Beyond the Woods


September 16, 2013
Topics: Camp Riley



A research study conducted through the School of Public Health at Indiana University revealed something unsettling about the children with physical disabilities who attend Camp Riley each summer at Bradford Woods. The kids report that they have a wonderful experience at camp, but then struggle when they return home because of a lack of social support and resources for people with disabilities in their communities.

The Board of Governors and staff at Riley Children's Foundation decided this information could not be ignored and developed the Beyond the Woods program.

The goal of Beyond the Woods is to help Venture campers work through issues related to having a disability, and help the children see their own potential. The program was created through a partnership between Riley Children's Foundation, Bradford Woods and FranklinCovey. Teen campers in Beyond the Woods go through the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens program, learn social support techniques, and develop mentor relationships with successful adults with physical disabilities.

Currently, 70-80 percent of adults with disabilities in society do not have a full-time job and struggle to live at or near the poverty level. Health disparities amongst this population are also 2-3 times the national average. Beyond the Woods is one of the first programs of its kind that attempting to address this major issue in society.

This year at Camp Riley, we saw a very positive response from the teens. We discovered that the issues we were addressing were topics they had already been thinking about and struggling with internally. After camp ended, we heard from a mother who told us her son wouldn't stop talking about the program once he returned home. (This was surprising because the camper was very quiet at camp, and didn't share that during his stay with us.)

There are many places to donate to these days. However, Beyond the Woods is a unique program with the potential to make a real difference throughout the 92 counties in Indiana. If it is successful here, it has great potential to be duplicated in other states. Financial support of Beyond the Woods is key to the continued development and implementation of the program. We are so appreciative to the Riley Children's Foundation donors who make Camp Riley and Beyond the Woods possible through their support.

My hope is that the kids who participate in Beyond the Woods will have a new way of looking at their futures: starting a career, going to college, and living a full life. I hope that they will transfer the skills that they learn at Beyond the Woods to their everyday lives back in their communities throughout Indiana. I hope that they will see themselves in the adult mentors with physical disabilities that are living life to the fullest.

I hope they will reach for their dreams.

To learn more about Camp Riley or make a donation, click here.


Shay Dawson

Shay Dawson M.A., CTRS, is the Director of Bradford Woods, Indiana University’s 2500-acre outdoor center which serves as home to Camp Riley. Bradford Woods specializes in therapeutic outdoor programs, equine-assisted therapy, outdoor education and professional services. Shay is a Kent State University graduate who also serves as an adjunct lecturer in the Recreation Therapy Program within the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies at Indiana University.


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