A place of inspiration!

Our vision is to challenge children of all ages to embrace life with courage, joy, and passion on their journey to becoming successful adults and outstanding citizens.

In the heart of Homestead, a stunning Italianate Renaissance church, St. Mary Magdalene, gets new life and purpose. The Dragon’s Den has transformed a decaying, historic building into a vibrant community center that fosters team-building, experiential learning, and self-development.

The Dragon’s Den’s goal is to enrich the lives of children and families through exciting recreational activities and innovative educational programs, while maintaining the use of the historical building for the community’s contemporary needs.

Dragon’s Den is a creative solution to the problem of sanctuaries closing in our region, which you can read more about in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

Our purposes are:

  • To promote the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and cultural development of all children and youth with different backgrounds and abilities.
  • To provide out-of-school programs in cooperation with local schools and community charitable organizations assuring the continued use and cultural appreciation of a certified historic structure in the Homestead community.
  • To engage all participants through the use of our challenge course and goal-oriented team building activities to push the boundaries of what they previously thought possible of themselves.

Our Programs

The Dragon’s Den aims to advance children’s wellness by holistically expanding personal boundaries, and promoting inclusion, understanding, cooperation, and communication among children with various capacities and backgrounds.

Knights of the Dragon

The Knights of the Dragon is our flagship program providing the opportunity for local children to serve as our ambassadors to the Homestead community. The Knights of the Dragon meet twice a week to participate in physical activities (including trips on the challenge course!), arts and crafts, performative arts, and team building exercises. Space is open, but limited, as Dragon’s Den continues to reach out to local kids in Homestead, West Homestead, and Munhall who would like to be involved in this amazing, free program and live within walking distance to the Dragon’s Den. Space is limited to 10. If interested, please send an email to programs@dragonsdenpgh.org and put in the subject “Knights of the Dragon“, or call 412.461.3336 for more information. Preference will be given to local children from 5th-8th grade.

The Knights of the Dragon have been meeting twice weekly since November 2020, and they have accomplished so much since coming together. This February, each of the young Knights performed a monologue on the Dragon’s Den stage for the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Contest–what’s more, two of our kids received Honorable Mentions for their stellar performances! Since then, the Knights of the Dragon have created logos for a contest sponsored by Venture Outdoors, designed their own mazes under the guidance of a dedicated volunteer with a background in engineering, and begun individual projects ranging from 2D art to clay modeling to songwriting for the upcoming Labsy Awards, sponsored by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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.

The Value of Aesthetic Appreciation

Beauty has an intrinsic value essential to human development. The unique philosophy of the Dragon’s Den is that children will thrive and develop as integrated human beings and community members if they experience beauty as an ordinary part of life.

The integration of aesthetic appreciation with physical, emotional, and social development activities will become part of the child’s identity and imagination. As David McCullough in “Brave Companions” notes, “If character is destiny, so too, is terrain.

What Makes Us Unique

The Dragon’s Den offers, in a stunning historical building, a transformative experience through an indoor challenge course (complete with a high and low ropes course, zip line, and climbing wall), team building activities, and other after-school enrichment programs.

We believe that through creative repurposing, beautiful historical buildings can not only be saved from degradation and abandonment but can also become safe havens for children in need.

Although our emphasis is on children, we understand the importance of involving parents in their children’s activities whenever possible. Therefore, we offer programs for the whole family several times throughout the year.

Challenge By Choice

Dragon’s Den believes in the Challenge by Choice approach. Participants navigate the challenge course at their own pace, deciding the level of challenge they want to conquer.

Challenge by Choice is incorporated in all of our programs off the course as well. We recognize that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and we encourage this kind of critical thinking in all endeavors.

This is an important step in discovering limitations, untapping problem-solving potential, and pushing boundaries further than one might have thought possible.

Our ultimate goal at the Dragon’s Den is to offer a transformative learning experience for all children, both local and beyond.

The Therapeutic Value of a Challenge Course

The intrinsic therapeutic components of challenge courses have a beneficial effect increasing participants’ self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-confidence, social maturity, trust, respect, responsibility, and especially, self-control.

“In 1971, Project Adventure began to integrate the challenge course into public school physical education classes. This movement was the beginning of a trend that has led to the current practice of using the challenge course as an educational, developmental, and therapeutic medium to enhance both personal and professional growth.

“During the 1980s, researchers in the field of therapeutic recreation began to report the individual benefits one could derive from participation in challenge course experiences. Research focused on identifying or demonstrating the benefits of participating in challenge courses primarily by psychiatric patients and at risk, adjudicated, and emotionally disturbed youth. The research and literature during the 1990s became more diverse, with efforts directed towards team building and group development, the physiological responses to participation in high ropes courses activities, accessibility, risk management, and a variety of professional topics important to challenge course providers.”

Source: “The Research and Literature on Challenge Courses: An Annotated Bibliography 2nd Edition. Compiled by Aram Attarian, Ph.D. North Carolina State University Department of Parks Recreation & Tourism Management, February 2005, page. 4

A Course with Italian Flair

The course at Dragon’s Den was designed and planned by Lucio Longhi and Patrizia Corti, two very talented and generous designers who believed in the importance of the Dragon’s Den’s mission from the start. At their own course in Italy, they witness the benefits that a challenge course has to offer for children of all abilities.

Having worked in the industry for nearly 20 years, these professionals immediately understood the Dragon’s Den’s vision. They accepted the founder’s invitation to travel from the province of Lecco, Italy to Homestead, PA to assist with the design and oversee the construction of the challenge course.

The Dragon’s Den’s custom-designed course is built around the beautiful historic architecture of the previous St. Mary Magdalene Church in Homestead, PA. Children and families can closely observe and enjoy intricately carved woodwork, capitals, terracotta details and arches, all while enjoying the thrilling obstacles throughout the course.

If you plan to visit Northern Italy, please visit our sister park “Parco Avventura Resinelli”, an outdoor rope course like you have never seen.  Surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks, it is 20 minutes from the stunning Lake Como!