A group of seven men is suing a former YMCA counselor and the Kernersville Family YMCA, alleging that the counselor sexually abused the men, who were young boys at the time, and the YMCA failed to properly supervise the counselor and his actions.
Lisa Lanier of Jamestown, the plaintiffs’ attorney, filed the 20-page lawsuit Feb. 14 in Forsyth Superior Court. The lawsuit names as defendants Michael Todd Pegram, the ex-YMCA counselor; the Kernersville Family YMCA and its parent organizations; the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina; and the YMCA of USA, which is based in Chicago.
The plaintiffs, whom the lawsuit described as Pegram’s victims, seek a jury trial as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
Lanier said that her clients can legally sue the defendants, although the alleged abuse happened several decades ago.
The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina issued a statement Wednesday about the lawsuit.
“We are saddened to hear and learn more about what these victims and their families experienced more than 25 years ago, but we are unable to comment on pending legal matters,” the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina said.
The YMCA of USA, the parent organization of YMCAs nationwide, couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.
Pegram, 48, is serving a 30-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in June 2019 in Forsyth Superior Court to five counts of first-degree sex offense, one count of attempted first-degree sex offense, one count of statutory sex offense with a child and 21 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. At the time of his November 2017 arrest in Florida, Pegram was employed at Walt Disney World and was taken into custody in front of one of Walt Disney World’s All-Star resorts.
Pegram is accused of using several jobs — a counselor at the Kernersville Family YMCA, a volunteer firefighter, a hockey coach and a local DJ — to get access to boys as young as 10 and sexually assault them in the 1990s and early 2000s, according to court documents.
Pegram was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys between 1991 and 2001.
Several indictments accused Pegram of inviting many boys he met through the YMCA to his home, a violation of the agency’s policy, where he made them lie beside him in bed, watch pornography and perform sexual acts. He told at least one boy that the pornography was about love.
The plaintiffs were young boys and enrolled in programs at the Kernersville Family YMCA when they were sexually abused, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs are now grown men, whose ages range from 32 to 40.
Pegram worked as a counselor and a teen director from March 1988 to March 2002, officials at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina have previously said. Bruce Boyer, former executive director of the Kernersville YMCA, told Kernersville police detectives that Pegram was fired in 2002 after violating YMCA policy. Without approval, he took a group of boys to an all-male revue at a local hotel, Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious told the Journal in June 2019.
Based on the investigation, it doesn’t appear that YMCA officials were aware that Pegram was sexually assaulting children or that he had groups of young boys over at his house, Chavious said at that time.
Lanier disputes the assertion that local YMCA officials didn’t know the boys had been abused.
The abuse took place over 10 years with the some of the incidents allegedly happening at the Kernersville YMCA, Lanier said. YMCA officials should have known about the incidents, she said.
The lawsuit’s allegations about the abuse follows closely the details of the criminal charges against Pegram. The plaintiffs suffered pain and mental anguish from the alleged abuse, incurred expenses for medical care and treatment, sustained loss of income and wages because of the alleged abuse, the lawsuit says.
The YMCA was obligated to protect the boys who participated in its programs, and failed to do so, the lawsuit said.
“We are holding them accountable,” Lanier said.