Best Boot Forward

By: Grace Groeger

Venture Outdoors is fortunate to have many outstanding volunteers. This year we wanted to find a new way to say thank you to our exemplary volunteers and show how valued they are to not only the Venture Outdoors staff but to our Members as well. We came up with the Best Boot Forward Award. The Venture Outdoors community had the opportunity to nominate one volunteer they believe stands out above the rest, someone who is always putting his/her Best Boot Forward. Our FIRST EVER Best Boot Forward Award goes to SHEILA STAGNITTA!


Sheila grew up just outside the Pittsburgh area in the Mon Valley. She originally moved into Pittsburgh for college, but like most who come to this lovely city, Sheila fell in love and never left.

Sheila started volunteering with Venture Outdoors back in 2007.

SheilaBlogBefore that, she hiked only as a participant. “I remember being on a night hike in the South Side and asked someone how you got to be a Leader. What I didn’t know was that many of the hike participants were Leaders. I got swept along pretty quickly,” said Sheila. And just like that Sheila got all her questions answered about volunteering and soon made her decision that that it was the path for her.

Sheila’s first time as an assistant was on a chocolate tasting hike at Riverview Park. But that’s not where her fun a Riverview Park came to an end. She has been back to lead her first hike as well as her first night hike, making it a very special place to her.

Sheila loves to volunteer with Venture Outdoors because the people are great.  She also likes the hiking and always felt safe trying new things.  She claims that not all her talents are natural.  To become so successful Sheila copied excellent tidbits and traits from past Leaders.

“They each should have a piece of the Best Boot Award, since they taught me well,” Sheila told us.

Sheila Blog 2

As a Leader Shelia believes that it’s part of her responsibility to pass on all that she has learned volunteering and being a Leader. She loves teaching Outdoor Leadership Training classes and always takes the new Leaders under her wing because she remembers how scary it was when she took the lead on her first outing.

Sheila BlogIf you ever want to see our outstanding Trip Leader in person you can usually find her on some High Energy hikes as well on the river kayaking when the weather is nice.  If you’re really outgoing like Sheila the Wednesday Wakeup Paddles are her favorite. But like the rest of us she can never turn down an adult beverage hike. Even with all those amazing programs Shelia doesn’t need all of that to make a trip amazing.  All she really needs is some good weather and happy participants.

Some words of wisdom from our Best Boot Award winner.

“Growing up, we were not a family that hiked or camped or swam or did outdoor stuff, so it was all new to me,” Sheila said.

Sheila and SteveVenture Outdoors taught her a lot about the outdoors, how to take a group out, have fun, and emphasize safe practices.

“I value these skills and use them for both Venture Outdoors and when I’m out with my husband, Steve. I’m also an introvert at heart but I love to lead a group. I just need a nap afterwards to recharge!”

Thank you for all that you do for us here at Venture Outdoors Sheila. We are so thankful to have an amazing volunteer and Leader like you and wouldn’t know what to do without you.

Posted in News


  • Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting

    April 24, 2018

    By: Beth Zabiegalski   

    As an organization, Venture Outdoors does some really awesome and exciting things with local youth in after-school and summer programs, getting them outside for the first time or teaching them something new to do in nature. Most of our outings are a couple hours or less, but when we build meaningful relationships with our students, we create formative outdoor experiences with memories that last more than just that afternoon. 

    Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Restorative Practices Training through Venture Outdoors’ partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools. I’ll admit I had next to no idea what to expect,

     » Read more about: Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting  »

  • Spring Inside

    April 17, 2018

    A Day a Phipps 
    By: Sara Cardamone 

    Now that Spring is finally here, so is the rain! In Pittsburgh, sometimes it can be hard to find ways to be in nature when it is rainy and muddy. However, there are tons of fun alternatives if you look hard enough! Since I’m a student at Pitt, I pass Phipps Conservatory all the time but I always felt like I never had enough time to stop in. Fast forward to now, the first big rainy day of Spring was upon us and I was struggling to find a calming activity to take my mind off of school and then it hit me.

     » Read more about: Spring Inside  »

  • My Mirror is the Outdoors

    April 10, 2018

    By Stephanie Capilongo

    “Go Outside… amidst the simple beauty of nature… and know that as long as places like this exist, there will be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.” -Anne Frank.

    The outdoors, it appears, is complicated. But it’s not. It can free your mind and give you a new appreciation for beauty. It brings things and people together, whether it’s your best friend, significant other or your cat. The people you go with mean everything. And no matter who you are or what you do, you can find joy.

     » Read more about: My Mirror is the Outdoors  »

  • When Youth Find their Voices

    April 3, 2018

    By: Lo Hutelmyer, Ryan Singleton and Ty’Shay Thorton

    To an educator, few things are more rewarding than witnessing a student discover his or her own passion. More rewarding still is when they show their first glimpses of leadership by taking charge to teach others about their passion.

    For those of you who may know me, it’s sometimes a challenge for me to stay quiet. But when I had the opportunity to watch Ty’Shay and Ryan present at last month’s conference, I was speechless. Ty’Shay and Ryan, 7th graders from Manchester Academic Charter School, have been participating regularly on Venture Outdoors trips for two years.

     » Read more about: When Youth Find their Voices  »

  • Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!

    March 27, 2018

    By: La’Nell Pennington, Trip Leader SpecialistGASP

    Last October, youth group members at Mount Ararat Community Activity Center in East Liberty participated in an after-school workshop with Pittsburgh’s own Group Against Smog and Pollution. (GASP).

    What is air pollution? We started out by asking the children if they knew what air pollution was. All the kids raised their hands excited to give answers. After a short hike to the Larimer Community Garden, we took turns giving examples of different types of air pollution and where it comes from. The children identified pollution sources such as cars,

     » Read more about: Mount Ararat Community Activity Center takes on GASP!  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing

Geocaching - CD

Cultural District Geocaching
Thursday, April 26
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Join us for a fun intro to the world of geocaching in the Cultural District. We will learn the basics of using a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to navigate between waypoints throughout downtown.