It Takes a Village

By: Anna Wallace

“It takes a village to bring our mission to life. We rely on the skills, experience and insights of our partners to innovate and evolve our mission over time”

– Ryan “Wolf” O’Donoghue, First Descents’ CEO

We recently sat down with Ryan and The Public Works co-founder, Mike “ChiZZle” Arzt, to learn more about the powerful impact this partnership has had over the years.

In 2015, Ryan was invited to join a trip in Canada with CMH at their Bobbie Burns Lodge as part of an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) group. Throughout the week, a growing partnership emerged between a number of people including Mike Arzt and The Public Works.

“When I got my first dose of First Descents, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I was in the backcountry of Canada with Ryan O’Donoghue and he spoke to the group about FD’s mission. From that point on, I was all in. I returned from that trip and immediately signed myself, and my parents, up to volunteer on our first FD program” said Mike Arzt, co-founder of The Public Works.  

EO business group at CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge learning from Ryan O’Donoghue and professional skier, Chris Davenport.
CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge where this relationship first began.
Photo credit CMH/Arzt
Ryan O’Donoghue and crew shredding at CMH.
Photo credit: CMH/Arzt

The Public Works is a unique group of creatives that loves working with brands to amplify their stories through the use of cameras and custom built brand experiences. “So much in this world has changed towards brand storytelling vs. product marketing – people want to believe in the companies they support. For our crew, we really love trying to tell those stories in the best possible way” said Arzt.

After Arzt volunteered with us on a week-long white-water kayaking program in Tarkio, MT in 2017, he was eager to find every opportunity to support from a business side too. Since then, we’ve forged a strong partnership with The Public Works engaging on multiple levels.

Mike Arzt and his father volunteering on their first FD program in Tarkio, MT

Mike and his team at The Public Works have been involved with some of the most innovative initiatives that we have explored over the years including our MS pilot program in Tarkio, MT and one of our most adventure forward annual events, the Silverton Shred, now going into its 6th year. Over the years, the partnership has evolved in a number of ways. The Public Works staff have joined us on programs as volunteers, we’ve continued to build the Silverton Shred event together, and now we are in the same office building which has led to all sorts of beautiful collaborations. 

Ryan noted, “They make the hard stuff fun and they aren’t afraid to tackle never done before projects. That aligns so well with FD’s core values, mainly in the area of adventure. We are always adventuring into new terrain with them and exploring what’s just beyond what we thought was possible. We are incredibly values aligned which is what I love about our partnership.”

In addition to all the value The Public Works brings to the partnership in terms of creativity, content creation and media expertise, they have inspired a lot of new ideas and brought a lot of other partnerships to the table – including THOR Industries. 

“The storytelling of these philanthropic endeavors are super important, but it’s also really critical that it gets told in the right way. On the first call with THOR Industries and FD – the #1 concern for THOR was that they were bringing value to the relationship and not drawing from it. For The Public Works, it’s been fun being able to be in the mix to help connect those relationships” said Arzt.


Silverton Shred
Tarkio, MT
Mike Arzt, The Public Works co-founder
Photo Credit: Alison “Glorious” Ziebell

Arzt noted, “The work we’ve been able to do with FD has been some of the most rewarding professionally, emotionally and motivationally. We found this beautiful way to uplift FD’s mission, bring clients in and still find the right model to get paid doing our work. It’s this awesome circle of energy and stoke that we want to repeat as much as we can.” 

It’s impactful partnerships like this that help us push the boundaries of what is possible and allows us to serve more young adults impacted by cancer or MS. Looking to the future of this partnership, we’re excited to continue creating new, fun experiences that engage people in ways that otherwise can’t be done without the expertise of The Public Works. 

“If Blackfoot and Silverton are two of the best things we’ve done, I want to figure out what the next bigger and better thing is. Something 10x more uplifting and impactful for the people we are serving” said Arzt.

About The Public Works

The Public Works is a Denver-based company made up of a unique group of creatives that loves working with brands to amplify their stories through custom built brand experiences.

The Public Works will represent your brand with their photography & videography services to a professional industry grade standard, and have fun doing so. Plus, their multifaceted fabrication team can provide custom value from CNC machining, 3D printing, laser engraving, custom wood builds and much more.

To learn more about The Public Works and connect with the team, head to https://www.thepublicworks.biz/ or reach out to [email protected].

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