From the Desk: Bradford Woods director details center's mission to improve quality of life for all

As Indiana University's outdoor learning and education center, Bradford Woods provides programs and services to thousands of visitors annually. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for people of all abilities by using our unique setting to provide education, therapy and recreation.

Clay ChafinView print quality image
Clay Chafin. Photo by Indiana University

Situated on 2,500 acres, Bradford Woods provides accessible facilities and accommodations for groups of up to 300.

Having started in this positon Jan. 7, I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of team members. We have a very passionate and engaged group who love what they do, and the impact we are able to make is immeasurable.

Our programs and services include corporate outings and retreats, outdoor and adventure education programs, partnerships with K-12 school systems, recreation therapy camps in conjunction with our partners at Riley Hospital for Children, and programs for military veterans and their families. In all of these opportunities, we have the ability to lead and facilitate -- or provide a space and get out of the way.

Bradford Woods is now operating as a division of Auxiliary Services. Under this arrangement, we are responsible for generating all needed funds through fee-for-service programs, grants and donations.

We will host our inaugural fundraising gala April 6. This 1930s-themed event will be our first step in the fundraising arena. Funds received will go toward much-needed capital improvements for facilities that were mostly built in the 1970s. If you are interested in attending, give us a call, and we will make sure to save you a seat.

Being on the forefront of inclusivity for design and programming has been a focal point for many years. This was on display in 2018 when a fully accessible ramp was constructed to provide access to our zipline.

In a partnership with CHAMP Camp -- which provides a summer camp experience for children and adolescents with tracheostomies and those who require technological respiratory assistance -- we were able to fund this amazing feature that would give all of our guests the ability to enjoy the zipline. The ramp is the first phase of an amazing project that will include a treehouse for overnight stays and an educational element with interpretive signage.

We thrive on partnerships, something that's on full display through Camp Riley. Over an eight-week period last year, our summer camps served 327 campers from 55 Indiana counties and nine other states: Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. These include programs for campers with a wide range of physical disabilities, chronic illnesses and medical conditions. By providing a traditional camp that supports these campers, we are able to offer an experience that otherwise might not be possible.

Over 200 groups each year use the property for retreats and team-building events. Some think that we only provide space or program support to university staff or groups. While we do have about 80 IU departments that take advantage of facilities and programs annually, we accommodate many more events from outside agencies.

Our Environmental and Adventure Education programs include guided hikes, two climbing towers, archery and canoeing -- and top it off with a campfire with s'mores. Our programming for military service members and their families includes adventure therapy specifically designed for our veterans and their families. These programs include using our partnership with Agape, our therapeutic equine resource, on property.

Our focus will continue to be mission-driven and budget sensitive, with an emphasis on updating our infrastructure. We invite you to call or stop by, and hopefully we can make a positive impact.

Clay Chafin is director of Bradford Woods.