Where are we located?
1008 Amity St. – Homestead PA 15120
Where can I park when I visit?
There is street parking available directly in front of the church that visitors may use. You may also park in the parking lot directly behind the church, accessible via E Park Way, when Propel Schools-Homestead is not in session. All of these parking options are free. Thank you to Propel for allowing us to use their parking lot!
What is Dragon’s Den?
The idea is simple: to engage all children in an exciting, inclusive, and transformative 21st-century community center that focuses on the holistic well-being of children. We provide Allegheny County children innovative programs in a safe and supportive environment, having transformed a historic building — the former St. Mary Magdalene church — into a vibrant community center that fosters team-building and collaboration. Our indoor space contains a state-of-the-art two-level challenge course, climbing wall, and a 160-foot zip line that connects the choir loft to the former altar.
Why a challenge course?
Dozens of studies highlight the benefits of challenge courses to develop self-confidence, self-efficacy, focus, and leadership, and positively increases team-building and cooperation skills as well. Structure, empathy, and continuous engagement is our strategy to give children of all ages the tools they need to thrive in their everyday challenges.
The Dragon’s Den challenge course is both educational and therapeutic. Designed by professionals from Italy who provided on-site supervision for its entire construction, the Dragon’s Den is custom-made and constructed on site using natural wood to accommodate and emphasize the structure of the church. The soaring architecture of the certified Historic Building will inspire participants to recognize and appreciate the beauty we have in our communities.
The therapeutic challenge course is a team-building experience that facilitates group bonding. At 17 feet above the ground, everything we know about ourselves is challenged and a sense of camaraderie and pride develops. Well-trained staff and mentors teach and encourage children to transform their course experience into a tool they can use in all aspects of their lives.
What programs does Dragon’s Den offer?
All Dragon’s Den programs are organized around a two-level challenge course to complement and reinforce its benefits: self-development, team-building, trust, creative problem-solving, strategic thinking, clear communication, and fitness. The course is highly customized around magnificent historic architecture. It’s built on two levels (3 and 17 feet above the ground), includes a climbing wall, and allows participants to enjoy details of the church that would be impossible to see from the ground.
Through the 2021-2022 school year, Dragon’s Den hosts a free after-school program on Monday through Thursday from 3:00-5:45PM, where kids in the neighborhood come together to participate in organized activities and enjoy a warm meal, courtesy of Rainbow Kitchen. Our kids collaborate on STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and are participating in the annual Pittsburgh Public Theater Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest after receiving two Honorable Mention entries last year. If you are local to the Homestead area, your child may also be eligible for this free program. If you are interested, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “After School Program” in the subject line or call 412.461.3336 for more information.
The Dragon’s Den’s philosophy, built on our respect and understanding of children of all abilities, allows us to strive to create an environment conducive to promoting dignity, independence, and appreciation of all those who participate in our programs.
What’s the backstory of Dragon’s Den?
The idea for the Dragon’s Den was conceived 17 years ago during the founders’ honeymoon in Patagonia at a mission dedicated to children’s education and wellbeing. The mission was led by the charismatic priest Juan Corti, who taught the couple how important it is to surround children with beauty to inspire them to dream above and beyond what they had before. In 2015, the perfect opportunity presented itself. The stunning but abandoned St. Mary Magdalene, a National Historic site in Homestead, was the inspiration to create an innovative 21st-century community center for all children. After the purchase of the historical building, the Dragon’s Den’s founders immediately started its sorely-needed renovation, including a new roof, and updated heating, electric, gas, and water systems.
A trip to Italy proved providential. Mrs. Giulia Lozza Petrucci, co-founder and Executive Director of Dragon’s Den, and her children visited a ropes course and discovered the transformational benefits of this type of challenge courses on children’s development. A therapeutic and educational suspended challenge course within St. Mary Magdalene’s was exactly the innovation they were looking for. After the enthusiastic approval of the Borough of Homestead and a successful naming contest within the community, Dragon’s Den was founded in 2016. A major gift by Dragon’s Den Chair, Georgiana Riley, and her husband Bob, a Munhall native, inspired many other local individuals to give. Dragon’s Den raised more than $180,000 which covered the cost of an awe-inspiring, state-of-the-art ropes course.
Under the expert supervision of the original designers who came from Italy, 80 volunteers from the area built the entire course, keeping the cost low without compromising quality. The ropes course not only received all the required certifications, but has been endorsed by industry leader and inspector Char Fetterolf from Adventure Network as a one-of-a-kind challenge course.
Why house Dragon’s Den in a church?
Dragon’s Den believes that children will thrive and develop as integrated human beings and community members if they are encouraged to take pride in their communities and experience and appreciate beauty as an ordinary and inspiring part of their everyday life. The architectural grandeur of St. Mary Magdalene’s and its one-of-a-kind challenge course is a unique and equitable enrichment for all children, but especially for those who live within walking distance of Dragon’s Den. The integration of aesthetic appreciation with physical, emotional, and social development activities will become part of the child’s identity, community pride, and imagination.
The inspiring beauty of the church and its central location were the deciding factors for our project. Dragon’s Den’s programs are taking place in a beautiful environment, rich with history and memories. The church is a monument to past achievements and is an inspiration of what it is possible with hard work and determination. Aesthetic is a key factor in achieving the goal of inspiring kids to dream bigger than their own realities. Dragon’s Den believes that the value of aesthetics is often underestimated today. There is value to be mindful and to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship that is all around.
“We strongly believe that Dragon’s Den and its unique educational and therapeutic ropes course will attract children and families from across the county. After all, from what we know, we are the only ropes course built inside a church!” says the Executive Director Giulia Lozza Petrucci.
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