10050 Camp Tracey Road, Glen St. Mary, FL 32040
boys & girls (13-17)
"salvaging the lives of youth at risk."
Police have been called to the facility more than 50 times in the past decade, most often to track down children who ran away. Some of them disappear for several weeks or show up on the other side of the state.
The co-ed program focuses on outdoor work and relies on paddling and other forms of corporal punishment. Children there in recent years say they have been made to “crab walk,” carry two 5-gallon buckets full of dirt, swallow soap and eat the cigarettes they were caught smoking.
DCF has investigated the school 22 times since the 1980s and found evidence of abuse in a third of the cases.
The school’s founder, Pastor Wilford McCormick, declined to be interviewed.
Zachary Ashby, 17
Chris Hicks, 29
Hicks was a student from 1998 to 2002 when he alleges he was sodomized by a former staff member mentioned in other lawsuits. He says he has retained an attorney to pursue his own case. “He kind of held me down and told me to be quiet, not to say anything,” he said of the staff member.
Brayan Kostyun, 19
Before he went to Camp Tracey, Brayan Kostyun said he was a "very rebellious and angry person. I used weed, sex, and music to cope with my problems but it didnt work."
Cody Livingston , 20
Livingston said he was made to swallow liquid soap when he cursed and eat a cigarette when caught smoking. In 2008, when he was caught engaging in sexual activity with other boys, he said he was made to sleep in a mudroom for a week and given a bucket for a toilet.
Sequoyah Ozorowsky, 20
Ozorowsky said camp staff placed a video camera in the room when DCF came to ask questions.
Emily Seedor, 22
Though Emily Seedor said she was punished in ways that "maybe shouldn't have been done" while she was at Camp Tracey between 2006 and 2008, she said she "loved it there."
Philip Ashby's adopted son was getting suspended from school every day, manipulating people and being defiant. His family tried counseling and other techniques. It seemed like nothing worked. After about three years, he got his son back.
Annual tuition for first year
Most of the religious group homes reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times are nonprofit organizations and must file financial information each year with the IRS. The Times collected these public records, which reveal income and expenses and other basic information about each organization. In some cases, the forms could not be found.
Tax information for 2010:
($280,523 in prior year)
Since the 1980s, the state has responded to a string of allegations regarding the punishment methods used on children. Children repeatedly have alleged they were left with bruises and welts. In more than a third of the 22 cases, credible evidence was found.
DCF abuse or neglect investigations
DCF verified cases
Maltreatment types reported
Wilford McCormick, the fundamentalist pastor of Harvest Baptist Church, started this ministry in 1981 to “salvage the lives of at-risk youth.”
The school was investigated by a grand jury in 1987, which issued a report with concerns about discipline, “inadequate and woefully lacking” medical planning, an absence of a procedure for kids to report abuse and staff’s “clandestine attitudes.” Camp Tracey responded, contending that its procedures were appropriate and citing its accreditation under the religious exemption. “It is Camp Tracey’s right to not be another state run children’s home,” the school’s attorney wrote.
Camp Tracey was the subject of six sex abuse lawsuits for cases that stemmed from allegations against Cedrick McCormick and Arthur Houde in the 1980s and 1990s. The lawsuits were dismissed, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, because the statute of limitations had passed.
founder, director and pastor
According to school and church websites, Wilford McCormick was born in 1944 and was a married preacher by the age of 17. He describes himself as a very conservative, fundamental Christian. "My heartbeat for life is the work of the Lord. My passion is preaching," writes McCormick on his church's website. Of Camp Tracey Children's Home, he says, "It has been my joy and privilege to work at salvaging the lives of at-risk youth since 1981."
Group home profile last updated: Dec. 7, 2012, 1:49 p.m.