Outdoor Adventures encourages wellness and experience

Bethany Christensen (middle), sophomore physical education major, plays hockey with Ozzy Loda (right), sophomore medical laboratory sciences major, and another student for Outdoor Adventures.

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — Outdoor Adventures, a program of the Recreation and Wellness Center, offers outdoor recreational experiences for the NIU community and general public. 

The program offers gear rental and team building services for organizations or groups among other things, according to the NIU Recreation and Wellness Outdoor Adventures website.

Christine Lagattolla, assistant director of Outdoor Adventures, said she has been working hard for nine years to provide the best experience to the NIU community.

Lagattolla said one of the main opportunities the program offers is year-round outdoor activities through adventure trips or events.

Ranging anywhere from ice skating to rock climbing, Lagattolla said adventure trips allow students to focus on physical and mental health.

“In order to explore deeper, you need the physical aspect such as climbing a rock wall,” Lagattolla said. “Mental endurance is also tested, and many friendships are created through students teaming up in order to conquer certain obstacles.”

Lagattolla said mental health research has revealed a positive correlation between spending time outdoors and reducing stress.

The program also focuses on environmental health by hosting green clean-ups such as Clean the Kish and various Earth Day events.

Lagattolla said the program is looking to grow in areas of mental and environmental health by providing more resources and events for the students.

“For students who suffer from depression or anxiety, we are looking to target that through activities such as mindfulness hikes and will try to build from there by working with counseling centers to provide support,” Lagattolla said.

Outdoor Adventures representative Jessica Wind said the program has offered her the chance to meet new people and challenge herself mentally and physically.

Wind said the program has shaped her into a completely different person than she was when she started six years ago.

“Working here has made me come out of my comfort zone for sure,” Wind said. “I used to be very shy and unsure of myself, but since working here I have become more outgoing, and I am also more confident in myself.”

Lagattolla said adventure trips can provide students with the opportunity to enjoy activities they might not have had available growing up.

“Depending on where you grew up and what your family life was like, you might have not gone camping or ice skating,” Lagattolla said. “A lot of students at our last event had not been ice skating, and we want to make it available and help them realize ice skating could be fun.”

The equipment for the trips is provided through a four-season gear rental area at The Adventure Center, 325 N. Annie Glidden Road.

Lagattolla said the gear is also available for rent year-round for community members looking to have adventures of their own.

Lagattolla said hosting these events promotes The Adventure Center and the equipment it has available to rent.

“One thing that is so great about trips like ice skating is students are not aware we have equipment such as ice skates, and events like that help us encourage students to come and rent,” Lagattolla said.

Lagattolla said participants of the program just started an Outdoor Adventures Club to invite community members to engage in even more outdoor adventures throughout the year.

Miguel Valle, president of The Outdoor Adventures Club, said the club provides incentives to its members, but requires a $30 initiation fee.

Membership includes free gear rental when renting with at least one other club member, a club t-shirt and discounted prices on adventure trips.

Valle said the club provides an atmosphere for students who might struggle to fit in, giving them a chance to become a part of the NIU community. He said as president it is his responsability to provide people a chance at challenging themselves through first-time experiences.

“Anything you can do to have people experience something new, difficult and challenging is awesome, and to have people grow through these emotional experiences is the highlight for me,” he said.

Valle said working with Lagattolla has been an amazing experience and the energy she brings to the table rubs off on all around her. He said Lagattolla’s intensity mixed with her valuable knowledge and connections makes her an invaluable resource.