Back "Home" Again at Camp Riley
June 14, 2022
ABOUT CAMP RILEY
Since 1955, Camp Riley has operated at Bradford Woods, Indiana University’s outdoor center in Martinsville. The Bradford family settled in Indiana 100 years earlier and established a sand mining company after discovering unique sand on the property that was valuable for making molds in steel production. John Bradford, the last surviving family member, donated his home and 2,300 acres of land to Indiana University in 1938. The property was one of the first major gifts received by IU president Herman B Wells. John intended for the land to benefit Riley Hospital’s patients with disabilities and other “charitable, educational and recreational purposes.” To that end, the Bradford Woods team has built an environment where campers shatter perceived limitations, make new friends, and reach higher achievements, returning home with an increased sense of independence and confidence.
There are a lot of kids who depend on this camp to figure out what they can do and apply it to the real world.
-Alyssa, a Camp Riley camper
HOW CAMP RILEY HELPS
Each summer, more than 300 campers with physical and cognitive diagnoses make their “home away from home” at one of several Camp Riley sessions, enjoying facilities and activities that are designed to be barrier-free. Activities include archery, climbing towers, scuba diving, swimming, and waterskiing. To ensure a safe experience, staff from Riley Children’s Health provide 24-hour medical coverage.
Through the generous support of Riley Children’s Foundation, Camp Riley also removes financial barriers to families. No camper is turned away due to financial need. “Donors help provide an experience that you can’t put into words. A lot of our campers say that coming to camp is like coming home,” said Tommy Gardner, Program Director at Bradford Woods.
In 2020 and 2021, Camp Riley sessions were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to funding from Riley Children’s Foundation, campers were still able to experience some of the magic of camp at home. A “Camp in a Box” mailing included materials and instructions for activities including slime making, a nature craft, and friendship bracelets.
This year, campers are back at Camp Riley, resuming a nearly 70-year tradition. “Every person deserves the joy and connection that comes with attending summer camp. We get to help provide opportunities for campers to have fun and maybe even find new interests they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise,” said Sammy Petitte, Assistant Director of Recreation Therapy at Bradford Woods.
Camper Emelia shared her message to donors: “Camp changed my life for the better. Anything is possible here.”