Dawn Oates

Founder and President

Dawn Oates is a former marketing and communications professional and college writing instructor whose corporate work ended after her third child, Harper, suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury at birth, leaving her with substantial mobility limitations.

Dawn founded The Play Brigade after she realized the challenges of finding opportunities for her entire family to engage in the community in fun and meaningful ways. Despite her children’s differences in ability, they all had a shared desire to have fun.

The Play Brigade is dedicated to creating opportunities for play, recreation, and sports, where everyone participates and belongs, regardless of age or ability. They create universal opportunities for fun that are inclusive, rather than “specialized,” raising the bar beyond ADA compliant. They create awareness of inclusion as a social problem, illustrating how individuals and entire communities benefit when every person has the opportunity to participate and belong.

Prior to founding The Play Brigade, Dawn worked at publishing, financial services, and law firms to develop marketing strategy and brand identity. She is a disability advocate, and a supporter and mentor of parents who have children with complex medical conditions. She served as a member of the Children’s Hospital Boston NICU Family Advisory Council and serves on design review committees in partnership with the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline that explore playground redevelopment using inclusive, universal design concepts that go beyond minimum ADA accessibility standards.

Dawn received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College and a B.S. in public relations from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Dawn is an ultra-marathoner, a Scrabble enthusiast, and a believer that everyone needs to have fun.