Who We Are
The Woodlands is a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children and young adults with disability and chronic illness. Using its fully accessible and barrier-free facilities, the Woodlands' programs enable participants to experience social, cultural, environmental, recreational and spiritual growth. Serenely nestled in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, the Woodlands' 32-acre site features: an indoor heated pool, 48-bed lodge, dining hall, creative arts and computer center, activity center, camping area, sports court, nature trail, amphitheater, and a par-3 adapted golf course. The Woodlands sponsors a variety of programs and is also available year-round to other organizations that serve individuals with special needs.
The Woodlands site has a storied history:
- 1937 The property is established as a camp for underprivileged and orphaned youth run by Father Lawrence A. O'Connell, a Catholic priest of St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore City.
- 1944 Fr. O'Connell offers the property to the Variety Club of Pittsburgh, who become owners and shepherds of the property, continuing the mission he originally began.
- 1983 The Spina Bifida Association of Western Pennsylvania (SBAWP) runs a two-week pilot camp for children with spina bifida.
- 1985 SBAWP leases the land for summer and developmental programs for children with spina bifida. Shortly afterwards, the property's name is changed to the Woodlands. A series of capital development projects, primarily funded by charitable dollars, help establish the Woodlands as a premier facility designed to help children and adults learn and improve life skills, and to provide opportunities for social, recreation, spiritual and environmental enrichment.
- 1995 SBAWP conducts a strategic planning process which established the goal of opening the property to all people with disability and chronic illness.
- 1998 To achieve this goal, the independent nonprofit Woodlands Foundation, Inc. is formed, carrying over the management, marketing and maintenance of the property. SBAWP then became a provider of direct service to families and individuals with spina bifida.
The Woodlands Foundation continues the legacy initiated by Father O'Connell. In 2006, the Woodlands Foundation purchased the property, ensuring the future of the Woodlands and its ability to provide meaningful, joyful and rich experiences in a barrier-free environment.
Today, the Woodlands Foundation annually serves more than 9,000 people and partners with more than 20 organizations to host camps, retreats and other programming. By continuously fostering new relationships with organizations that serve individuals with special needs, and developing its facilities and programming, the Woodlands Foundation is forward-focused in its mission of enriching the lives of children and adults with disability and chronic illness.