A Greeting From Our New Executive Director

Ryan_BioPicHello FD Community!
I was introduced to First Descents eight years ago through the work of my family foundation, Rise Above It (RAI).  Upon learning more about the organization, I was immediately drawn to the power of the FD magic.  First Descents’ commitment to empowering young adult survivors through legitimate outdoor challenges is one of a kind.  These experiences help our participants regain confidence and self-efficacy often lost through the cancer experience.
Our mission is deeply personal to me.  My brother, Colin, was diagnosed as a young adult, in the prime of his life.  He truly embodied the FD spirit.  During treatment, Colin would visit to ski with me in Colorado.  I would plan a fairly mild day on the hill, and he would insist on skiing the entire mountain!  Colin was #OutLivingIt despite his condition, and the eventual outcome.  Colin passed away in August of 2005.  His spirit inspires me daily.
In 2009, RAI hosted a ski and snowboard day for young adult survivors in Vail, CO.  First Descents was so helpful throughout the process.  The experience was incredibly humbling.  It was my first glimpse into the amazing work our team leads everyday: managing participant recruitment, volunteers, sponsors, medical clearance, transportation, amazing food, and every other minor detail that goes into hosting an authentic FD experience.
My relationship with First Descents has grown over the years, and I am humbled and honored to join the family full-time!  Outside of work, I own a house in northwest Denver and enjoy many of the outdoor activities Colorado has to offer.  I try to involve my dog, “Sloan Dawg Millionaire”, in my life as much as possible.
Thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to hopefully meeting many of you in the coming year and hopefully at the FD Ball!
Ryan O’Donoghue

Eddy Flower Vertical Challenge!

I’m guessing you don’t need an excuse to paddle this spring, but in case you did, here ya go!

EddyFlower proudly presents the fourth annual “EddyFlower Vertical Challenge”. The competition is simple: you and your paddling buddies drop as much vertical as possible in 32 days and, to give your paddling purpose, the challenge involves raising funds for young adults with cancer. At the end of the event, the team in each division with the most vertical feet is crowned champion.

-It opens at sunrise May 15 and closes sunset June 15.
– Open to all paddlers (kayakers, rafters, canoers, riverboarders).
– Compete for prizes in one of six divisions (Open, Class V, Class IV, Class III, Weekend Warrior, Womens) that best match your team’s skill level.
– Donations raised go to First Descents a kayaking camp for young adults with cancer.

The EddyFlower Vertical Challenge was a HUGE success in 2009.  Here are some of the results from the event.
– $34,424 funds raised for First Descents
– 1,182,276 vertical feet paddled equal 40 sea to summit on Mt. Everest
– 43 teams from 13 states
– 182 competitors
– $15,000 in prizes
– 1389 eligible runs in 31 states

Event Details: http://www.eddyflower.com/EventDetail.aspx?EventId=54
First Descents: http://www.firstdescents.org/

Please tell your friends about this event by posting this link to your facebook page and encouraging them to join you! http://www.eddyflower.com/EventDetail.aspx?EventId=54


It’s with a bitter sweet taste in my mouth that I write this entry.  We recently wrapped up our 1st camp of the season in Moab, Utah.  The bitter part is that it’s over.  The sweet part is that it was AMAZING!  There really aren’t words to describe the magic of that place, the power of the rock, the energy of the participants and the support and knowledge of the guides.

Moab marked many more “firsts” for First Descents.  It was the first time we tried that location and focused on technical vertical wall climbing.  Both left us breathless for two very different reasons.  The routes up the rock walls were as challenging as we wanted them to be and the sunsets were unlike any I have ever seen.  Speaking of “firsts”, on the last day, we did some HUGE rappels, the second of which was off a natural rock arch.  I’m still shaking.

One of the other firsts was working with CMS guides.  They proved to not only be incredible on the rock but embodied and carried the FD spirit off the rock.  It was a seamless partnership and one that we’re excited to build on this year in Estes.

Thank you to all who have made this dream a reality.  We owe you a huge debt of gratitude!

Finally, if you haven’t already signed up for a camp, I strongly suggest you do.  Estes is filling up quickly and if our Moab program was anything of a sneak preview, you WONT want to miss it!

FD’s SPRINGING Into 2010!

Man oh man!  It feels like just yesterday that we were moving boxes from Vail to Boulder and skiing deep, cold POWDER!  Now the sun is out, cruisers are being dusted off, rivers are running and FD’s programs are about to start up!  That’s right, HERE WE GO!  15 weeks in 5 locations in 4 states… IT’S ON!

Here are some updates that you might be interested in knowing about:

1.  PROGRAMS ARE ALMOST FULL!  Yes, you read correctly.  We only have spots left for our climbing programs in Rocky Mountain National Park this late summer/early fall.  We are hosting 4 weeks of mountaineering at this new location in partnership with Colorado Mountain School.  They promise to be EPIC experiences and will quickly become one of our flagship locations so FILL OUT YOUR APPLICATION TODAY if you want a spot cause they wont last long!

Here is a pic from the area of the programs just in case you actually needed persuading.  🙂 There are also new pics from previous mountaineering programs up on the main FD programs page


2.  Rebekah Koenigbauer has officially started as First Descents’ Director of Marketing!  Rebekah has her MSW and has spent a majority of her life volunteering for great organizations.  We’re STOKED to have her on board and looking forward to introducing all of you at some point.

3.  TEAM FD has it’s new site up.  Please click HERE to pick your challenge, set up your team and start fundraising!

4.  The 4th annual FD Ball is almost here and seats are going fast!  This year promises to be the best yet with amazing auction items, Funk-if-I-know playing insanely fun tunes that will make it hard to sit down, speeches by participants, an open bar, dinner by spago and more!  Click HERE to get your tickets NOW!

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for more news, opportunities, updates, stories and pictures!  Stoked for 2010.  See you out there!

Brad Ludden
Founder/Chief Mission Officer