First Descents on OUTSIDE’s ‘50 Best Places to Work’ List

By: Kyle "Rescue" Wagner

OUTSIDE magazine has confirmed what employees at First Descents already knew: This nonprofit that provides life-changing and healing outdoor adventures for young adults diagnosed with cancer and MS, their caregivers and healthcare workers is one of the top places to work in the country.

“These are the companies that have gone above and beyond to keep their employees happy, while also encouraging them to pursue their outdoor passions,” OUTSIDE said in its announcement.

“At First Descents, we believe that listening to our community informs our ability to help heal, empower and deepen connections with those we serve. This approach extends to our employees, a compassionate and driven team who make our life-giving work possible,” said Ryan O’Donoghue, CEO of First Descents. “The courage, vulnerability and resilience of our participants motivates us to lean in with purpose and passion, and reminds us that ‘Out Living It’ is more than a tagline – it’s a way of life.”

Awarded annually and in conjunction with the Outdoor Industry Association, the 50 Best Places to Work designation recognizes companies that demonstrate excellence in employee engagement and wellness. The winning companies are those that value productivity in combination with an active, eco-conscious lifestyle, for a fulfilling experience inside and outside the office. This is OUTSIDE’s 16th year providing the Best Places to Work.

At First Descents, every member of the tight-knit and dedicated staff has the opportunity to attend a weeklong program annually – such as kayaking in Rogue River, Ore., surfing in Outer Banks, N.C., or rock climbing in Moab – which is paid time off that gives staffers the full experience of the nonprofit’s mission. In addition, employees receive a generous healthcare plan with 100 percent employer-paid coverage, as well as 25 days of PTO, and one floating holiday and one personal day off, allowing for last-minute adventures of their own choosing. A flexible work-remote policy and a laid-back, dog-friendly office contribute to the pervasive work-life balance, which is enhanced by monthly stipends that can be put toward a fitness center membership, home WiFi and cell phone coverage.

One of only three nonprofits to receive the recognition from OUTSIDE, First Descents is also honored to be among the 27 Colorado companies named in the 50 Best Places to Work. This is the seventh year in a row that First Descents has been recognized by OUTSIDE as an exceptional workplace – in 2017, 2019 and 2020, FD was named as one of the top 100 companies to work for from across the United States.

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