by Henry Swain
In 1946 Bert Dingley wanted to do something lasting for the children of his church. He had a 309-acre farm divided by Clay Lick Road, about five miles from Nashville. He gave the farm and buildings to the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Southern Indiana with the stipulation that it be developed for Catholic youth. He named it Camp Rancho Framasa by combining the first letters of the names of his three daughters.
Mary Dingley married Charles Sperry, the son of Portia and Ralph Sperry. Portia helped raise her family through the Great Depression in Brown County by creating the Abigail doll, which was sold nationwide to large department stores. The Sperrys owned and managed the Brown County Folks Shop at the Nashville House. An Abigail book followed the creation of the doll and both were sold in the Brown County Folks Shop until recently.
Some of the existing farm buildings were renovated. A new pool was built. Some cabins were added to the hillside and a combined meeting hall and kitchen facilities was built. The camp has grown over the years and presently serves over 1900 youth. Several years ago the Archdiocese recognized the camp needed renovation and expansion. They developed a long-range use plan for the property.
The safety of the campers was a motivating factor in the camp renovation. The goal was to get all the camp activities on one side of Clay Lick Road. The higher speeds on the new blacktop road posed an increasing danger to campers crossing the road.
The year 2001 saw the first phase of the plan completed with the opening of the new two-level 15,000 square foot Conference Center on the west portion of the property bordering Less Traveled Road. Beautifully situated into the side of a hill, it is accessed at two levels. Phase two calls for three 20-person cabins near the new center and is scheduled for 2002. Long-range plans call for the replacement of the 50-year-old pool.
The camp has had several directors over the years. The present Director of Camping Services, Kevin Sullivan, has been with the camp for 18 years and as director for 14. He and his wife Angi, and their four children, consider the camp their home. The camp has two full time staff, one half time, and expects another full time beginning in June.
The camp serves all ages of youth. Some of the younger youth found a week stay too long and would develop homesickness, requiring parents to take them home early. Experience led to shorter Sunday-Tuesday schedules and Wednesday-Friday schedules, which seemed to fit the younger campers better and reduced the homesickness factor. They also have a Sunday-Friday camping program for the older youth.
While many church sponsored camps in the county also serve adult groups, Kevin says currently the camp primarily serves the young. They hope to develop spring and fall stays for campers in Environmental Education for which they would earn school credit
The camp facilities are now open, but the formal dedication will be June 23, 2002, with the archbishop presiding. I imagine Bert Dingley would be pleased to see that his gift of land for the benefit of children has been so well managed according to his wishes. The new facility is an honor to his vision.