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!

IMG_0150  _MG_47212014-03-01 19.47.14


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!!


One of the greatest rewards for us here at First Descents is witnessing the incredible things our campers do to continue supporting and our work once they return to the “real world.”  In one respect, camp lasts just one short week – in another, we see its effects take root and extend endlessly into the months and years that follow as our alum give of their time and energy to help make sure that the magic of a week of adventure therapy is possible for other young adult cancer fighters and survivors.

Nick “NICKNAME” Raitt, an alum from Utah, recently organized his third annual softball tournament to raise money for First Descents as well as CureSearch, a children’s cancer research organization.  The event was a huge success, and FD volunteers Corey and Lisa Nielsen were in the house to talk up our programs.

NIckname (center) with Lisa and Corey Nielsen

Below is Nickname’s own account of the festivities.

The weekend of September 10 and 11, my family and I hosted our 3rd

Annual Charity Softball Tournament in Salt Lake City to raise money for my

foundation called “WACKY Warriors.” I started WACKY Warriors (Warriors

Against Cancer in Kids and Young Adults) to support two non-profit organizations

I wanted to help receive more funding, one being CureSearch, which focuses

specifically on research for childhood cancer and the other being First Descents

because of the huge impact it made on me as a young adult cancer survivor

three years ago. Softball players get pledges based on runs scored by their team

collectively throughout the tournament.

Friday afternoon started off the tournament with games, as well as a skills

contest for all age groups where the girls competed in pitching, catching, running,

and hitting contests. The winners were given prizes and had their pictures taken

with me and another 17-year old cancer survivor, Shelby. The girl who won

the 16-u pitching contest threw a 63 mph fastball! I was blown away! Early

Saturday morning the double elimination tournament began with teams duking

it out for bragging rights. Corey and Lisa Nielsen even drove out from Colorado

to represent FD and arrived soon after games began and I was so happy to

see them. If you know Corey and Lisa, you know just how awesome they are.

As teams were eliminated, we presented them with “WACKY” t-shirts

as we let them know how awesome it is to see them come out as true warriors

and participate in an event like this and donate to causes that do a lot for kids

and young adults fighting cancer. Corey and Lisa then explained to the

girls what FD was all about and even though most the girls are young, I believe

they truly understood they were making a difference. We saw a lot of parents,

coaches and players get emotional afterwards. It’s obvious cancer affects a lot

of families all around and we have a strong community to support each other.

There were 20 teams in this years’ tournament with three different age

groups: 10 and under, 12 and under, and 16 and under. Like First Descents,

our softball tournament is growing with participants every year and teams

are beginning to make it a scheduled yearly event (in September – National

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month) due to positive response from everyone.

I truly enjoy doing this tournament and look forward to doing it again next year.

I like the fact that we raise awareness about cancer as well as raise money for

good causes while the girls are having a great time competing in the sport they

love. Lots of positive energy!!

Lastly I want to thank Corey and Lisa for coming out to support FD as well

as make me laugh. Also I want to thank FD for the constant support and Brad for

everything he does. I LOVE FD!!