FDtributaries FDfix Colorado

1554422_10152365150109570_7958371197577708308_nThe snow was falling but spirits were high. The first ever FDfix was underway and 15 smiling faces showed up for what was to be a truly epic weekend. Fighters and survivors, rocks, volunteers and staffers came together to spend a weekend in the Colorado backcountry April 20-22nd. Our 2.75 mile hike in was breathtakingly beautiful and the crew hustled in to get to the amazing Shrine Mountain Huts.

After everyone settled and had some lunch, we headed out to a nearby open area for our first intro to avalanche safety training with the one and only “Spare Parts” or “Sparts”. Sparts is one of our talented climbing guides with Colorado Mountain School who help run our Estes Park and Moab rock climbing programs. Everyone enjoyed learning how to use a beacon, probe, and how to shovel properly.  Day one wrapped up with a delicious fajita dinner, drinks and laughs.

Day two began, and this was guaranteed to be an adventure. Sparks, Sweet D, and Wolf took the group on a hike up the nearby Shrine Mountain ridge. We stopped mid-day for avalanche lesson #2. After our lesson we hiked up the ridge, ate our lunches and took in the absolutely stunning view. A few of us were on skis, some on snowshoes so as the skiers went back down the mountain, the rest of us hopped in a sled!

The final evening wrapped up with a great game of Cards Against Humanity and a chili dinner. There’s something unexplainable about the inevitable bonds that form at an FD program, and it’s amazing to see that in just a two-day period, the same can be achieved. Although none of us knew each other prior, we all walked away feeling like we had just added 14 new people to our FD family.

Overall the first annual FDfix was a success,  filled with challenge, community, humor and humility. Thank you to everyone who participated! We’ll see you on the next adventure.

And if you haven’t seen the photos yet, check out our FDtributaries Facebook album!

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.

FD’s First Winter Program Report- Ouray Ice Climbing

The 2014 programs season has begun, and on ice no less! It was on this beautiful, thick blue ice that 10 returning First Descents participants Trese, Wonder Pants, Big Red, Navigator, Hulk, One-Wheel, Jeff, Hoover, Carin, and Kones accepted the challenge of conquering the frozen waters at the first ever First Descent Winter Program. They spent the week in the cozy mountain town of Ouray, CO being supported by an incredibly talented and dedicated volunteer staff Kerby, Switch and Irish Dancer. Their bodies were fueled with food prepared by some of First Descents finest chefs, Antelope Jamboree and Camomile. Led by the dynamic duo of Patch and Wildflower, this program shaped up to be one for the ages.

The amazing guides from the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, Book, KaPow, Muggsy, and Indiana spent early (cold) mornings hanging ropes in preparation for the ice ax swinging, crampon crushing send fest that spanned three days in the Ouray Ice Park. Split into teams of three, under the watchful eyes of the guides,  the assault on the ice was relentless. Not a single person backed down from any climb that was in front of them. No matter how tall the ice wall was or how tired their bodies were, they found their way to the top!

Their triumphs on the ice were only matched by the infectious positive energy and roaring laughter that could be heard though the Ouray valley as these incredible young adult survivors forged friendships that will last a lifetime. I am forever grateful to have been able to share this experience with this remarkable group of people!

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 9.39.43 AMScreen Shot 2014-03-14 at 9.40.01 AM

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

9 Reasons To Try Rock Climbing This Year

Not into our 10 reasons to try whitewater kayaking this year? Maybe rocks are more your style. Wildflower and Lucy came up with 9 reasons why you should find out.

1. Get a birds eye view of the world…from the side of a cliff.
Life can’t become much clearer than this.

©TonyCzech-7728 (1)
2. It’s just not normal.
We’re creatures of the ground. We don’t have sticky feet like lizards, or hooves like mountain goats to scale the side of the mountain. But we were smart enough to invent equipment so we can scale the side of a mountain. So we do. Who wants to be normal, anyway?

3. Your selfies just got so much better, dangling from 400ft. above the ground below.
#SOhigh #SOrad #OutLivingIt

4. Get SUPER HIGH on rocks.
The natural kind. Like the ones that Mother Nature created.

5. Learn to take life One Step and/or One Hand hold at a time.
That’s how you’ll get to the top.

©TonyCzech-7862 (1)
6. Grab a hand full of jugs!
Minds out of the gutter, pervs. These are jugs:

7. Laugh at all your friend’s wedgies.
Cause really, they’re inevitable in a climbing harness. Two thumbs up!

8. Because you’re afraid of heights.
Overcome your fears. Or at least try. You will never regret it.

©TonyCzech-7978 (1)
9. Because rock climbing is so much sicker than cancer.


FDtributaries CO Report- Breckenfest

This past weekend, 10 alumni, 3 rocks, 3 Base Campers and 2 FD staff braved the weather and traffic on I-70 for the first FDtribs event of 2014. And it was absolutely worth it. Snowflakes fell all weekend for a total of over 20″ in two days. We spent all day Saturday skiing and riding Breckenridge. And our new Executive Director, Wolf, proved he’s the leader of the wolf pack when he and Beast danced the jig to an Irish cover band in front of a packed bar during apres-hour. The whole crew spent the evening bunked up at The Bivvi – an upscale yet budget friendly hostel in town – feasting on Flatbreads pizza and hanging out around the fire – a few rowdy rounds of Cards Against Humanity may have been involved. It was an awesome weekend of FD adventure and community.
Much FD love,
Julie “Fruit Boots” Kinamore
In 2014, FDtrib events will be happening in Colorado, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Austin, Chicago, Orlando, Knoxville, DC, NYC, and Boston. Contact Fruit Boots for more information, julie.kinamore@firstdescents.org.

FDhealthy: Healing a Damaged Metabolism

This article was originally published on MindBodyGreen.com by Tamara Jacobi of Jungle Girl Health.

It is a great example of when assumingly healthy, athletic people are actually heading down a slow path to disease.



Being athletic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. I used to run for miles, restrict my caloric intake, and eat as little fat as possible. Then I’d do it all over again the next day.

The result?

Though I appeared fit and healthy, I’d actually destroyed my metabolism. By slingshotting my body into a cycle of stress-and-starvation, I had committed metabolic suicide. Due to regularly over-exercising and under-nourishing, my body was releasing a hormone called cortisol (the “fight or flight” response to prolonged stress), which prompts the body to store fat and triggers a drop in metabolism.

Not only was maintaining a healthy weight next to impossible, the scale was reading higher and higher numbers, my knees were aching, and I could feel my panic level rising.  I’d also set myself up for low energy, a lowered immune system, crazy food cravings, and very confused hormones.

Luckily, holistic nutrition has come to my rescue! A yoga retreat leader noticed my

distress and sat me down for my first holistic nutrition consultation. I quickly discovered that in order to get my athletic body back on track, I needed to embrace an entirely new perspective on balanced fitness and proper sports nutrition.

Healing my metabolism by re-wiring my brain and my body has been a long, challenging process. Simply eating quality, nutritious foods wasn’t enough.

Here are few key things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me emerge from a very deep metabolic rut.  These 4 simple tools can help you support your body and regain a healthy metabolism:

Focus on high intensity exercise. Those 10 milers that I used to run on a regular basis? Not a good idea! Alternatively, shorter sessions of high intensity, even for a short time (think high knees and sprints), do wonders for a healthy metabolism. High intensity exercise prompts your body to condition itself for max performance by burning your body’s stores of sugar and fat for up to 36 hours after your workout. After a high intensity session, I can practically feel my metabolism humming along.

Integrate regular yoga and strength training. Balanced muscle tone is key for a healthy metabolism and a healthy athletic body. More athletic styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa, strengthen and tone a range of muscles. (You know the poses that make your muscles burn? Those!) Integrating light weights into your fitness routine (up to 3 pounds for ladies, and up to 10 pounds for guys) is also a great way to promote muscle tone. You don’t necessarily need to bulk up (unless you want to), gentle toning is generally enough. In addition to being great for a healthy metabolism, strength training is also essential to bone health.

Count nutrients, not calories! The first thing I used to do when looking at a packaged sports drink, energy bar or diet food was zoom in on the calorie content. I’ve since learned that the ingredient list offers much more valuable information. Though calories are important, athletes need to shift their focus to the nutrient density of the foods they’re consuming. In fact, it’s a good idea to move away from packaged sports nutrition products altogether! There are so many amazing whole food options out there.

Enjoy healthy fats. I used to suffer from what I call fat phobia. Fat in foods meant fat on my body, or so I thought. It’s now fairly common knowledge that this isn’t necessarily the case! Particularly for athletes, healthy fats are not only essential for a healthy metabolism, they’re also vital to reducing inflammation, keeping energy levels high, balancing hormones, and more. I’ve had to re-wire my thinking around fats and I’m glad that I did! My favorites include avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds!

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

The Must Have/Wish List For Your New Sport: Whitewater Kayaking!

Now that you’ve decided to try kayaking this year, here’s a list of the gear you’re going to need


1. Kayak – Brad Ludden Founder of First Descents Paddles Dagger Kayaks – you should too! Hint – buy used: Craigslist, Gear shops that have gear swaps, or Brad Ludden.

brad in dagger
2. Paddle- Straight Shaft or Bent Shaft. Find one that is your size. A lot of technology has gone into making paddles – for the beginner however, find one that you don’t mind watching float down the river after you swim is the best. Hint check Craigslist


3. Skirt – Skirts are everywhere and used ones work just fine. Follow Wildflower’s advice and only paddle with skirts that are FREE or check Craigslist or used gear shops for good deals on skirts.


4. Helmet – Get a NEW whitewater helmet because you never know the condition of a used Helmet. Check out the First Descents Edition Helmet at WRSI. We think it’s pretty rad.


5. Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – or life jacket. Get a NEW whitewater type 3 or 5 PFD. Just like the helmet you never know the condition of used PFD’s. Astrall and Stohlquist are among the favorites around First Descents.


THE 5 KAYAKING WISH LIST ITEMS- not a necessity, but would be good to have.

1.  Base Layers – Fleece or polypropylene material make for great base layers. NO COTTON ON THE RIVER. You can spend top dollar for name brand fleece or go the cheap smart way and raid your local thrift shop. We are talking $50+ compared to $2, people. These keep you warm and go under the next thing on the list.


2. Dry Top or Dry Suit – Dry Tops make flipping over a more enjoyable experience. Dry Suits are the Cats Meow if you know what we mean!! Kokatat dry tops and dry suits are top notch! And don’t forget, mango looks good on everyone.

dry suit

3. Booties – Whitewater booties are great! They protect your feet from the rocks and other things in the river. They also make a great cup for your beer after your swim! (see next two photos)

flower booty bear

4. Throw Rope- You should always have one of these in your boat and learn how to throw it correctly, your friends will thank you.

throw rope
5. GoPro – Because how else are we going to know when you drop your first waterfall….or more importantly when you take a swim and watch all you new kayaking gear float down the river! (see photo above).

So now you’re geared up and ready to go! But before you do… there’s one last thing you should know. Brown claw.

brown claw

20 Ways To Be Inspirational

Just in time for the New Year…“20 Ways to Be Inspirational”…something to think about for adding more positivity to our lives for the New Year! 

(Article from elephantjournal.com)

inspirational photo

What if we were to live each day as a new day, with the belief that anything is possible?

On any given day, we look to certain people or places for inspiration. We gather up ubiquitous quotes and sing songs that speak to our souls, or scroll through bookmarked websites with a mass index of articles to put us in a motivating mood. Have you ever wondered how those quotes and songs were written? Or how the mere essence which permeates from certain people—simply living their lives—can be intoxicatingly influential?

We are envious and ask ourselves, “How can I be like them?”

We should never compare ourselves to one another, but for those of us who are seeking to be inspirational or positively infectious, here are 20 things that can be integrated into our daily activities:

1. Smile! Not only does it show optimism, but it gives people the warm and fuzzies. Even to strangers walking on the street; they could be having a terrible day, or a mediocre one. We can brighten a single moment with our pearly whites.

2. Listen to others. This one is hard for some people because it’s easy to get excited and interject when we have something to add to the conversation. Wait for someone to finish speaking, whether in a group or solo session. They will feel appreciated and heard, which may inspire them to do the same for someone else.

3. Be kind to someone. It’s easy to do something nice for a loved one, but what about extending a helping hand to someone that really needs it? This can be difficult as most of us expect something in return, even if it’s just a thank you. Do a random act of kindness for an individual (maybe even a stranger) and don’t expect anything in return.

4. Open a door for a stranger. Chivalry is not lost and doing something as small as holding the door of an elevator can remind people of this.

5. Exude confidence. To the bold men and women who own who they are and what they do, you are inspiring. We can embrace confidence in ourselves by acceptance and love of our minds, bodies and souls because it truly shows.

6. Be proactive with being happy. Happiness is extremely overlooked. People depend on someone or something to make them happy, but it can be lost after a moment.

We must figure out what it is in life that brings us pure and honest joy. This could be an activity, hobby or employment. Whatever it is, search for it high and low. What better way to be inspiring than creating our own happiness?

7. Laugh! Laughter is infectious. Once we find humor in something, it’s hard for our surroundings to not be drawn into the hilarity of the moment. Laughter is a great reminder of happiness and just makes people feel good.

8. Try something new. Get out there and do something you’ve always wanted to do or never thought you could! Showing our adventurous side can give a small nudge of motivation to others—who were perhaps too afraid—to do the same.

9. Be vulnerable. It’s scary, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a million emotions to be vulnerable, which is why a lot of people tend to shy away from it. However, opening up and expressing feelings that are so close to our heart is inspirational and radiates strength in who we are.

10. Stand up for our beliefs. This is a pretty common way to inspire people. To try and make a difference by voicing our opinion and morals takes courage. People sometimes run away from controversy or don’t think they alone can be influential.

11. Take charge of your life. We all get lost at one point or another, but some of us never find our way back to center. Realizing we need help or want to make a change is incredibly inspiring, as so many of us can get stuck and not find the motivation to get out. Taking the necessary steps to get our lives back in control is uplifting and a great example to those who want to do the same.

12. Be genuine. We are unique; each and every one of us. Don’t conform to society  just to feel accepted. It isn’t being truthful to ourselves or to the world.

13. Fall in and out of love and then back again. Heartbreak is given a bad connotation because, well, it means our heart is broken. It’s sadness, it’s loneliness, it’s unrelenting hopelessness that makes us wonder if we’ll ever find love again. But from heartbreak comes knowledge and growth. We’ve learned to love and we felt the most amazing emotion humans can experience.

To be able to open our hearts and let love in again is something to cherish and makes love only that much more tender. To see someone be strong, overcome their heartache and let the love of another in again is inspiring.

14. Gratitude. Acknowledge what we’ve been given in life and be grateful for every moment. Being grateful  through our words or actions motivates people to look at themselves and be thankful as well.

15. Passion. When someone sees we are putting in hard work and devotion to something, it shows our passion, which—through example—can trigger others to find their desires in life or to work harder at what they love.

16. Have no regrets.  This one is tricky because how do we know if we’ll regret doing something before we do it? It’s not so much that we make the right decisions, but accepting the fact that life happens and mistakes are made. We can all wish we had done something differently, but what will that accomplish?

17. Live in the present. Take advantage of the now. We miss out on so much when we hold on to the past or worry about the future. People who remain in the present embrace life for what it is and seize the moment.

18. Apologize or accept an apology. Whether we were in the wrong or were wrongly scorned, just let it go. By acknowledging we were in the wrong or listening to someone admit their faults, apologies are a form of closure and conscious effort to validate someone’s feelings. We hold onto our pride by holding a grudge. But if we simply let go, now that is inspirational.

19. Bear no judgment. Acceptance is a beautiful thing and society can be so quick to judge. Keep an open mind and be kind. This can lead to so many wonderful ways of life.

20.  Incorporate challenges. We can all get comfortable, which can lead to physical and emotional instability. If we live every day as if it’s a new one and that anything is possible, we will feel so much more accomplished.  By accepting a challenge in different situations, we can acquire so much more in life than if we were to allow ourselves to sit on a plateau.

Being inspirational doesn’t mean we have to be on The New York Times Best Seller list or have our own show on daytime television. As flat out ridiculously awesome as that would be, simple things that improve our well being and happiness are what will truly inspire people.

I encourage everyone to be inspirational today. Believe. That’s inspiration we can count on.