Matthew: The Challenger Foundation Survivor Now Leads a Private Life

With Netflix’s ‘Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare’ carefully exploring the way specialized therapy camps for troubled teens almost always do more harm than good, we get a documentary that is just gripping. After all, it incorporates not only archival footage but also exclusive interviews to really shine a light upon the whole concept of wilderness survival programs that enable youngsters to step onto the right path. Amongst those to thus feature in this original to help navigate the same is actually Matthew Callahan — so now, if you simply wish to learn more about him, we’ve got the essential details for you.

Who is Matthew?

Although Delaware native Matthew was merely 14 by the time 1990 rolled around, the truth is he was far from a typical teenager owing to his admitted interests in drugs, drinks, as well as partying. “I drank a lot,” he candidly stated in the production. “I smoked a lot of pot. Every so often, I used to munch a hit of LSD, or I’d smoke a little bit of PCP [Phencyclidine]… I had a good time.” In fact, according to his mother Kari, he even used to go and jump off onto the running trains from the railroad bridge down the street from their home for fun, resulting in a few legal arrests too.

Kari hence genuinely feared that Matthew would either end up in prison or dead if something didn’t change soon, driving her decision to have him join a Challenger Foundation camp in Utah in June. However, that’s when everything turned upside down — the teen, who could concede he was a nightmare for his parents with his constant arrest for drug possession or similar aspects, was allegedly being abused. “I had not been [in the program] that long, but I wanted so much to get back to my McDonald’s at home,” he said in the documentary. “And my Oreos and my Round Top Ice cream. My good stuff.”

Therefore, one morning, Matthew simply refused to get up and follow the desert hiking instructions the group had been given, thinking they surely couldn’t put their hands on him or kill him. “I think the counselors told me I had to get up,” he declared. “I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Get up!’ I said, ‘No. You are not going to force me up.’ And he hit me. He literally hit me. There was another counselor, and that counselor told him to tie my feet together at the ankles, and he started dragging me. Yup, that hurt. But after only 10 feet or so, he stopped. He said, ‘Now are you ready to hike?’ I was in pain, and he kept dragging me.”

Matthew continued to reveal that the skin was literally scraped off of his back, but this pattern of dragging-questioning continued for hours (after every 40-50 feet) because he never gave up. Though arguably one of the worst aspects of it all is that founder Steve Cartisano ostensibly approached him the following morning, only to insist it was his own fault he got hurt in such a manner. Then came an alleged additional few beatings, that is, until he had to be pulled out and hospitalized for extreme malnutrition — he’d lost 20lbs in a mere few weeks, plus he bore several scars in varying stages of healing.

Where is Matthew Now?

The moment Kari saw her son in the hospital, she knew this camp chapter was completely over and took him straight home as soon as she could before filing child abuse charges against Steve and his firm. Matthew was actually named victim in two of the many misdemeanor child abuse counts against the Utah native, which is why he even testified during his 1992 trial despite being merely 16. The defendants were purportedly acquitted for good, yet the then-teen has since made it very clear that he has never once regretted sharing his side of the story. In fact, even though Matthew seemingly prefers to lead a life well away from the limelight these days, he’s still okay with opening up about the past to highlight the fact therapy camps simply do not work.

Read More: Kinney: The Challenger Foundation Survivor is a Proud Working Mother