From the Archives, December 15, 2019

Camp Shape

A variety of groups have used Boxwell over the summer, often after the regular summer camp has ended. Latter Day Saints (LDS) weekends were popular for many years and both reform boys and youth from Nashville orphanages have all had time at one of the Boxwell’s over the last century. In 1972, a new group joined the list: a group of mentally disabled youth.

For a week, 114 mentally disabled youth from across the state moved into Stahlman, which was renamed “Camp Shape.” The idea was part of a federally funded program (“Project Shape”) “to coordinate services for mentally retarded people in Tennessee.” Don Endsley from Tullahoma spearheaded the activity as a way to get these kids out of the institution into the world. The staff for the event was mixed, with some provided by Endsley while others were hand-picked volunteers from the summer camp staff.

Russ Parham remembered this week well. In particular he remembers because a specific detail for the event was lacking on the front end: the remaining staff were told the youth would disabled, just not mentally disabled. It was a type of special needs many were not prepared for. Still, both the Tennessean article that is attached and Parham’s own recollection both ultimately reflect a favor experience. For Parham’s part, he recalled the following: “Q-Ball was there and there was a little girl that spent time with Erin, her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” She sang it over and over again.”

The event was apparently something of a success. For several summers in the 1970s, a variant of Camp Shape with youth from the Clover Bottom Development Center (now closed) came to camp every year for their own special week.

Camp Shape

Photo by John R. Mott III of _the Tennessean_ staff. Pink goo was apparently quite the mesmerizing event at Camp Shape.

John R. Mott III, “Camp Offers Retarded Week of Fun,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
John R. Mott III, “Goo Makes for Excitement,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
Russ Parham (retired Boxwell Business Manager), interviewed by Grady Eades, July 29, 2017, Hendersonville, TN.

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