Meet Outdoor Educator for Venture Outdoors Summer Camps: Otavio Wilkinson-Baldauf
In 2023, Trip Leader Mara is leading a series of monthly adventures specifically geared towards active folks in larger bodies. Called EveryBody Outdoors, we have created size-friendly and weight-neutral outings to encourage everyone to get outside at a pace that is safe and comfortable. Together we’ll bike, hike, kayak, and more!
Meet Trip Leader Mara Addison
My name is Mara. I am a volunteer trip leader for Venture Outdoors as well as an outdoor activity enthusiast. I regularly hike, bike, and kayak, and participate in many other activities outside. I am a member of Pittsburgh’s cycling community, support a number of local outdoor non-profits, and take part in many community events.
I also live in a larger body. This should not matter, but it does.
One of the reasons I am so passionate about Venture Outdoors is its core belief that everyone deserves the chance to experience how incredibly fun the outdoors can be. It provides the gear, guidance, and inspiration to make outdoor recreation part of people’s lives. Venture Outdoors is inclusive of historically marginalized groups, such as individuals identifying as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled – and those of us who carry extra weight.
Every person, in every body, deserves to enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. They have the right to be active, and they deserve to find joy in being outside. They have the right to feel pride in their accomplishments rather than shame for who they are or what they look like.
My goal, as a volunteer trip leader, is to make sure every person feels welcome during our outings. I will be at your side, reminding you that your body is incredible, no matter if you are walking slower or need to take more frequent breaks. We are outside to find joy, not judgment.
I offer this to those who attend our community outings: If I can do this, so can you. No matter my size, I am an athlete. I belong here. And so do you.
Let’s talk about weight-stigma outdoors
Weight stigma is still, by and large, an accepted prejudice in our society. People with larger bodies face various forms of bias and inequity in many settings, such as education, employment, and interpersonal relationships, as well as within the outdoor community itself. Because of my weight, I have experienced discrimination and patronization, both subtle and obvious, during activities. There is a perception that, because of my size, I am neither strong nor capable enough to be an athlete.
Because of my weight, some people have low expectations of my abilities, intelligence, and enthusiasm. Some people are very wrong. I’m going to share a secret with those of you who are unsure if people in larger bodies are meant to be active. We are.
It’s tough to get out there, knowing you are atypical, feeling uncomfortable in your clothing, and having to try harder than anyone else to make it to the top of the hill.Our bodies may be different in size, shape, and weight than what is considered “average,” but our physical strength and sheer determination is often unmatched.