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Bloomington Herald-Times

Bradford Woods host to many events

Hidden away among the trees and rolling hills of southern Indiana sits an estate-turned recreation ground that welcomes diverse groups from around the nation.

Bradford Woods, now operated by Indiana University, was once home to the wealthy Bradford family. The family's wealth came in the late 1800s after members began mining and selling sand. In the early 1940s, the estate was given to Indiana University by the last remaining Bradford sibling. It is currently operated through the IU School of Public Health.

The camp, a 2,500-acre facility located just north of Martinsville in Morgan County, is known for its work with Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis through Camp Riley, a program that offers recreational therapy for patients of the hospital. It also plays host to fifth-graders from the Monroe County Community School Corp. for three-day environmental education programs in the fall and spring.

However, when not bustling with Riley patients and passels of MCCSC fifth-graders, the camp welcomes groups from around the nation to stay awhile and take advantage of the sprawling grounds, which include cabins, a lake and boathouse, climbing tower and much more. Groups can choose from among a range of sites and facilities on the sprawling property, with daily rental prices varying by facility. Rental rate for the manor house, what was once the Bradford family home, is $340 a day for use as a conference/meeting center.

There are several lodges and guest houses, a large dining hall, an indoor sports facility, canoe rentals, conference accessories and a complete range of outdoor and camping equipment, with plenty of space to simultaneously serve several groups. The beach at Ole Swimming Hole Lake can be rented for exclusive use by a group for $81 a day.

The facility hosts more than 200 events a year, said Tim Street, director of retreats, marketing, and special events for Bradford Woods. On any given day, the woods can be filled with members of several groups at a time. The spacious grounds, however, allow for minimal cross-over between groups, which can range from church groups to corporate meetings.

"We've had really busy weeks or weekends where we have as many as seven or eight groups doing something at camp," Street said. "We have buildings organized into separate villages so we're able to host several different groups on the property without having a lot of overlap." One of the larger villages -- the Lilly cabins -- can sleep up to 24 at $17.20 per person per night, according to the Bradford Woods Website.

The amount of interaction between retreat members and Bradford Woods varies from group to group, Street said. Each group decides the level of guidance from and interaction with camp staff, with some choosing to remain entirely independent during their stay at the camp.

The facility sometimes plays host to smaller groups, such as church service retreats, family reunions and wedding parties. Several of the buildings, including the Baxter dining hall and the Manor House, are available for large parties to rent for weddings and special events.

Retreats Specialist Olivia Mozzi said that service groups will sometimes use the facility for their retreat, but also take the opportunity to help staffers spruce up the grounds.

"They wanted to have an experience away from their typical environment but also give back to Bradford Woods," she said.

In order to use the grounds for a retreat, groups must fill out an application, which can be found on the Bradford Woods website, The site also has a detailed price list for facilities use and staff assistance.

For Street, who has worked at Bradford Woods for three years, seeing the diversity in programming is one of the perks of the job.

"Every day there's something different going on here," he said. "It's really neat to be here and see all of the different ways that lives are impacted."

Regardless of the group that is visiting at the time, Street said that the main goal of the camp is always in the forefront.

"(We are here) to provide a transformative experience for people."

The approximately 2,500 acres upon which Bradford Woods sits was deeded to Indiana University in the early 1940s by the last remaining Bradford brother, John, whose family had become wealthy by mining sand from the area. To learn more about the facility and how to book a group retreat, visit their website at