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Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Indiana University's Bradford Woods announces new director

May 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) has chosen Shay Dawson to be the next director of Bradford Woods, IU's Outdoor Learning and Education Center located near Martinsville, Ind.

Dawson has served as director of the Bradford Woods Therapeutic Recreation program since 2007, and holds a master's degree in therapeutic recreation from Kent State University, as well as a certification in recreational therapy (CTRS).

"I have a tremendous passion for this type of work, and this has always been my dream job," said Dawson. "Bradford Woods is highly regarded around the country for its outdoor education and recreation therapy programs with Riley Hospital for Children, and I look forward to building the programs here for the future."

Shay Dawson

Shay Dawson

Dawson's extensive background in therapeutic recreation matched the School of HPER's goals and vision for Bradford Woods.

"His organizational and leadership abilities and style have been instrumental in the development of our therapeutic recreation program, as well as of great benefit to me in strategically planning the future of Bradford Woods," said John E. Koenig, who served as director at Bradford Woods for the last four years and is now the executive director.

As director of Bradford Woods, Dawson will oversee all operations and programs at the facility. David Compton, chair of the School of HPER's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, said Dawson is "uniquely prepared" to lead Bradford Woods as the department seeks to advance innovative programs, training and research to impact learning, life quality, and the health of children, youth and adults served at Bradford Woods.

"We are very proud of his past achievements with our children with disabilities and look forward to his leadership in a new array of programs and services," Compton said.

Before coming to IU, Dawson held behavioral health specialist and recreational therapy positions in Zanesville and Kent, Ohio.

Bradford Woods is home to Camp Riley (, which began in 1955 and each summer serves approximately 250 children, ages 8-18, with varying physical and mental challenges. Campers engage in a variety of activities including outdoor games, swimming, ropes courses and horseback riding. Because of the skilled therapists and camp counselors, each child's camp experience helps build confidence and friendships that last a lifetime.

With the help of a $1.75 million Lilly Endowment grant through the Riley Hospital Foundation, Bradford Woods is making improvements to its facility, including the expansion of the equine therapy program, "Horseshoes of Hope Equine Academy." For 25 years, this summer therapeutic riding program has been a unique and successful component of the Bradford Woods experience, currently serving 500-600 children and adults throughout the summer. The year-round goal is to serve 1,500 children and adults with special needs.

"We are making some renovations to our historic barn and adding additions to the riding center so that we can offer equine therapeutic riding year-round," Dawson said.

For more than 55 years, Bradford Woods has been the site where thousands of fifth graders experience the outdoors through the Environmental Education program. Recently threatened with budget cuts, school districts have rallied grass-roots efforts to keep this valuable learning experience alive for their students.

"I can't go anywhere and not hear a story about someone who has either been to Bradford Woods as a child, or has a child who recently spent time there with their class," said Dawson.

An extension of the classroom, environmental education at Bradford Woods allows students to learn about their world in different ways, and apply new skills in the classroom and at home.

"Even though people may have been to Bradford Woods decades ago, they recall it like it was yesterday." Dawson said. "I see clearly the impact that Bradford Woods has in the community and how these experiences influence campers' lives as adults."

In addition, Bradford Woods is also expanding and building upon its existing Adventure Education program, which provides innovative learning opportunities that focus on team and community development, interpersonal reflection, personal skill growth, outdoor technical skills, leadership and therapeutic intervention. Professionally trained instructors facilitate participants through challenge courses and adventure-based activities.

Bradford Woods is being sought by many companies, organizations and smaller groups for its Retreats Program. Cabins and banquet facilities may be rented for conferences, workshops or private parties. While at Bradford Woods, a variety of on-site activities and amenities are available, and staff are on hand to facilitate meetings and any type of one-day or overnight stay needs.

Bradford Woods is part of IU's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER), which encompasses a broad spectrum of academic interests and professional fields. HPER offers nearly 50 undergraduate and advanced degree programs through the departments of Applied Health Science, Kinesiology and Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. To further its health and wellness initiative, Campus Recreational Sports provides sport and fitness services for the IU community and the public. More information can be found at or by calling 765-342-2915.