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New Venture Outdoors executive director wants to share 'magic'

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Venture Outdoors
Joey-Linn Ulrich is the incoming executive director of Venture Outdoors.
Venture Outdoors
Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, will be featured at the Venture Outdoors Festival.

Joey-Linn Ulrich wants to help introduce people to the “sweet spot” of life outdoors, whether it is finding a route in the wilderness or at the Venture Outdoors Festival at Point State Park, Downtown.

“I love to see that magic happen when someone discovers the outdoors,” says the incoming executive director of Venture Outdoors, the outside-activity advocacy group. “So, I think this job is a good fit for me.”

Ulrich, 42, will take over the leadership of the group May 19, but will serve as a volunteer for the group May 17 at the Downtown festival, which is a way the group shows off some of the activities it sponsors, from kayaking to yoga.

At this year's event, she and the group will be focusing on their current Adaptive Initiative, in which they and other like organizations will be promote equipment that can be used to help participants with physical disabilities.

“Part of our mission is to get everybody we can outdoors,” says Geoff Stillson, interim executive director of the group. “It became clear to us there needs to be a better way to get the word out about activities for people who might have a harder time doing them.”

He says the group will purchase some equipment and arrange activities using gear from other groups to encourage involvement by people with disabilities.

Such equipment includes kayaks designed for those missing a hand or part of an arm, or a bicycle called the Duet, which has a forward-facing seat in the front. It gives a person who cannot pedal the opportunity to experience the independence of riding.

Stillson says Venture Outdoors won a grant from the Hillman Foundation to develop the program and is working with organizations such as the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, Dynamic Paddlers, Achilles International, the Hope Network and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Venture Outdoors staffers will try to spread information about those events just as it does about hiking, biking or climbing activities in this area, he says.

Ulrich says Venture Outdoors was looking at adaptive uses before she was brought aboard, but adds it seemed to fit with her history of working in a number of different directions. After graduating from Slippery Rock University and getting a master's at Carlow University, the native of the Allentown area of the city moved into work in nonprofits, ranging from the United Way, the North Side Leadership Conference and Elderhostel.

She is leaving a position as a vice president with the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania.

In that job, as well as those with the North Side group and Elderhostel, she worked on programs that involved outdoors activities.

“Everybody needs to discover that these are skills that always are worth learning,” she says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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