Advancing a Legacy

In 1938, John Bradford, the last of three brothers who successfully ran a lucrative sand mining operation on their property at the dawn of the 20th century, donated his 2,000 acres to Indiana University to be used, in perpetuity, for the betterment of Indiana’s children. Herman B Wells, the university president who accepted the deed outside the Bradford Manor House, declared Bradford Woods to be a “jewel in the crown of Indiana University.”

81 years after that exchange, Bradford Woods continues to build on a rich history of serving the youth of Indiana. For 65 years, we’ve hosted Camp Riley and other Recreation Therapy programs that have enabled tens of thousands of youth with physical and cognitive diagnoses to have a life-changing camp experience. Our Environmental Education programs have reached local fifth graders for more than 60 years – meaning some local families have enjoyed three generations of Bradford Woods experiences. In the 1980s and 1990s, we served as a proving ground for new theories of Adventure Education and outdoor facilitated teambuilding; many of today’s giants of the field cut their teeth at Bradford Woods in that era.  

While we’re thankful for the legacy of our past, and for the innovative and even legendary leaders that have come before, we continue to focus on finding new ways to serve our community: In the past year, we’ve launched a climbing club to teach local youth healthy leisure habits, have expanded our program offerings for youth on probation, have launched a Pediatric Brain Tumor family camp, and, thanks to the generous support of CHAMP Camp, have pushed new limits of universal design on our ramp and zipline – even exploring integrating Indy Car helmet and harness technology to keep our campers safe. 

Bradford Woods is a jewel in the crown of Indiana University.

Herman B Wells

At the same time, the fiscal challenges of keeping up with the demands of 56 buildings and 2,500 acres are real. While our cabins – and our pool – were ahead of their time in designing for universal access between 1950 and 1970, technology has far surpassed what was available at the time. Facing these needs, this year we plan to launch a capital campaign to support necessary infrastructure and building repairs, updates, and renovations. 

As we continue to innovate and serve, the support of the community, of program and staff alumni, and of champions of our cause is paramount. To that end, this year we launched our Spirit of the Woods gala – a celebration of the transformations that happen in “the woods.” We chose a 1930s theme for the event to honor the original gift of the deed (pictured above), and will continue to use this celebration to celebrate and grow our support in the future. Above all, we continue to seek to honor our rich legacy by continuing to provide excellent outdoor programs and services to people of all abilities and backgrounds – from across the state and beyond.

Spirit of the Woods Gala

Our second annual Spirit of the Woods gala will take place on April 18, 2020. We need the support of stakeholders like you to continue the important work we accomplish here at Bradford Woods.

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