Barbara Stone beams when she talks about her son Barham, who was born in 1959 profoundly mentally disabled.
She believes he came into the world so that others might have a better life.
Professionals recommended institutionalization once a child’s needs exceeded the resources at home, and in those days, she says, there was nowhere else to turn.
Sitting on the couch in her home off Rutherford Road, she tears up as she recounts the long drive to Whitten Village in Clinton, where she and her husband left their non-verbal nine-year-old son.
“We couldn’t talk to each other on the way because if we did we cried. We rode in silence,” she says.
The center was designed for 1,000 people, but there were 1,900 people there all with varying degrees of mental impairment.
|Pro golfer Bill Haas is teaming up with the Barbara Stone Foundation for Birdies for Barbara to raise money to support children in Greenville County with disabilities. Haas is asking local businesses and individuals to join him in pledging to donate $100 per eagle and $25 for every birdie he makes in tournament play this season. For more information, email: BirdiesforBarbara@gmail.com.|
She was not allowed to see Barham for 30 days, and when she called to check on him, she was told little. He spent the next eight years of his life in the facility. There was limited staffing.
“On the way home that day I said a silent prayer asking the Lord to put me in a position to help do something so this won’t happen to other parents,” says Stone.
There were no other services available anywhere in the state and for parents, having a child with downs syndrome, autism or other disabilities, it meant round the clock parenting with no support.
Stone started a group of parents with special needs children. She called a reporter at The Greenville News to write a story on a group of Furman boys who helped them raise $800. The reporter asked what they were raising money for, and with no forethought or planning, Stone said they were raising money for a day camp.
In 1968, the first Camp Spearhead was held at Paris Mountain State Park and served 96 special needs children in a six-week period.
“The children would cry because they didn’t want to go home,” she says.
The program soon expanded to a residential camp. Stone became the first executive director of the Greenville Association for Retarded Children.
At 17, Barham moved into the first group home on Ridge Road, thanks to his mother’s dedication and perseverance. During her 30 years with the organization, Stone started 43 programs including group homes, apartments, adult workshops, pre-school and recreation programs.
When Stone retired, the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board was operating on a $20 million budget and served more than 2,000 people.
Stone says when her organization began opening group homes, people would turn out for public zoning hearings to protest.
“People were scared of the mentally impaired then and didn’t want them in their neighborhoods,” says Carolyn O’Connell, a Barbara Stone Foundation board member whose brother was also mentally disabled. Her parents were some of many that sought advice from Stone over the years.
Stone was visiting one of the homes one day that had met a great deal of protest. The doorbell rang and she answered it. “A lady was standing there with a cake. Her mother was a neighbor and she said she just wanted to come and thank me and apologize. ‘We opposed this,’ she said. ‘But these ladies come down and help my mother and bring in the groceries and sit on the porch and talk with her.'”
Greenville was the first county with any kind of organized day services and residences for the disabled and counties across the state eventually adopted Stone’s model.
As a state senator, former Gov. and U.S. Department of Education Superintendent Dick Riley was responsible for setting up legislation that would allow the state and county to fund the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, which now includes people with autism and head and spinal cord injuries and related disabilities.
Since Stone retired, she has worked on the board of the Barbara Stone Foundation, which provides funding to improve the quality of life and safety of disabled individuals and their families. The organization provides supplemental care for families with nowhere else to turn.
“What Barbara did was so meaningful beyond what happened in Greenville County,” says O’Connell.