at the camp.

HEMMER: D.J., I understand you came home with a bit of a black eye. How is it doing now?

D.J. RAWLS: It's doing fine.

HEMMER: Yes. You were at the camp for five days, right?

D.J. RAWLS: Yes, sir, I was.

HEMMER: Tell us about the number of times you got into fights with others.

D.J. RAWLS: I got in about five fights I think it was.

HEMMER: Yes, how did you get involved in that?

D.J. RAWLS: The first fight, a boy walked up behind me, put me in a headlock. I punched him in the stomach and punched him in the face.

HEMMER: How did you get involved in these fights? Was it the counselors at the camp, or did your friends get involved or what happened?

D.J. RAWLS: Yes, it was the counselors at the camp.

HEMMER: OK. Were they taking bets on the fights? Is that true or not?

D.J. RAWLS: Yes, sir, it is true.

HEMMER: Were they betting on you or others?

D.J. RAWLS: Yes, at one point they were betting on me to win.

HEMMER: Poppy, how did you hear about this?

POPPY RAWLS: The first time I heard about it was on Saturday when I had a mother come to my door. We had picked up D.J. on Friday, and another parent came to my door on Saturday night and said that her son had said some things had gone on at camp. My son was away at that time. He was at a friend's house. And my husband went and picked him up and brought him home and asked him about it. And he told us everything that happened.

HEMMER: Yes, what did he say?

POPPY RAWLS: He said that, yes, he had been involved in fights, that the counselors originally -- apparently it started between a rivalry with two counties and just escalated from there to the point that the kids were put against each other in fights, and they charged admission to the children, a dollar each, to go to these fights. And then they actually took bets between themselves, and I understand also they took bets from the children.

HEMMER: Yes, I'm assuming you've contacted the camp. Is that right? What have they said?

POPPY RAWLS: We did contact the camp, and this is one of the problems with this -- we heard about it Saturday. We immediately tried to get in touch with someone. Of course, we couldn't get anybody Saturday or Sunday. When we couldn't get the camp Saturday, we, you know, reported it to the police department.

HEMMER: Yes, and then you've also told us ...

POPPY RAWLS: We actually never heard from the camp till Monday. We never heard from the camp until Monday morning.

HEMMER: Yes, I also understand you've talked to a number of parents. What's been their reaction, Poppy?

POPPY RAWLS: Obviously we're shocked. We're upset, and we're shocked. We can't believe it's gone on. I think at some point there's a certain level of anger. You know, these are our kids though, and we -- I think that, you know, the parents are very concerned about it, and I don't know what each of them is going to do. I know they've been trying to stand and, you know, offer a collective front. But I really don't know. I know everyone's very upset.

HEMMER: Yes, is this the first time D.J. was sent to this camp?

POPPY RAWLS: It is the first time. I have never allowed him to go to an overnight camp. When he's gone to camps in the past, it's been a day camp.

HEMMER: Yes, well, are you going to send him back or not?

POPPY RAWLS: No, he will not be going back.

HEMMER: That's what I assumed the answer was.

POPPY RAWLS: ... My concern here at this point is that changes need to be made in the 4-H policy. We are upset now that we know they are volunteers. We know the counselors involved, although the age range is in question. There wasn't obviously enough supervision, and it's easy for the camp to say they weren't our employees.

However, when I dropped my child off, I expect that they're going to be taken care of. And some employee needs to have some better handle on, you know, supervising the people that are supervising our children.


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