First Descents and KIND



We were overwhelmed by the support and KIND acts we saw on social media supporting #OutLivingIt and First Descents! 38,439 pledged, dedicated, and clicked ‘like’ to show how much FD means to you!

Because of your support KIND will be donating $10,000 to First Descents.

THANK YOU to all of you and especially to KIND!


We love to brag about our alum and their amazing talents – have you noticed??

Most recently, our collective minds were blown when we learned that camper Juliana “Cogs” Carvatt had not only (1) garnered a third-place prize in the Lily Oncology on Canvas Art Competition but (2) donated her $2500 award to First Descents!

According to the Oncology on Canvas press release, “The biennial competition invites residents of the United States and Puerto Rico who have been touched by cancer – patients, family members, friends, caregivers and healthcare providers – to express, through art and narrative, the life-affirming changes that give their cancer journeys meaning.  Winners’ prizes consist of donations made in their name to the cancer-related charities of their choice.  Since Lilly created the competition in 2004, more than 3,600 individuals have submitted artwork and narratives.”

Over at her own blog, Cogs has written about the thrill of winning the prize and what it meant to be able to translate her cancer experience into creative expression.  Take a look at the stunning result:

Kudos to Lily for coordinating such a fantastic competition that benefits worthy cancer charities, and congratulations to Cogs!  We are so proud of you and cannot thank you enough for your generosity.


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!!


The evidence of our campers’ endless energy, creativity and drive just keeps pouring in!

First Descents alum Jon “One Shoe” Wilson has started a non-profit called the AKP (“Always Keep Pedaling”) Foundation, whose mission is to “provide young adults with the means to use adaptive sports to assist, inspire, and energize a comeback from physically altering trauma caused by cancer.”  After losing his leg to cancer in 2006, One Shoe has used kayaking, biking, skiing and other adventures to help achieve his own comeback in life.

One Shoe!!

AKP will hand pick recipients in financial need and work closely with them to match the individual with an appropriate adaptive sport or athletic endeavor and help set specific goals.  Applications are available online and are due by November 16th.

To learn more about AKP, check out a video of One Shoe, and learn how you can be part of the cause, visit their site today!

Amazing stuff, One Shoe!  We are so proud to call you one of our own.


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!!


Two weeks ago, at the United States National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC, our new friends Jonathan and Samantha Miller organized the 2010 USNWC / World Kayak Pro-AM to raise funds for First Descents.  Jonathan and Samantha are avid paddlers who got wind our work and decided they wanted to do something to help our cause.  We never take the effort and enthusiasm of folks like the Millers for granted, so here we offer a giant, FD-sized THANK YOU to them both.

By all accounts, it was a wet, wild day, and when all was said and done, over $1000 was raised for FD – enough to cover the entire cost of a week-long camp for one young adult survivor.

You can read all about the event here and here.  A check out a crazy video from the day below.


First Descents is fortunate to have the support of countless generous donors who give of their time, energy and financial resources to help us run our outdoor adventure programs for young adults with cancer.  Recently, though, we got a glimpse at what might be called FD:  The Next Generation.

Georgia,Teddy and Henry Gutkin, along with their pal Maddie Aptman – all children of First Descents donors – recently decided to set up a good old-fashioned lemonade stand to raise funds for FD.  On a sunny summer’s day, these feisty kids raised $125 for our efforts.  (Now THAT’s a lot of lemonade!)

And cookies, too!

Thanks so much, guys, for your amazing effort!!  Feel free to stop by the FD offices any time and we’ll gladly put you to work.


The evening's menu

On Thursday August 19, two extraordinary but very different forces of nature combined for a magical evening at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch.  The cuisine was courtesy of world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck, and the proceeds all went to First Descents.  Jacqueline Randell, Public Relations Coordinator for the Ritz and a committed FD supporter, kind of blew our minds the day after the event when she offered a moving and deeply felt account of how the evening affected her.  Once again, we see the profound and unexpected ways in which the work of First Descents touches people – even those who aren’t young adult cancer survivors.

We thought it only appropriate to share Jacqueline’s words here, along with the some photos from the evening.

Last night, I had the honor of attending the dinner hosted by Wolfgang Puck and wine-maker Randy Lewis to benefit First Descents at Spago.

Brad and I discussed at some length the true healing power First Descents offers young adults with cancer – its ability to literally cure some of the psycho-social implications of a cancer diagnosis during the prime of one’s life.  To some – to those who have not experienced the effects of that diagnosis, myself included – this might sound like medical jargon.  But I humbly propose to those who have not experienced it, what First Descents offers is really a cure, in a vitally important way.

The personal anecdote to follow may perhaps be trivial compared to the impact of a cancer diagnosis, and I am in no way trying to portray my recent difficulty as equivalent.  I have not walked in a cancer survivor’s shoes, but I want to try to say something meaningful, if only from my own inadequate experience, that will attest to the importance of First Descents and why The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is so proud to support the organization.

Allow me to explain.  I’ve learned that certain things outside of your control can instantaneously and irrevocably change the intended course of your life and, subsequently, the way you see yourself.  Very recently, that has been the sudden – and far from amicable – divorce of my parents.  First, there was shock and anger.  And more recently, something insidious has crept up on me: sadness, an ‘off’ feeling, alienation and, ultimately, a sense of lost identity. This isn’t my family. This isn’t my life.

Lest you think this is a ‘woe is me’ tale, let me continue.  It has been difficult for me to imagine breaking out of this funk.  You want to feel like your old self, you want to shake off that subtle feeling of alienation, but you don’t feel like puzzle pieces of your life quite fit together to paint the whole picture anymore.  Maybe some of you can relate.

Two important things happened last night that for me emphasized the importance of an organization that addresses the emotional and social wounds of a cancer diagnosis.  First, I talked about my own recent sadness, and it helped.  Because even though no one else can navigate the wrinkles of life on your behalf, just having someone listen chips away at that feeling of alienation.

Second, I felt a sense of purpose –of camaraderie and support – as I helped coordinate the evening.  And for those five hours, I felt not like my wounded self but a new, stronger self, helping to achieve something vitally important for First Descents. I imagine camp attendees feel similarly when they first navigate a river on a kayak or climb a seemingly insurmountable mountain, or when they sit around the campfire talking and listening.  Your brave testimonials attest to my belief.

And now I know there’s something truly healing about that accomplishment and companionship because I felt it last night.  My life may never look the way I anticipated, but I felt like me – albeit a new version of myself – in a reassuring and significant way.  Though the wound may never heal completely, I feel more now like I can live with it.  This is my life.  And more importantly – it is your life, and I truly believe First Descents can help cancer survivors take it back with a similar, potent mix of personal achievement and social interaction.

It’s my hope personally – and on behalf of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch and Spago by Wolfgang Puck – that the benefit I gained, and that everyone gained, during last night’s event results in exponentially more benefit to First Descents and the young adults it empowers to find a new, stronger and more hopeful version of themselves.

Sommelier Vanessa Cinti

Spago’s Sous Chef Steve Maline and Executive Chef Mark Ferguson

Stephanie Thompson with First Descents’ Rebekah Koenigbauer and Angela Rossi.


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.


Mary, christening her wheels in the Pacific

Mary Hughes, physical therapist, has just set out to do something extraordinary, all in the name of raising funds and awareness for First Descents.  This past Thursday, she packed up her car and set off, with her mother in tow, to begin a cross-country bike ride spanning 4,000+ miles along the northern border of the United States from Anacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, ME.  That’s right: this gutsy young woman is going to ride her bicycle from one end of the country to the other, with only her mother for support!  What she will hopefully come to realize, though, is that she has countless supporters who are cheering her on and thanking her for what she is doing.

Mary was moved to set off on this remarkable adventure after learning about FD’s work and the challenges faced by the  under-served young adult cancer population which we target.  She’d always wanted to bike cross-country, and decided to take this opportunity – and several months out of her life – to saddle up and pedal for FD.

You can follow Mary’s trek here, and we know she’ll be checking in regularly along the way, sharing inspiration as she winds her way from Washington to Maine.

May the road rise to meet you, Mary!  We will be the wind at your back!