State Investigating Youth Weight Loss Camp in Kent After Abrupt Closure

"Camp Shane" said it had to close because of staffing troubles at the overnight camp. Now, concerned parents want answers and a refund.

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This week, parents from around the country had to scramble to pick up campers right here in Connecticut.

Camp Shane, which is described on its website as a medically supervised weight loss camp, closed its doors in Kent Tuesday.

The overnight camp had scheduled to run more sessions of camp throughout the summer at The South Kent School, but camp owner David Ettenberg said he just didn’t have enough staffing to keep it open.

He said staff members kept quitting because they didn’t want to stay on-campus per camp COVID-19 safety procedures.

“Devastating, really devastating. I love this camp. I love the kids. I know that parents are really, really relying on us,” said Ettenberg, who says he let parents and guardians know about the camp closure a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, the Office of Early Childhood and Department of Children and Families say they’re investigating “the health, safety, and well being of children” who were enrolled at the weight loss camp.

While the state wouldn’t release more details of the investigation involving minors, in a statement, they confirmed the closure. Loved ones we spoke to said they complained to the state.

“She says, ‘Mom. I don’t feel safe here anymore. I can’t stay here,” described Pamela Artigas of Vero Beach, Florida.

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Artigas said when her 14-year-old started sharing concerning stories from Camp Shane and an overwhelmed counselor called her about a medical issue with her daughter at camp too, she hopped on a plane from Florida to pick up her daughter.

“Our kids have looked forward to an experience for six to nine weeks and their experience was a nightmare.”

She said her daughter's heart condition wasn't being handled properly, as promised, and when she went to pick her up, no one on staff thought to check if she was in fact her daughter's legal guardian.

"You pick a medically supervised camp for all of these reasons to know that they’re safe and monitored and yet they weren’t from day one. They weren’t."

Family members of other campers say their loved ones shared similar chaotic stories.  

After one family picked up their camper, they showed NBC Connecticut a note they say was from the camp that said their loved one’s medication was stolen.

Others told us an 8-year-old was severely injured Saturday on an athletic field, which NBC Connecticut confirmed with first responders. Ettenberg said there were four adults present when the girl fell and an athletic goal post fell on her.

“He never told us, never told us there was a staffing shortage in the first place. He should have not opened the camp. I mean he didn’t have the right staffing,” said Artigas.

“I don't think that's really true. They were missing activities, yes, but they were always, always, always safe and really not until the last bunch of days the kids were happy,” said Ettenberg.

As an investigation continues, families we spoke to are also concerned about the pretty penny they already paid to keep their kids at camp a lot longer this summer.

"The camp's $10,000. It’s a lot of money for a lot of people. We take out loans, we save all year. And that’s not including the airfare and doctors appointments to get us clear to go there," said Aritgas, whose daughter was set to attend camp for a couple more weeks.

“We're getting all those people that money back right after that and the big hit for me financially but emotionally you know I’m very, I’m very sad about this,” said Ettenberg.

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