LAKE WYLIE, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A former Harris and Camp Thunderbird YMCA staff member was arrested for allegations of sexual crimes against a minor in the Wilmington area, according to a YMCA spokesperson.

Elijah Donato (Courtesy: New Hanover County Sheriff's Office)
Elijah Donato (Courtesy: New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office)

Elijah Donato, 21, was placed under a $500,000 secured bond at the New Hanover County Jail and was charged with the following:

  • Two counts of 1st Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
  • Two counts of Taking Indecent Liberties with Children

He was additionally accused of abusing a camper at Camp Thunderbird after the YMCA launched an investigation, contacting all the parents and caregivers of the campers assigned to his cabin.

“We are deeply disturbed and saddened, and our prayers are with the children and families affected by these alleged actions,” a spokesperson wrote.

Carolina Beach Police investigators discovered Donato sexually exploited and took indecent liberties with a child he babysat during the week of Sept. 25, 2023.

Donato held various roles at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte from 2019-23 and was banned from all properties and events with the organization.

Officials emphasized the importance of the safety and well-being of the children within the YMCA’s care and provided a series of measures to ensure kids are safe.

“The YMCA of Greater Charlotte takes pride in providing safe places for children to grow in skills and self-confidence,” the spokesperson continued. “Our hearts and prayers are with the children and families impacted by these heinous allegations.”