Who We Are

 
 

We believe in…

Bringing the queer community together to experience the beauty and fun of the wilderness.  Our trips are run by queer people for queer people and are open to people of all levels of experience.  Check out this clip to get a sense of who we are and what we do.  We hope you'll Venture Out with us soon! 

The Venture Out Project is committed to facilitating backpacking and wilderness trips for the queer and trans community in a safe and inclusive environment. We also provide comprehensive inclusion workshops for educators, adventure professionals, summer/day camps and more.

Learn more about The Venture Out Project in the short video below

 
 
 

Our Vision

The Venture Out Project envisions a world where queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ youth and adults create community, develop leadership skills, and gain confidence through the shared experience of outdoor adventure and physical activity.

 

 

Our Mission

  • To provide education and support that helps schools and organizations affirm their LGBTQ+ community members.

  • To provide a safe and fun space for queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people to experience the outdoors.

 

 

Our Values

Environmental Stewardship

The natural world is our classroom and our office.  As such we believe we are obligated to care for our environment. Our Project is committed to leaving the (natural) world a bit better than we found it.

Challenge as Choice

Adventure learning can be scary and we recognize that we all start from different places.  Every Project we undertake is based upon the notion that all participants make a conscious  decision to participate and no one will be required to undertake any element that they do not actively choose.

Social Justice

The Venture Out Project believes that we have a responsibility to make our world a more just place.  All of our Projects incorporate social justice into the curriculum. “Social justice includes a vision of society that is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure." Adams, Bell and Griffin (2007)

Community

We believe that our community is a source of pride and strength.  As such it is our duty to cultivate and nourish it.

Diversity & Inclusion

We value the diversity that exists within our own trans* and queer community and believe we can serve as role models to society at large.  We embrace and cultivate diversity and are committed to creating programming that is accessible to our diverse communities.

 

 

Populations We Serve

Queer: We use this as an inclusive term for anyone who self-identifies as queer

Trans and Gender Non-Conforming: Wilderness trips have historically used gender as a term of classification.  At TVOP we recognize that for some of us that’s confusing, prohibitive and offensive.  We strive to be an inclusive organization and offer trips specifically geared to be inclusive of our trans, queer, non-binary and gender diverse community. 

Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people

Intersex people

Allies and Family Members of the LGBTQ+ community: While we are primarily focused on creating a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community to experience nature, we are always appreciative and welcoming to our allies!

 
 
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Meet our Staff

 
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PERRY COHEN

Executive Director & Instructor

Perry Cohen realized a lifelong dream of combining his love of the outdoors, his commitment to social justice, his own trans & queer identity, and his professional life when he founded The Venture Out Project. 

Perry is an alumnus of Outward Bound where he also worked.  Perry has extensive wilderness experience, having led multi-day hiking and mountain biking trips in the southeastern US.  He is an avid backcountry skier, biker and runner and just a few summers ago rafted the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  Perry is a certified WFR and lifeguard.  He was the Trip Director at Camp Aranu'tiq and has worked for many years as a coach, teacher, trainer and camp counselor with students ranging from age 7 to 65. Perry is proud to work with High 5 Adventure as consultant around strategic planning and leadership.

Perry has two children, a partner, and a chocolate lab and calls the hills and trails of Western Massachusetts home.

Hear more about Perry's story on the Dirtbag Diaries Podcast. 

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TRAVIS CLOUGH

Director of Operations

Travis (he/him or they/them) is originally from Down East Maine and currently resides in Portland, Oregon where he explores the high peaks of the Pacific Northwest.  He loves mountains, snow, pine trees, and views that go on forever.  His favorite outdoor activities are (but not limited to) backpacking, scramble hikes, splitboarding, swimming in mountain lakes, summiting high peaks, bikepacking, etc.  His other interests are quilting, playing guitar and banjo, long road trips, contra dancing, pot-lucks, smashing the patriarchy, and connecting to queer community.  He is certified in Wilderness First Responder.

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DEVONEY ERICKSON

Director of Administration

Devoney Erickson (she/her/hers) resides in beautiful New Hampshire where she loves being active in the outdoors. Some of her favorite things to do are running (especially on the trails), skiing & snowboarding, mountain biking, and cooling off in New England lakes and oceans.  

Prior to joining The Venture Out Project, Devoney was the Head of Talent for a large grocery distribution company.  In her role, she served as both a coach and mentor and was responsible for training and development across the company. Prior to that, Devoney enjoyed the slopes of Colorado while working for Vail Resorts as a part of the Vail Ski and Snowboard School’s management team.She graduated from Hartwick College where she was a member of the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams.  

She is a current board member of the Keene Family YMCA. She is certified Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructors of America- Level 1.  

Devoney and her husband have three children who also share a love for the outdoors.

 
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JAMES SAUNDERS

Logistics & Marketing Coordinator

James (he/him/his) was born in Texas but has spent the better part of his life traveling and refusing to call one place home for too long. Whether it’s camping, backpacking, kayaking, or forcing friends to sit with him on a patio regardless of the weather, his favorite place has always been outside. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2017 where, after only a few hundred miles, he decided to never work in a cubicle again. He’s now a certified Wilderness First Responder, NOLS Trip Leader trained, and worked with Colorado Outward Bound for the past two seasons. He’s a proud cat person, shamelessly rollerblades everywhere, and is constantly trying to convince squirrels to be his friend. 

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MEG BOLGER

Trainer/Facilitator

Meg Bolger (she/her/hers or they/them/their) is a social justice educator and facilitator who started their facilitator journey leading wilderness orientation trips at Hamilton College during their undergraduate years. Since then Meg has spent 8 years facilitating gender and sexuality awareness and inclusion workshops with anyone looking to make their organization and community more trans and LGBTQ+ inclusive. Meg is the co-creator of The Safe Zone Project and founder of The Social Justice Toolbox, two free online resources for social justice educational activities and curriculum and the co-author of Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation.

As the Director of Education for The Venture Out Project, Meg takes lead on all-things-training-related, communicating with folks about the different opportunities TVOP provides to learn more about creating trans-inclusive communities and co-facilitating the workshops. While Meg loves hiking, playing team sports, Vermont, and snowboarding, Meg is rarely happier than when working with a new group exploring and learning together.

 
 

Our Instructors

Meet the talented Venture Out instructors who make these amazing trips what they are.  We wouldn't what what we are without their tireless dedication to wilderness stewardship, adventurous spirit and endless knowledge of the outdoors.

 
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MERCY SHAMMAH

Mercy (she/her/hers)  loves being outdoors in the Pacific NW. She hopes to cultivate an outdoor community putting POC and Queers front and center. She wants to be a part of the facilitating a comfortable safe spaces for POC and Queers to thrive in the outdoors in the Portland, Oregon area and beyond. As an Outdoorist she knows there is hundreds of ways one can enjoy being in nature. She loves a good outdoor immersion weekend and believes in the healing abilities that nature provides. Her mission is to promote those who have been pushed aside by today’s dominate society—supporting them in their growth, healing and love of the outdoors. WILD DIVERSITY


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Tam Willey

Tam is Certified Forest Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.  Tam has first hand experience of the healing benefits of spending time in nature. Through an evolving love for outdoor adventure such as hiking, backpacking, camping, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and surfing Tam has spent extensive time outside, particularly in the White Mountains of NH. Working locally as a self employed Handy Person as well as a teacher and custodian at The Eliot School, Tam is very connected to the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain where Tam has lived since 1998. 

Volunteering as an Adult Support Volunteer at BAGLY (Boston's Alliance of LGBTQ Youth) since 2010 and having worked 8 seasons with The Theater Offensive's True Colors: Out Youth Theater, Tam has extensive experience working with LGBTQ youth in Boston.  In 2016 Tam thru-hiked Vermont's Long Trail and raised money and awareness for TVOP.  Tam holds CRP, First Aid and WFA Certifications and is currently focused on creating more inclusive and accessible Guided Forest Bathing Walks for all by offering structured support in finding one's own way towards experiencing belonging to the natural world.  For more information about Tam and Forest Bathing, check out the website: ToadstoolWalks.com


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LOREN EVANS

Loren (he/him/his) is a self identified ragamuffin queer who is unequivocally obsessed with being in the mountains. Born in the Northwest, he grew up backpacking with his family. He currently lives in Denver Colorado where he spends most of his time burning up the highway to find the next mountain paradise.  He will eat key lime pie till he’s blue in the face, and love making cards.  Some of his hobbies are, split boarding, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, river floating, backpacking, and losing his chapstick.  He loves to meet new people, and hear about how the outdoors enriches their lives. Loren is a Nationally Registered licensed Paramedic, and Registered Nurse who specializes in Emergency Medicine.

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OLIVER REITZ

Oliver (he/him/his)is originally from Indiana, where he spent his youth climbing trees and swimming with catfish. As an adult, he spent years leading LGBT organizations and promoting LGBT education and advocacy all over Southern Indiana. At the age of 26, Oliver moved to Massachusetts where he got involved with The Venture Out Project from the start and rediscovered his love of the outdoors. He has since become passionate about hiking, backpacking, and map-reading. Oliver lives with his partner and their two dogs and is currently enrolled in school, where he is finishing his degree in Health Education and Promotion. He spends his free time hiking his favorite trails in Western Massachusetts and discovering new ones.


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KATE NOLAN

My name is Kate Nolan (she/her/hers) and I am a cofounder of DNK Presents, Trek Bicycle Women’s Advocate and Leave No Trace trainer. Getting outside has always been a passion of mine and I love sharing that with others. I believe we need a connection to nature in order to live a happy, healthy and balanced lives. I grew up camping, backpacking, skiing, trail running and racing BMX and mountain bikes. I believe my bond with nature has helped me to excel in my professional career, to overcome obstacles personally and professionally and the spiritual gain has been profound.


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GRAHAM OXMAN

Graham (he/him/his) lives in Brighton, MA, but dreams of gallivanting around the world with all his belongings in a backpack. He loves biking, hiking, climbing and kayaking. He is also a proud nerd; lover of rocks and science, and an aspiring potter. Graham is a teacher by day, and an multi-tasking super fiend by night. Graham also collects useless (but fun!) trivia, so if you know a cool fact, he'd love to hear it!

 
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RAEI BRIDGES

Raei Bridges is a twenty-three-year old certified mindful outdoor guide and the founder of The Rusty Anvil. He is a self-taught craftsmxn and a naturalist at heart. Born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, Raei has experienced first hand the effects of nature deficit disorder, and the healing that has come from moving to the Berkshires of Massachusetts. 

In 2016 Raei participated in a Rite of Passage with the School of the Lost Borders in the Colorado Wilderness. During this time in the back country by himself, Raei came to realize his true authenticity, and find his relationship to the land in a grounding and healing way. His time on the land reaffirmed his thoughts on the deep need for humxns to return to the natural world for healing and proper evolution. This has empowered him to become an agent of change for others seeking to find their authentic journey in life, and reconnect to the land for guidance. 

In 2017 Raei moved to Massachusetts and since then has been working to bring mindful nature connection to communities throughout the Berkshires. He is a certified Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide, a certified SOLO Wilderness Medic, and an outdoor educator.  He has experience in various leadership roles and has volunteered with many organizations as a guide, data collector, and facilitator.  

Raei holds many intersectional identities and seeks to harness his personal experience to uplift others who belong to the same marginalized groups. 

As a transgender man of color, Raei seeks to use nature connection to empower and uplift queer and colored communties to become their most authentic and resilient selves, and to become fully grounded in who they are.  He is constantly on the journey to becoming fully himself and seeks to grow alongside others while creating safe space for humxn and more-than-humxn lives


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JESSE YELVINGTON

Jesse (they/them/he/him) is a queer trans Hufflepuff who loves nothing more than mountains and cats (if you can find a way to experience the two together, please let Jesse know). Jesse grew up in New Mexico, and loves the smells of roasting green chile and rain soaked desert dirt. Jesse is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and loves climbing, backpacking, hiking, traveling, rafting, hot-spring-ing, and pretty much anything else that gets them outside. Jesse also cares deeply about poetry, and completed a thesis on the ways that poetry can create community and empower queer and trans people.

TVOP Volunteers

Our volunteers bring Queer Day Hikes to YOUR area!
We currently have hikes in Western Massachusetts, Southern Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest.
Our volunteers are trained by us and have been certified in Wilderness First Aid.
Interested in future trainings? Email: hello@ventureoutproject.com

 
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Malcolm (he/him)

Location: Everywhere! Check Malcolm’s https://linktr.ee/gorillashrimp to see where he is!

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AJ (he/him)

Location: Rhode Island

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CAITLIN (she/her)

Location: Mid-Coast Main

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LUCY (she/her)

Location: Western Mass

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RAY (he/him)

Location: New York

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SAM

(no preference on pronouns)

Location: Oklahoma

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NELL (she/they)

Location: Vermont

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Courtney (they/them)

Location: Central Mass

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BASIL (they/them)

Location: Western Mass

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KAREN (she/her)

Location: Oregon

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NEKOLAI (he/him)

Location: Vermont

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HALLIE (she/her)

Location: Maryland

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MICHELLE (she/her)

Location: New York

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TYLER (them/them)

Location: Florida

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TERYN (they/them)

Location: Seattle

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AARON (he/him)

Location: Portland, ME

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AARON (He/Him)

Location: Massachusetts

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KEENE (he/him)

Location: Connecticut

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QUINN (they/them)

Location: Georgia

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Yvonne (she/her)

Massachusettes

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AMIE (they/she)

Location: Portland, OR

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MAX (they/them)

Location: Vermont

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ELLIOT (he/him)

Location: Southern Oregon

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KORY (he/him)

Location: Virginia

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JAE (he/him)

Location: Central New Jersey

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SAGE (he/him)

Location: Southern Maine

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REYN (she/her)

Location: Western Mass