2014 First Descents Ball Recap

The 2014 First Descents Ball
March 29th, 2014


We were blown away by the love and generosity that filled the ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch last weekend!  The most successful First Descents Ball to date, we raised nearly $500,000 to support our adventure programs. Whether it was the warm sunshine and mountain air, the “Mountain Mules” filling custom copper mugs, or the inspiring speeches, we couldn’t be more grateful for the overwhelming support that our guests showed the 50+ fighters and survivors in the room that night, the 600+ participants FD will serve this year, and the approximately 150,000 young adults currently fighting cancer in the USA today.

We kicked off the night by quieting the room down and introducing our guests to the people behind the scenes who make FD possible. FD’s new Executive Director Ryan O’Donoghue spent a little while welcoming the crowd and sharing his vision for the future of the organization. We are so excited to see where First Descents is headed with our new leader paving the way for our team.

We were also so thrilled to have “Mama Pearl”, Susan Krapinski, accept the Out Living It award on behalf of her daughter, Danielle “Smoxy” Krapinski who passed away last May.  Mama Pearl had us captivated and demonstrated that the power of First Descents goes way beyond a week at camp. Her speech was both moving and inspiring, just as we remember Smoxy to be.

A huge shout-out to Team Hardcore who received the Golden Paddle award. They’ve raised more than $60,000 to support First Descents, and sponsored our first climbing program in New Hampshire on behalf of their friend Kristen “Hardcore” Schraven. If you would like to start your own challenge with Team FD, start here!

We’d also like to send a grateful nod to FD Board Member Joel Appel, this year’s recipient of the Horizon Line Award, for his selflessness and generosity for First Descents. Joel has played an integral part in FD’s success and we wouldn’t be where we are today without his support.

If you weren’t able to grab your FD swag from our store, please check it out online and grab a new hoodie, water bottle, or Golden Bear Baci!

Check out our Facebook event  photo album and event video teaser!

A huge THANK YOU to our Event Sponsors

Genentech, Wacky Warriors, Icon Media Direct + Nancy Lazkani, Millennium, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Moda Man, Chad McWhinney, The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, FirstBank, Amanda Precourt, Marc Slatkoff, Brady Dolsen, Bob Allison, Rob Schuham, Morgen Newman & Kayti Sullivan, Gary Rohr, Linda & Adam Lipsius, Rochelle Shoretz, Matthew Cooney & The Ludden Family

A huge THANK YOU to our Vendors & Special Guests
Bespoke Events, Sidney Frank Importing, Big Sky Brewing, Club W, Spring 44, The Principal’s Office, Rocky Mountain Connections, Batter Cupcakes, Moe’s BBQ, Funkiphino, Soul Poles, Jesse Horton, Samantha “Lilo” Mezzina, & Charlene Lanzel Sand Artist

On behalf of all of the alumni and staff at First Descents, we send our love and thanks for your unwavering support year after year.

5th Annual First Descents Climb-a-thon Recap

At the heart of FD’s Climb-a-thon is a mission to bring people together to climb for a cause. The 5th annual Climb-a-thon brought together the FD family with the climbing community for a day of pushing beyond our boundaries, fostering connections with others, and making it possible to send more young adults with cancer on outdoor adventures that give back so much of what cancer tries to take away – our strength, resolve, and spirit.

This year’s Climb-a-thon reached new heights!  One participant climbed 2,150 feet, another did her first lead climb, an 11-year old spent the month of February climbing and raising money for First Descents, two of our participating gyms had 60+ climbers, and many people jumped on the climbing wall for the first time! There were dance parties, belay classes, tutus, prizes, new routes, courageous falls, and cheers of encouragement all around.

 2014 First Descents Climb-a-thon by the Numbers!

1                      FD Custom-Baked Cake

16                    Participating Gyms

61                    Volunteers

6-68                 Age Range of Participants

400+                Climbers

530                  Donations made to First Descents

1,000+             Routes Climbed

30,000+           Dollars Raised for First Descents

 A big thank you to this year’s participating gyms that donated time, space, staff, gear, and energy to this year’s Climb-a-thon:

Boulder Rock Club – Boulder, CO

Brooklyn Boulders – Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Boulders – Somerville, MA

Climb Nashville – Nashville, TN

Climb Time Indy – Indianapolis, IN

Earth Treks Climbing Center – Golden, CO

Edgeworks Climbing – Tacoma, WA

Portland Rock Gym – Portland, OR

River Sports Climbing Center– Knoxville, TN

Rock Spot Climbing – Boston, MA

Rock Spot Climbing – Lincoln, RI

Rockreation – Los Angeles, CA

Planet Granite – SanFrancisco, CA

Sport Rock – Alexandria, VA

Stone Age Rock Gym – Manchester, CT

Wild Walls – Spokane, VA

Facebook album with photos to come! If you have photos to share please email Jenna.Catalona@FirstDescents.org. Thank you!

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80’s ski party recap!

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Neon, hairspray, spandex and rock n’ roll would probably be the best way to describe the 10th Annual 80’s Ski Party! Once again, everyone turned out in their best 80’s style ski gear, ready to party.

As the evening kicked off, That Eighties Band brought down the house with the most memorable 80’s hits and rocked us till wee hours of the morning. Bonfire Brewing kept everyone buzzing with their delicious selection of brews and Denver Pizza Company delivered pizzas all night which disappeared within minutes of hitting the party.

We also want to say thanks to Love Hope Strength for hanging out with us, and thanks to everyone who swabbed to be entered into their bone marrow registry. For more information on their program, check them out here. Some of the US Ski Team athletes also hung out and sold tickets to their Snow Soiree.

We wouldn’t have been able to pull off such a successful evening without ALL of our awesome sponsors. So a huge thank you goes out to Hammonds Candies, The Brad and Kammi Reiss Family, Flylow, Folsom Custom Skis, Polartec, Teva, Smith, Icelantic, and Vail Resorts.

Overall, there were about 480 of us partying the night away, raising right around $12,000 for First Descents! That will send 12 more participants to an FD program, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you again to everyone who joined us and contributed. And we don’t know about you, but we’re already ready for #80ski14!

Check out this awesome Facebook Album with photos from the night.

Party on, party people!

2013 Climb-a-thon: Mission Accomplished!

Team First Descents 4th Annual Climb-a-thon Recap

What a year for our Team First Descents Climb-a-thon! We partnered with 19 climbing gyms across the country and had more than 360 climbers participate this year. From New York City, where Survivor winner Ethan Zohn came out to support our efforts, to Los Angeles, CA where the stars of The Buried Life climbed toward our goal of 70,000 vertical feet, we felt and saw so much support and love for First Descents and we couldn’t be more grateful. We also had the wonderful support of Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill who fueled our climbers with their delicious snacks at our Boulder, CO location.

With everyone’s efforts, the climbers who participated climbed well over 70,000 vertical feet and we raised $24,500. That is enough money to send 24 more participants on the adventure of a lifetime: a First Descents program.  We also couldn’t have had such a successful event without all of our incredible volunteers. So thank you to everyone who came out!

As FD continues to grow and our support continues to expand across the country, we are so excited to see where this organization is headed. If you are interested in participating in another Team First Descents event, and paying it forward, head to our Team First Descents page and register today. Don’t forget that you have the option of joining one of our core events, or creating a unique challenge for yourself.

Be sure to head to our Facebook page to see the awesome pics from Climb-a-thon 2013!

Challenge ON!


This past weekend, over two hundred members of the First Descents family gathered in Lake Needwood Park in Rockville, Maryland to particate in the annual Allan Goldberg Walk for Life.  With Allan’s passing in 2008, First Descents lost not just an Executive Director, but an incredible friend and visionary.  Each year it’s our honor to pay tribute to him as we continue to grow the organization that he loved so much.

As has been the case in years past, it was a gorgeous morning for friends to gather, enjoy the fall air, celebrate Allan’s memory and raise funds for First Descents.  In the end, we raised just short of $15,000!!

A special shout-out to our friends and sponsors at Circa Jewels (scroll down to 10/25 on their blog to see their write-up of the walk!), and many thanks to all who came out.  It’s always a joy to spread some FD love on the East Coast!!


First Descents madness is spreading like wildfire, and next week, there’s a rocking good time to be had in Lenoir City, TN, near Knoxville.  Folk artist Jay Clark will  be performing on Thursday, Aug. 26 as part of i105’s “Sounds of Summer Concert Cruise” series.  The show will take place on the Watts Bar Belle Riverboat while cruising Ft. Loudon Lake. The LIMITED tickets are $20. Ticket prices include hors d’oeuvres, the cruise and the concert. A cash bar will be available for beverages.  And of course, at Jay’s request, proceeds are going to FD!!

We can’t thank Jay enough for naming us as his “charity of choice” for this extremely cool gig.  So, if you’re in Eastern Tennessee, check it out and support the cause while listening to some fabulous music in a gorgeous setting.


Might as well call Thursday, August 19th “First Descents Day,” as we’re thrilled to announce there will be not one but TWO amazing fundraising events going on in the greater Denver area.  First, indulge your sweet tooth at the 3rd annual CANDY FOR A CURE, sponsored by Denver’s Hammond’s Candies.  To raise awareness of cancers affecting women, the folks at Hammond’s will be opening their factory for tours guided by survivors.  There will be tons of other fun stuff going on throughout the day and you’ll even have the chance to sign a PINK FIRETRUCK!  All proceeds will go to FD and the Rocky Mountain Cancer Foundation.

After stuffing yourself silly at Hammond’s, if you still have room, why not head out to the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch for an extraordinary evening of wine and food, hosted by Master Chef Wolfgang Puck and Napa Valley winery owner Randy Lewis? Cocktails at 6 PM, followed by a five-course presentation and wine pairing.  Ten percent of the evening’s proceeds will go to First Descents (and if you stay the night, $20 from your room rate goes to FD, too!)  For more information, visit the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch website.

Let’s eat!!


Please join us to celebrate the memory of Allan Goldberg, who devoted his life to enriching and improving the lives of individuals with cancer.  Help us continue Allan’s vision and the mission of First Descents to improve your own health and the health of others.

Allan Goldberg grew up in the Fox Hills West Community. He survived childhood cancer and went on to become a triathlete and was executive director of First Descents when he lost his second battle with cancer in June, 2008. Allan dedicated his life to helping children and adults cope with cancer and enjoy life in spite of it.

As in years past, the 2010 AMG WALK FOR LIFE will be held in gorgeous Lake Needwood Park in Rockville, MD.  The morning provides a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old friends from the First Descents family, as well as connect with supporters from all around the country.  So mark your calendars now, and look forward to a crisp, colorful fall weekend on the East Coast, honoring Allan’s memory and spreading the FD love.

Camp alum enjoy FD camaraderie at the '09 AMG Walk for Life


Last weekend in Dallas, First Descents volunteers Scott and Anna Ritter hosted a dinner party to celebrate and promote the FD message.  Held at the home of Art and Linda Alexander, the evening provided an opportunity for about 45 FD friends and family to gather over great food and wine in a warm, relaxed setting, and spread the word about the magic and healing that our programs offer to young adult survivors.

Brad and FD Board Member and Executive Director Joel Appel were in the house to provide details on our mission and programs, and guests were treated to a sneak peek at the new trailer for THE RIVER WARD (which is available on You Tube, so share it with your friends!)

Scott shared the story of his own long-standing relationship with FD, and camper alum Bethany “Marhaba” Winsor delivered remarks on her camp experience that totally brought the house down.

It was a fantastic evening filled with FD love, and we are confident that all those in attendance who were learning about us for the first time left with a powerful and lasting impression.

If you or someone you know would be interested in hosting a similar event to promote FD, let us know!