About

Our Mission

The Woodlands is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children and 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’ 52-acre site features: an indoor heated pool, 48-bed lodge, dining hall, creative arts and computer lab, activity center, camping area, sports court, nature trail, adapted zip line, amphitheater, adapted kitchen, adapted archery range, 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.

Mission Statement

To enrich the lives of children and adults with disability and chronic illness.

Vision Statement

Through signature programs, expert staff and world-class facilities, the Woodlands will be recognized as the premier organization for children and  adults with disability and chronic illness seeking experiences that enhance their quality of life.

Core Values

• All people with disability and chronic illness deserve the very best opportunities to fulfill their lives.
• The Woodlands is a uniquely designed and developed fully accessible safe facility for those with disability and chronic illness.
• The Woodlands experience should be affordable for all – cost should not prohibit participation.

Goals:

• Reach all children and  adults with disability and chronic illness in our region with year-round programming.
• Expand and enhance the awareness of The Woodlands and its programs among the health care providers, academic community and the public.
• Further enhance and develop both the staff and facilities to become the premier service provider for children and adults in the region with disability and chronic illness.
• Achieve financial sustainability whereby all children and adults with disabilities and chronic illness in the region have access to the programs offered by The Woodlands.

 A great way to help The Woodlands fulfill our mission and reach our goals is by donating items that are greatly needed by staff and participants.  You can find The Woodlands’ current list of needs HERE.

Our 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 continues the legacy initiated by Father O’Connell. In 2006, The Woodlands 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 serves thousands of people annually and partners with agencies and 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 is forward-focused in its mission of enriching the lives of children and adults with disability and chronic illness.