Board of Directors
Brad (aka Daril, Biff, Bud, B) was born in Wyoming and raised in Northwest Montana. He spent his days in the outdoors with his family hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, skiing and, of course, kayaking. Of all his passions, kayaking caught his eye the most. His parents gave him his first kayak when he was 9 and at age 12 he was traveling and competing internationally. By 18 he had kayaking in over 20 countries and found his true passion within the sport, first descents. A first descent is the first time a person successfully kayaks a river or section of river that has never been done. Through his first descents he found immense challenge, adventure, community and personal growth.
Cancer went from being just some random word to something very personal when he was 12 and his Aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38. After watching her endure cancer and seeing how little support there was available to her, Brad started volunteering for a local pediatric oncology program by teaching the participants how to kayak. He fell in love with it and decided it was time to do more so at 18, he started working on an organization that would soon become “First Descents”. Its goal- to help young adults like his Aunt by giving them the life changing experience of kayaking. “I wanted to recreate the experience of a ‘first descent’, that had so greatly impacted my life, for people like my aunt who really needed it. Even though thousands of people have been down the rivers they’re kayaking at camp, it’s still the FIRST time they’ve been down it and that’s the magic of FD!”
Brad continues to kayak professionally for Teva, Dagger, AT Paddles, Kokatat and Smith Optics and still pursues his own adventures on rivers around the world when he’s not passionately working with and for First Descents.
Brad has 25 years experience in real estate and real estate transactions. He is the Chairman & CEO of Ark Partners and Ark Real Estate Partners, which are the principal owners, operators and capital investors in various real estate interests throughout the United States and Canada. He is also the Chairman of Willow Hotels a full-service management company specializing in boutique and lifestyle hotel properties. Brad serves on the boards of Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York and First Descents.
Brent Goldstein – Board Chairman
Brent Goldstein is a principal and co-founder of Avanti Capital LLC, a Rockville, Maryland-based company that structures, organizes and raises private equity and debt for real estate acquisitions and venture capital investments. Brent is a 1989 graduate of Colgate University and a 1993 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center. Brent lives in Rockville,Maryland with his wife Lisa and three daughters, Daryn (18), Arlyn (14) and Bailey (12), a Lhasa-Poo named Simba and a Golden-Doodle named Dexter. He is an avid biker (road and mountain), golfer, hockey player, hiker and skier. In September 2006, Brent was challenged by the late First Descents Executive Director, Allan Goldberg, to compete in the Leadville Trail 100 mountain-bike race. The Leadville 100 is a one-day, 104-mile endurance mountain-bike race starting in Leadville, Colorado at 10,200 feet of altitude with aggregate ascents of nearly 14,000 feet. As Allan was about to compete in his own version of the Leadville 100 in the form of chemo and radiation treatments for cancer, Brent accepted the challenge, enlisted some fellow bikers and turned the event into a fundraiser for First Descents. In August 2007, Brent battled exhaustion and severe cramping to complete his first Leadville 100 in just over 11 hours. More importantly, he and his “Team First Descents” buddies succeeded in using the race to raise over $85,000 for First Descents. Since then, he has completed the Leadville 100 another 6 times (recently earning his first coveted gold belt buckle awarded for a sub-9 hour finish) and has used the race to raise an additional $500,000+ for First Descents. Brent is thrilled that the Leadville team fundraising effort has become the blueprint for the current Team First Descents concept.
Debbie King Ford
Being both a cancer survivor and an outdoor enthusiast, Debbie is honored to be involved with an organization that uses outdoor adventure experiences as a means of empowering young adults with cancer. Debbie has managed to turn a negative into a positive by becoming involved with various cancer related organizations since my diagnosis. Of special note is her involvement with The Shaw Outreach Team and the subsequent opening of “Jacks Place” the cancer caring house at the Shaw regional Cancer Center in Edwards, CO.
After graduating from college in Boulder Colorado, Debbie made her way to Vail and ended up as a sales rep for ski apparel lines, a job she has enjoyed and pursued right up to the present day. Skiing was and is an integral part of her lifestyle – but really, she loves all outdoor sports.
Debbie is excited to be given the opportunity to bring to First Descents her passion for helping young adult cancer fighters and survivors. She knows from experience how challenging and rewarding such experiences can be for all involved. Prior to be appointed to the Board of Directors, Debbie was involved with First Descents as a donor, a volunteer, and a Team FD participant. Her wonderful husband Rob, has been very supportive in all of these endeavors!
Eva Ho currently is the VP of Marketing and Operations at Factual, an open data platform that leverages large-scale aggregation and community exchange. She also serves as the Executive Director of Whole Child LA, a non-profit pediatric pain clinic, and on the Board of Iridescent, a science education non-profit. Prior, she was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Google and Youtube for 5 years. Prior to Google, Eva was the head of marketing for Applied Semantics, a company that was sold to Google in 2003. Additional past employers include The Wilkerson Group, Procter & Gamble and IBM. Eva holds an MBA from the Cornell University Johnson School of Management as well as an AB in Biology from Harvard University.
Jennifer is an advisor to non-profit organizations, as well as start-ups and major media companies. She also sits on the national Board of Trustees for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
Prior to being an independent advisor, Jennifer was at Google, Inc. She joined Google in 2002 and negotiated some of Google’s first and largest search and advertising deals. She then conceived of the idea for Google Video, which launched in 2005, and she managed the business side of the product including the content partnership team. Jennifer joined Google from AOL Time Warner’s strategic development group. Prior to AOL, Jennifer worked in Hollywood in theatrical business affairs where she put together movie deals at Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures as well as Morgan Creek Productions. She began her career as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Jennifer holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from Duke University. Prior to law school, she received a Henry Luce Scholarship and spent a year in Malaysia fighting against the mandatory death sentence for marijuana trafficking.
Jennifer is beyond passionate about First Descents. She participated in a 2011 kayaking camp. Not only did she leave camp knowing how committed she was to FD, but with a renewed sense of life and an openness to what life presents to each of us.
Joel has been an entrepreneur and business manager most of his life. After attending Claremont McKenna College and Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Joel worked at the Quaker Oats Company for 8 years. He then founded Orange Glo International, the inventors of Orange Glo, OxiClean, and Kaboom, with his parents. Joel and his family sold Orange Glo to Church & Dwight/Arm & Hammer in 2006. A year later Joel co-founded FullBar and Brainetics, two consumer products companies that distribute their products through retailers across North America. Joel has two kids, loves the outdoors, and has tremendous passion for personal and spiritual growth.
Born and raised in Colorado, Josh spent his childhood immersed in the experience of the outdoors. Skiing, camping, hunting and fishing were among the activities that served as the median in which Josh grew to love everything the wilderness had to offer. After graduating from Miami University with degrees in finance and entrepreneurship, Josh quickly returned to Colorado and began his real estate career, most recently working as a broker with Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty.
In 2010, Josh was introduced to First Descents. Ironically, cancer struck Josh’s family again earlier that year, when his dad, the person who largely introduced him to the outdoors, was diagnosed. The combination of these two events helped seal an immediate bond between Josh and First Descents. Over the past few years, Josh has enjoyed growing personally and increasing his participation with First Descents. As he said, “I feel lucky to be able to help further this truly essential cause by introducing First Descent’s mission to an incredible group of friends and clients that I’ve developed through a lifetime in Colorado”.
Larry is an emergency physician who practices in Washington state and has volunteered for First Descents since 2006. He is a cancer survivor and currently lives with his wife in the North Cascades town of Mazama, Washington. Originally from the Midwest, they bounced around the globe with the military for a few years before finally finding a suitable place to indulge their interests in various mountain sports and other outdoor pursuits.
It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Rochelle (aka “Hefty”) this year. Her dedication to helping others, her adventurous spirit, and sense of humor were infectious, and we will miss her dearly.
After her first battle with breast cancer, Rochelle became a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. She later founded Sharsheret, a national not-for-profit organization that has provided support and resources for young women facing breast cancer since 2001.
In 2009, Rochelle joined First Descents for her first kayaking adventure and later participated as a camper in FD programs across the country. Hefty’s commitment to FD and the cancer community as a whole was immeasurable and she will forever be a part of the FD family.