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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dead boy’s name used in promotional letter

People to People apologizes for error

A Minnesota couple suing People to People Ambassador Programs over the death of their son on a trip to Japan expressed dismay that the Spokane-based company used their son’s name in a promotional letter.

“They stop at nothing,” said Sheryl Hill, of Mound, Minn., whose 16-year-old diabetic son Tyler became ill and died after he participated in a climb up Mount Fuji during a People to People trip in July 2007.

People to People President Peg Thomas said Tuesday that the company has apologized for sending the letter in error.

Hill and her husband, Allen, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hennepin County (Minn.) District Court against the educational travel company, alleging that Tyler’s death could have been prevented if he had received immediate medical care.

The Hills claim People to People trip leaders refused the teen’s requests for medical attention. Their case is scheduled to go to trial July 13.

People to People has denied the Hills’ allegations that Tyler was left alone and refused medical attention.

In April, a friend of the Hills, Judd Griffith, received a letter signed by Mary Jean Eisenhower, CEO of the nonprofit People to People International based in Kansas, thanking Griffith for recommending Tyler for the 2007 trip and asking him whether he could recommend any other youth for the program.

“Thank you for your prior support of People to People Student Ambassador Programs by providing a recommendation for Tyler Hill,” the letter read. “Today I am honored to invite you to nominate students to participate in a 2010 People to People Student Ambassador Program.”

Though the letter was signed by Eisenhower, granddaughter of the former U.S. president, Hill said it was actually sent by the for-profit Ambassadors Group Inc., of Spokane, which markets and arranges the trips for People to People International.

“People to People Ambassador Programs and its Student Ambassadors Programs deeply regret this error,” Thomas said. “We immediately launched a full investigation into the human error that caused Mr. Griffith to receive a letter.”

Contact Kevin Graman at or (509) 459-5433.
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