Over 40 years ago Barbara Stone founded the Greenville County Disabilities & Special Needs Board (then known as the Greenville Association for the Retarded and now called Thrive Upstate) because she knew firsthand of the great need for local services for people with lifelong disabilities and special needs.
In the 1950’s, Barbara Stone was a young mother in Greenville of a child with severe autism. The Stone family, along with many families across South Carolina, had no local services that would help with the needs of their child with disabilities.
At the time, professionals could only recommend that once a child’s needs had exceeded resources at home the child should be institutionalized. What a wrenching decision to be faced by South Carolina families. So, following that advice, Barbara and her husband took their 9-year-old, non-verbal son to Whitten Village in Clinton, SC. They dropped him off with strangers. And again at the advice of professionals, they agreed to have no contact with him for thirty days. This was a long and agonizing month. Eight years later, as a result of Barbara’s determination and leadership, their son moved into the first group home in Greenville County on Ridge Road.
Barbara had vowed to help her son and other children with disabilities and special needs by working to establish local services. In 1953, she joined the Greenville Association for the Retarded and provided leadership, including serving on the board of directors. Their first project was to establish a day camp for children with disabilities and special needs. It has evolved into the wonderful summer camp known today as Camp Spearhead. Camp Spearhead has continued to grow over the years and is a perennial favorite of hundreds of campers who enjoy spending a week with friends in the beautiful South Carolina foothills.
In 1968, Barbara brought together Greenville County families and community leaders, including leaders from the school district, Department of Social Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Department, Social Security Commission, and Mental Retardation Commission. They determined that the greatest and most immediate needs were daycare options for children with disabilities and special needs and sheltered workshops for adults with disabilities and special needs.
The seed for establishing services for people with disabilities and special needs living throughout South Carolina was planted. As a result, state services have grown through the years to include service coordination, residential homes, day services for young children, and day programs and workshops for adults. And the definition of “disability” has been expanded to include not only people with intellectual disabilities, but also those with other developmental disabilities, head and spinal cord injuries, and autism.