A candlelight vigil is being planned to mark the 1-year anniversary of the death of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
A group hoping to build a memorial brick walkway in State College plans the vigil for 7 p.m., January 22. Organizers say they will light 409 candles, one for each of Paterno's victories before 111 were stripped as part of NCAA sanctions in response to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sex abuse and is serving a lengthy prison sentence. His arrest tarnished Penn State's storied football program and led to Paterno's firing. Paterno died of lung cancer at age 85.
The group planning the vigil is called Inspiration Way and says it's a tribute group.
After hearing of the vigil planned for Paterno, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) released the following statement:
The candlelight vigil for Joe Paterno is a tragedy.
Honoring Joe Paterno - a man who failed to act in any way to protect kids from a serial predator on his staff - will do nothing but bring more pain to child sex abuse victims, both those in central Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Those harmed by Jerry Sandusky will of course be most directly hurt, having to endure again the words and images of blindly loyal Penn State football fans who put their own feelings about a game above the feelings of deeply wounded crime victims who were severely and needlessly violated as children.
Those harmed by other predators will also be hurt, having to be reminded again that many adults overlook and minimize the wrongdoing of officials who ignore, conceal or enable child sex crimes.
“Nothing is more precious than a child,” we tell ourselves and others. Yet when children are injured by employees of institutions we hold dear, we overlook those injuries and rally around those institutions.
It’s sad and frustrating and painful to watch well-intentioned but misguided adults taking action to remember a now-disgraced sports icon instead of taking action to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.
Honoring Joe Paterno in this way – recognizing wins that have been stripped by the NCAA and campaigning for a memorial walkway – his backers show no regard for those who were victimized by Jerry Sandusky under Paterno’s watch. This is a pathetic attempt to forget the heinous crimes that occurred at Penn State and remember only meaningless football games. It is, at best, disturbing and at worst disgusting. We hope that the organizers of this event will think better of their hurtful actions and honor their disgraced coach - if they must - in private, not public.