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Hell Camp: Where is Challenger Founder Steve Cartisano Now?

Netflix has once again dug into the unsettling story of troubled teens and the mysterious person behind the Challenger Foundation in one of their gripping documentaries. The scary story of Steve Cartisano, the founder of an outdoor therapy program that went wrong, is told in the documentary “Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare,” which was directed by Liza Williams. tvacute looks into the history of the foundation, Steve Cartisano’s life, and the scary events that led to its well-known fall as we go on this journey through the shadows of Hell Camp.

Who is Steve Cartisano?

Steve Cartisano, was born on August 15, 1955, in Modesto, California to Anthony Cartisano and Bonnie Lou Coley. He used to be an officer in the military’s special forces. He learned how to survive in the wild while in the Air Force from 1974 to 1984. These skills would later shape his outdoor therapy programs. When Cartisano was in college, he studied marketing at Brigham Young University. After that, he changed careers and became a wilderness therapist. Some people say that Cartisano got the idea for what he called “street smarts” from Larry Dean Olsen, a former professor at BYU. Cartisano had strict rules and punishments for breaking them, while Olsen focused on options and learning from mistakes.

What was the Challenger Foundation?

Challenger Foundation

The Challenger Foundation was started by Steve Cartisano in 1988 to deal with problems in a world that was changing, especially the idea that American kids were going in the wrong direction. Parents paid $15,900 for a 63-day program that claimed to “wear down” troubled teens through outdoor survival skills in the hopes that this would lead to better behavior. But the Challenger Foundation quickly gained a bad reputation for its strict rules and controversial methods, such as military-style discipline, strip searches, and haircuts like those worn by soldiers. The big difference between the original promise of positive change and the reality of how intense the program was became clear as shocking details came to light.

Challenger was a huge hit, making $3.2 million in its first year, even though some of its methods were criticized. Oliver North, a member of the Iran-Contra plot, and the Winthrop Rockefeller family of Arkansas were among the famous people who looked for Cartisano’s programs for their difficult children.

Who is Steve Cartisano’s Wife?

In 1978, Steve Cartisano married Deborah Lee Carr (Debbie), which happened during a very rough time in his working life. They had four kids together, whose names are Jennifer, Catherine, David, and Daniel. Details about Cartisano’s family life are kept somewhat secret, but it’s clear that his work has affected how things work in the Cartisano home.

Steve Cartisano’s Wife: Where is Debbie Cartisano Now?

What Happened to Steve Cartisano?

While Challenger was having a lot of success, tragedy happened in 1990 and put an end to everything. A hiker named Kristin Chase, 16, died of heatstroke while hiking on Utah’s Kaiparowits Plateau. It was after the investigation that Cartisano and Challenger were charged with child abuse and negligent murder.

In 1992, Cartisano was found not guilty of any crimes connected to Kristin Chase’s death. However, the civil cases that followed against Challenger showed a very bad side of the company. Seven federal lawsuits were settled out of court. The lawsuits said the defendants were negligent, intentionally caused mental distress, committed fraud, etc. Even though the law was in a mess, Cartisano kept going with his plans, even though Utah and Hawaii banned him from running childcare programs.

Hell Camp: How did Kristen Chase Die?

Where is Challenger Foundation Founder Steve Cartisano Now?

After the Challenger Foundation closed, Cartisano’s trip took him to many places, such as Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Parents who used apps that weren’t licensed were angry and their bills weren’t paid. The documentary shows what part Cartisano played in a later program in Puerto Rico, where the officials stepped in and caused custody problems, fraud complaints, and investigations.

On April 1, 2019, Steve Cartisano died in Durant, Oklahoma. He was 63 years old. The controversial person left a legacy tainted by lawsuits, claims of abuse, and the painful memories of those who went through the Challenger Foundation’s rough programs.  His work in the Choctaw Tribe was important to him, and he was a devoted Latter-Day Saints Catholic.

After Cartisano’s death, there are still questions about who is responsible for these kinds of wilderness therapy programs and how they might affect the participants’ lives in the long run. The Challenger Foundation and Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare may be things of the past, but the problem of teen wilderness therapy as a whole still makes people worry about the safety and right way to treat weak people.

Is there still a Challenger Foundation?


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