By: Bryan Moore

Here at Venture Outdoors, volunteers help us reach our goals every day. Making sure everyone has a chance to enjoy getting outside is a group effort, and those who freely give their time to help us achieve that goal keep the dream alive. To recognize the best of the best among our volunteers, Venture Outdoors bestows the “Best Boot Forward” award to those who go the extra mile when they use their leisure time to help us bring outdoor recreation to others. The Best Boot Forward recipients for June were Aaron Aupperlee and Nanci Goldberg.

Aaron Aupperlee

Aaron Aupperlee is from Ada, Michigan (a town near Grand Rapids) and has lived in Pittsburgh since being hired as a journalist for the Tribune-Review five years ago. He had heard of Venture Outdoors when he first came to Pittsburgh but did not get involved until much later. Once he heard the Venture Outdoors Junior Board was forming, Aaron decided to get involved and he now cites the Junior Board as one of his greatest achievements for Venture Outdoors:
“We’ve raised thousands of dollars for [Venture Outdoors], introduced hundreds of people to what the organization does and had a lot of fun while doing it. The board is still in its infancy, and I truly believe its greatest contributions are yet to come.”

While being involved in the Junior Board has given Aaron opportunities to meet people as passionate about the outdoors as he is, it has also presented him the challenge of expanding the horizons of Venture Outdoors’ clientele. He cites broadening the demographic of participants (including age, race, orientation, and financial status) as one of the greatest challenges faced not only by Venture Outdoors, but by the entire recreation sector.

Aaron’s favorite Venture Outdoors activities are the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Apres Banff party. When he’s not working on or playing with Venture Outdoors, he still stays active. Whether it’s hiking and camping in the great outdoors, skiing in winter, or teaching an indoor cycling class at the North Side YMCA, Aaron keeps busy even in his leisure time. When asked for advice to pass on to the leaders and volunteers of Venture Outdoors, he simply wants us to remember that, while we have some serious work to do, we need to remember to keep it fun.

Nanci Goldberg is originally from New York State but has been in Pittsburgh for thirty years and has been involved with Venture Outdoors since its inception as the Western Pennsylvania Field Institute (WPFI) in 2001. When volunteering as a Trip Leader, Nanci emphasizes that volunteering is not about her experiences but about those of the participant; she enjoys being part of something that allows people to experience outdoor activities for the first time that they may not have a chance to try elsewhere. Nanci’s favorite aspect of working with Venture Outdoors is getting the opportunity to interact with people who share her passion for the outdoors in an environment made as safe as possible through training and knowledge, and she cites participants’ fear of new activities and developing creative new activities as her greatest challenges.

Nanci’s favorite Venture Outdoors activities include the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Quest, any and all destination paddles, and Neighborhood Hikes that allow participants to find the hidden gems of Pittsburgh in parts of the city with which they may be unfamiliar. When asked for advice to the leaders and volunteers of Venture Outdoors, Nanci says to spread the word as wide as possible and get as many people on board as you can.