In late 2021 Sara Khalil came to us wanting to teach women, girls, and people…
By: Grace Eggleston, Communications Intern
We are continuing our staff spotlight series. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes brain power that goes into planning your favorite programs, be it public, family-friendly, or custom outings. Learn about those who work inside so you can get outside.
This week we’ll be interviewing Lora Woodward, our Program Director.
1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors?
I grew up in Harrisburg, PA on a four-acre property across from my grandparents’ farm. My mom ran a plant nursery, and my dad worked at the Navy Depot. I moved to Pittsburgh in 2001 to attend the University of Pittsburgh. While in school, I became super involved in the Pitt Outdoors Club where I organized whitewater kayaking, rafting, and canoeing trips and learned how to rock climb and cave. In previous jobs, I’ve sold sea kayaks in Maine, pulled invasive plants on an air force base in Wyoming, re-routed a section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies, and was a teaching intern at an international school in Thailand. I started at Venture Outdoors in 2007 as the Public Program Coordinator and have been here ever since!
2. Describe your role at Venture Outdoors in 10 words or less.
All I do is meet meet meet no matter what!
3. What does “getting outside” mean to you?
Having a fun, educational, and/or social experience in the out of doors. Whether it is an urban walk, a backcountry hike, a lake paddle, or going to your favorite sit spot, “getting outside” is choosing the outdoors as a place to spend time.
4. If you had to pick only one recreational activity to practice for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Tandem canoeing. I had no idea what an art form it is. There is such finesse behind each stroke. I grew up whitewater canoeing and we just muscled through the rapids. Now I see it as a balance.
5. What is the craziest thing you have done?
Traveled alone for three months in Ecuador. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.
6. What are your top five favorite outdoors/travel destinations?
I’ve been to some amazing places around the world: Milford Sound, New Zealand; Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Machu Picchu, Peru; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
7. What is your favorite forest/camping snack?
GORP (granola, oats, raisins and peanuts) along with some chocolate chips!
8. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to take on a Venture Outdoors program of your choice.
Betty White, Rachel Carson, Jimmy Fallon
9. What is your favorite Venture Outdoors memory?
Borrowing Venture Outdoors’ snowshoes during Snowmageddon 2010 and hiking through the Hill District and Downtown Pittsburgh with my partner Casey while all the streets were covered in two feet of snow!
10. Describe your dream Venture Outdoors program/outing.
Having a group of participants walk separate directions into the woods, find a spot that calls to them and sit watching, listening, and feeling nature’s concentric rings, and then being called back together for a campfire circle where we can share stories of our experiences.
11. What is the earliest memory you have of being outside?
I’ll say hiking the Knife’s Edge on Mt. Katahdin in Maine when I was 12.
12. What would the title of your autobiography be?
Just Do It!
13. Any hidden talents?
I used to play roller derby for Steel City Roller Derby. YINZ! YINZ! YINZ!
14. What is your favorite song (or album) right now?
Smoky Mountain Memories, Dolly Parton
15. What is your biggest challenge nowadays?
Seeing all of my ideas through to fruition—it takes a lot of work to enact a vision!