Out and About

Virginia Beach natives Kaitlyn and Aristotle Cleanthes teach children the value of outdoor activities.

Aristotle and Kaitlyn Cleanthes

Photo by Patrick Hayes

To say that Kaitlyn and Aristotle Cleanthes love the outdoors would be an understatement.

It is their passion, their calling, their nirvana. “It’s just refreshing to unplug and be out in Mother Nature and watch the sun rise and hear the woods wake up,” says Kaitlyn, 27. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”

Her husband agrees. The co-owner of Blue Pete’s Restaurant in Pungo, Aristotle says, “The restaurant business is very personable. I love people, but this is a way to unplug and keep my thoughts to myself. A lot of people don’t get to experience being one with nature. That’s the one thing I cherish the most.”

That devotion is what prompted the couple to found Saving Kids’ Dreams in 2015, a nonprofit organization based on the preservation of Mother Nature and providing outdoor education for the next generation. Each year the group holds its Youth Unplugged event, introducing youth to a variety of outdoor activities, from hunting to kayaking. “It is a community-driven event for kids,” explains Kaitlyn. The couple previously founded Back Bay Boys and Back Bay Girls outdoor events for adults.

The free Saving Kids’ Dreams event has grown from 150 youth to 4,000. “Every kid that first year got a free prize, anything from a baseball to a Shimano fishing pole,” Aristotle says. Last year Yeti donated 1,000 water bottles, and participants received 1,000 fishing rods and T-shirts, as well as 1,000 free kids’ lunches. “We will make sure all the kids get free lunch this year,” Aristotle, 31, says. 

The event’s growth was such that, three years ago, they moved it from a friend’s property to the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo. There, kids participated in a variety of outdoor activities and got the chance to talk with the local game warden, beekeepers, and gardening and farming experts. The event, one of the largest free youth events on the East Coast. Attendees as well as volunteers have the opportunity “to make a positive impact on the community,” Aristotle says. 

Both born and raised in Pungo, Kaitlyn and Aristotle have always been outdoorsy. “My dad has always been a hunter,” says Kaitlyn. “Both sets of my grandparents were avid farmers and gardeners in Virginia and North Carolina.” She had her first brush with hunting when she was in elementary school and accompanied her dad dove hunting. “Doves were the first animals I harvested, my first kill,” she says. “I had a lot of anxiety before. Afterward it was excitement. Dad was proud. He gave me high fives.” These days, Kaitlyn hunts deer, turkeys, hogs, snow geese, and ducks. “I will hunt anything,” she says. “I really want to go on a gator hunt. It’s definitely on my bucket list.”

Aristotle cultivated his deep love of nature when he was young. “I grew up surfing, playing soccer, and snow boarding,” he says. “I took care of the polo ponies at a polo farm in Virginia Beach.” An avid deer and duck hunter, he also hunts turkey and bear. For Aristotle it’s not about the harvest but rather about “enjoying Mother Nature in its purest form,” he says. “I love knowing where our food comes from.”

Both husband and wife fish, as well, and their love of the activities drew the attention of Bass Pro Shops, which asked them to serve as part of the Hampton team of brand ambassadors for the outdoor company.

Kaitlyn and Aristotle met when she applied for a job at Blue Pete’s. “I hired her on the spot and then asked her if she had any experience,” he says with a hearty laugh. “We started dating in May 2012, and we’ve been together ever since.”

The outdoors has been a defining part of their relationship. Kaitlyn shot her first deer in Suffolk and used the antlers for the headdress she wore at their wedding in 2016. She wore corral boots—she has quite the collection—under her traditional white wedding gown and served venison from a deer she had hunted at the reception. 

Since their wedding, the couple has made it their goal to share their love of nature with others through their annual event. “It’s humbling for me personally to see something evolve from a vision my wife and I had to a large event for kids,” Artistotle says, adding that when people learn to appreciate the outdoors, they will “help preserve it for future generations.” 


This article originally appeared in our April 2019 issue.

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