Francis Smith's memories of a Shady Trails camper in 1984

I was referred to Shady Trails Speech Camp by my speech therapists and doctors at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, for my Treacher Collins syndrome associated cleft palate speech impairment, for the 1984 season. I was a 9 year old boy in 1984.

Due to the cost of the program, my parents reached out to a number of local organizations and charities in the Fort Wayne, IN, area, before finally getting the help they needed from a local chapter of a sorority.

My large family (I'm one of 12 children), most of whom were still living at home in Indiana, decided to make a family camping trip of bringing me to camp in July that summer. We brought our fold-down trailer with us and camped in the Whispering Pines campground in Manston, MI for the first week. My parents wanted to remain close by for the first week to make sure I was OK fitting in at camp and being away from them from then on.

The 1984 camp session started Sunday July 1 and was 6 weeks long (through early August). I brought my beloved Curious George stuffed toy along as my companion. I was in the Park Avenue cabin (red). My two cabin counselors were a Mr. Jackson and a Mr. McAllister. The speech therapist who worked with a number of us boys in a group was a Ms. McLain. (My speech difficulties involved /b/, /p/, and similar sounds due to my cleft palate, jaw deformities, and other oral problems associated with Treacher Collins syndrome.)

I loved eating in the lodge every meal (and developed a taste for raisin bran cereal, which stuck with me for a couple of decades afterwards). I also had a "job" at camp--as the cabin mail delivery boy. One time we had a hole-digging contest outside my cabin (Park Avenue), where I half-jokingly claimed I could dig to the earth's core. All the camp activities were fun, but I favored arts and crafts. Once I polished a Michigan Petoskey stone, which I kept for almost two decades. Another favorite activity was the weekly "out-trip" to Northport, to meet people in town as we each shopped for something in one of the stores, ate out, or did craft activities (including the aforementioned rock polishing). One time I bought a beautiful large toy airplane, which I still have and treasure to this day. Other times we went to the dunes or fishing on Grand Traverse Bay. Once, I caught a fish, named him George (after my beloved Curious George stuffed toy), and kept him in a large tub outside my cabin for the remainder of the camp session (before returning him to the lake at the end of camp); this is the only "fish tale" I tell to this day.

Another fond memory is the "miffler", or play, that each cabin put on. I was the mad scientist in Park Avenue's miffler involving a "Red Beamer" UFO, mad scientists, etc. This is my only acting experience in my life. Speaking of UFOs, I saw my first UFO one night at camp, which we boys called the "Red Beamer" (this became the subject of our cabin's miffler). Every so often, I got a letter from my parents at home describing such calamities as the family getting drenched in their camper one night at Whispering Pines while they camped there the first week I was at camp. One letter even contained a newspaper article about me going to camp with the generous donation of funding for my camp tuition from the local sorority.

I also remember parents' day mid-session, when our parents all came to camp to visit. My parents drove up from northeastern Indiana to visit me for that day, and we went into Northport and they caught up with how I was doing at camp. All too soon, camp ended in early August. When my parents came to pick me up, they helped me pack up to go home (and we discovered my precious Curious George stuffed monkey had gone missing, and is still missing to this day). My parents also met speech therapist Ms. McLain, who gave us an audiocassette tape of my progress in speech therapy. I still have that tape to this day, with my high-pitched 9-year-old boy voice preserved for posterity. The next school year, for Young Author's Competition, I wrote a book titled Curious George Goes to Camp, all about my Shady Trails camp adventures that summer. Once we loaned my book to the sorority ladies who had generously funded my camp tuition, we never got the book back (to this day, we haven't seen it). Shady Trails gave me the gift of clear, intelligible speech.


Meet the adult Francis Smith — by Judy Kuster

Dr. Francis Smith is currently "working on his second postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine." Read about his work in an article by Debra Melani, 'Fabulous Faces': Dental medicine fellow changing image of craniofacial disorders through research and actions University Communications, October 6, 2016, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Dr. Smith has a biography coming out: Wonderfully Made: The Dr. Francis Joel Smith Story, by Michele Dubroy and Francis Smith as co-author, the story of Smith's life with Treacher Collins syndrome. A chapter in the biography focuses on his 1984 summer at Shady Trails. The book is due for release the summer of 2018.


added June 8, 2018