A Tennessee woman who called the Challenger Foundation's Provo telephone number to ask about enrolling her daughter in a wilderness youth program was told the girl could join a group in Hawaii in mid-October.
If Challenger were actually enrolling youths in its program, it would be in violation of a stipulation signed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Sept. 6.The controversial program, which had sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, agreed to give the court 30 days notice before resuming operations. If the U.S. trustee objects, the program has agreed to seek court permission. The stipulation was reached to forestall appointment of a trustee to take control of the program.
M. John Straley, assistant U.S. bankruptcy trustee, said Friday that Challenger has not asked to resume its wilderness therapy program for troubled youths.
Challenger officials could form another corporation in a different state, as long as it doesn't use the Challenger name or transfer any Challenger assets to a new program, Straley said. The stipulation applies only to the Challenger Foundation.
But Terry Evans, Knoxville, Tenn., said that she called the foundation's Provo number and left a message. A Challenger representative called her back, she said, and told her the company was taking a group out Oct. 19 from Kona, Hawaii. The cost would be $16,000 and other youths are enrolled for the program. She said in conversations with staff about the arrangements the program was always referred to as "Challenger."
The Provo number is an answering service whose operators say, "Challenger Foundation. May I help you?"
Hawaii officials said they have no record of Challenger Foundation being registered there. Nor do they have any record of Stephen Cartisano as an officer in any Hawaii-registered corporation.
The Deseret News was unable to reach Challenger Director Stephen Cartisano, despite several attempts.
Information about the proposed Hawaii program surfaced when Evans contacted the Licensing Office in the state Department of Human Services to ask Ken Stettler about the program.
The foundation and Cartisano have been at the center of a national media storm since the death June 27 of 16-year-old Kristen Chase, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The girl died of exertional heat stroke while on a day hike with the program on the Kaipairowits Plateau in eastern Kane County.
The foundation and Cartisano have been charged with one count of negligent homicide in connection with her death and with nine unrelated counts of child abuse and neglect.