Paving the way to wellness

Venture Outdoors (VO) Family & Community Programs are slated to serve more individuals than ever this year thanks to new funding for programs and equipment from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Highmark has awarded VO with a $12,500 for this initiative, sponsoring events throughout the year, including four Family Outdoor Festivals and 13 community programs. Additional funds will provide equipment for urban programming including snowshoes and handheld GPS units, as well as 500 family passes to remove economic barriers to growing participation in outdoor recreation.

“Our ultimate goal is to leave no community without access to nature, said Sean Brady, Assistant Executive Director at Venture Outdoors. “An estimated 17% of Allegheny County residents are minorities. We asked, ‘how we can extend the health, wellness, and social benefits of our programs to all of those residents?’ The Family & Community Programs Initiative provides free and affordable, beginner-friendly outings that take place in diverse neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.”

In and around Pittsburgh, a rich network of parks, trails, and waterways provides multiple ways to get outside. Without knowledge of them, experience in outdoor recreation, or friends to serve as guides, it’s difficult to start on your own. It’s easier with skilled leadership, which is where Venture Outdoors steps in. Programs include free Family Outdoor Festivals in May, June, July, and August, which feature the best of outdoor recreation. Also starting in May, kayaking on the Northside’s Lake Elizabeth is free Monday-Friday, 4:00 PM to dusk. Outdoor Leadership Workshops are available for both adults and youth, so that community members can take the lead in building healthy lifestyles and a strong network of outdoor leaders.
In its first year, the Family & Community Programs served over 7,000 youth and families, including over 4,500 of racial minorities.

“We expected interest levels to be high because these are unique programs, but the results have exceeded all projections,” said Brady. “The community has affirmed our program model through enthusiastic partnership and promotion of outdoor recreation in new communities.”

“No matter what your athletic ability level is, outdoor recreation is a great way to spend time with your family while exercising,” said Mary Anne Papale, director of community affairs at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. “Venture Outdoors’ programming is a fun, exciting and affordable way to become active or improve your current fitness routine.”
Venture Outdoors can also help you learn how many calories you will burn by participating in one of their more than 500 programs. Whether you prefer a Fishing Derby (around 215 calories), a Snowshoe Walkabout (650 calories) or learning to kayak (around 1,000 calories), Venture Outdoors can guide you toward living a healthier life.

About Venture Outdoors:
Venture Outdoors, a local non profit organization, seeks to transform the Pittsburgh region into a place where the outdoors is an integral part of urban culture, identity and lifestyle. By encouraging everyone to participate in outdoor recreational activities, Venture Outdoors promotes Pittsburgh’s unique natural amenities, highlights the region’s excellent quality of life, fosters a greater appreciation for the environment, inspires an active lifestyle and creates a shared sense of community.

Visit www.ventureoutdoors.org for more information about Venture Outdoors initiatives, programs, and community work.

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