The Second Mile founder Jerry Sandusky has seen area kids through childhood, the teenage years and young adulthood.
Now as some of those children that he and The Second Mile have helped over the years are embarking on their adult lives, the former Penn State football defensive coordinator is pulling back from his involvement in the organization that brought them all together.
In a letter addressed to friends of the organization, Sandusky said he is retiring from his day-to-day involvement from the organization he founded in 1977 to help Pennsylvania children develop self-esteem and reach their full potential.
Sandusky said he was doing so "to devote more time to my family and personal matters."
He said he recently attended the wedding of Allan Myers, who serves in the military and he calls a Second Mile graduate.
"As he makes this transition in his life, I celebrate the power of caring adults to change children's lives and, like Allan, take the next step in my own life," he wrote.
As for the future of The Second Mile, Sandusky sees it as a bright one.
"Fortunately, the organization has planned and prepared well for the future, so I feel especially confident in taking this step at this time," he wrote. "I will continue to support Second Mile children, and I look forward to catching up with you at future Second Mile events."
The 33-year-old organization has grown from helping 45 State College children in its first year to providing more than 100,000 children with nine prevention, early intervention and community-based programs and services, according to its website.
The Second Mile Executive Vice President Katherine Genovese said Sandusky's retirement is a "natural evolution."
She said over the years Sandusky has stepped back as long-time organization leaders stepped up.
"Given Jerry's devotion to the organization this retirement is more than well earned," she said, adding that they wish him the best and know they will see him around.
"It's like winning a football game, even sometimes like winning a championship," Sandusky said Thursday of what it feels like to help kids like Joshua Sinisi.
Sinisi, an Altoona native, was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in first grade, Sinisi's mom, Marianne, said. A doctor referred them to The Second Mile, she said. Sinisi and his brother, Shawn, now 18, attended The Second Mile Camp.
"He provided an enormous amount of time and effort into making sure I grew up into the successful young man I am today," Sinisi wrote in an e-mail. "He and The Second Mile have helped me learn to become a team player in life, goals, activities, and everyday challenges."
Sinisi, 22, who went to work in the corporate office of Dick's Sporting Goods after an internship with the company, credits Sandusky with teaching him to overcome challenges in life and among a long list of attributes, called his mentor "kind, loving, caring, generous, strong, positive, successful."
"He taught me to be strong and never let anything [or anyone] stand in my way between what I wanted," he said. "He and The Second Mile made me realize that having a disability is actually very normal and everyone is the way they are for a reason and that I was special to him and my family."
Marianne Sinisi said Sandusky made her son feel important and capable.
"He's an amazing man," she said.
She praises who her son who recently graduated with a Pittsburgh Technical Institute with a degree in information technology - network security and computer forensics.
"I couldn't be prouder of the kid - to overcome everything that he did," she said.
From homework help to checking-in phone calls, Sandusky was there for Sinisi over the years.
"Jerry is the definition of 'a great man.' Whatever you ask him to do or be there for you, he will do it without any hesitation," Sinisi said. "Jerry is, well, Jerry - one of a kind."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Clegg is at 949-7030.