FOX 29 Investigates: Summer Camp Problems

- A summer camp that's had trouble in other cities comes to Philadelphia, and it's the same story all over again. Angry parents are demanding their money back.

They asked FOX 29 Investigates' Jeff Cole to take a good hard look.

"The name of the camp was Be Inspired Cultural Arts," said local mother Tangela Harden, who thought she'd found the ideal summer camp for her niece, her nephew and her daughter.

Harden said of her daughter, "She was gonna take swimming lessons, she was gonna do drama and theater, and she was also going to do the Lego workshop."

"That's a great camp," Cole said.

"Absolutely," Harden agreed.

"You must have been excited for her," Cole said.

"Very excited," the mother said.

An orientation at LaSalle University was well attended. Camp was set to begin June 22nd.

Harden paid $573. But camp never opened at LaSalle.

"A week prior to the start of camp, we were sent an email saying that the contract had fell through, and that it was moving to Holy Family University up in the Northeast," Harden said.

When camp did start, some kids were less than inspired.

"My daughter is saying that she's hungry, that she only had a slice of pizza and some popcorn. And at orientation they told us that that there would be a full balanced, um, nutritional program," Harden said.

She added, "My nephew complained that it was boring, they were just sitting around in the cafeteria in the auditorium or the classrooms."

Another local mom, who asked us to hide her identity, says her older son was also hungry and bored.

"In summer camp, they didn't go outside?" Cole asked.

"They sat in a classroom every day for eight hours," the mother said.

"That wasn't what the bargain was here," Cole said.

"Not at all," she replied.

A younger son had an accident one day but was left in wet clothes, mom said, despite a spare outfit in his bag.

"So why didn't they change his clothes?" Cole asked.

"Because they said it was a liability," the mother said.

Cole asked her, "What did you think of that?"

"Not happy," she said. "Not happy at all."

These unhappy campers aren't alone.

Detroit was among several cities where "Be Inspired Cultural Arts" camps fell through this year.

In fact, the Better Business Bureau tells FOX 29 Investigates 22 unanswered complaints have been filed in seven states against the Memphis, Tennessee-based camp. A "consumer alert" from June says the camp rents space "from well known universities" but parents dropping off kids the first day are often "turned away … due to lack of adequate staff being present."

Here in Philly, LaSalle says the camp "failed to provide an acceptable Certificate of Insurance" to "comply with the University’s Protecting Minors on Campus Policy."

Holy Family says it "required that the camp leave the premises" due to similar problems.

With fewer kids in tow, camp moved to the fellowship hall at Germantown Meetinghouse Church of the Brethren.

We went there to find camp director Quinton Cox and spotted him with the kids.

We asked for Cox and later knocked for him at the end of the day, but he refused to come out.

The pastor told us he was "annoyed" with Cox, the church is owed money, and he didn't know until recently about the camp's issues.

But the Better Business Bureau says Cox "has a history of taking fees for camps that ultimately weren't held."

According to Andrew Good, the BBB's regional vice-president, "The owners of this camp operated a different camp or service that ended in a similar fashion."

That camp, dubbed "Inspirational Keys Performing Arts Academy," racked up more than 40 complaints by 2013. Cox shut it down and started his new camp 12 days later.

"Be Inspired Cultural Arts" was actually registered this year to get Summer Food Service Program funds in Pennsylvania but took inadequate meal counts and won't get full reimbursement.

Paperwork problems seem to be a theme.

By May, the camp had lost its Tennessee business license for failure to file annual reports.

And its website is offline. The developer told us Cox owes him money.

Pennsylvania doesn't require a state license for camps open fewer than 90 days. Other states have more stringent rules.

Local parents are still seeking refunds.

"My kids got nothing of what they were promised," Harden said.

"Think he ripped you off?" Cole asked.

"Yes, he ripped me – not only me, he's ripped other families off," Harden answered.

Cox told Harden he must file for bankruptcy. She got back just $135 of the $573 she paid up front.

And our second mom was promised a money transfer next month. She's not holding her breath.

"It's a scam, a major scam. Don't fall for it like I did," she said.

Again, we tried to speak with camp director Quinton Cox, but he locked himself in the church hall with the kids and wouldn't come out. He also didn't return our phone calls or emails.

Earlier this week Cox called Harden to say he'd gotten some good feedback from parents and expects to return to Philly next summer, Cole reported.

The Better Business Bureau has tips for choosing a summer program or day camp. You can read those by clicking here.

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