This holiday season, give the gift of adventure

Support First Descents and extend the healing power of adventure to young adults impacted by cancer and multiple sclerosis, caregivers, and healthcare workers.

LEARN MORE

Support HERO RECHARGE and Extend the Healing Power of Adventure to Frontline Healthcare Workers

Join Us Donate

Board of Directors

Debbie King-Ford – Chairperson

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 her 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 being 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!

Dr. Brandon Hayes-Lattin – Vice Chair

Dr. Brandon Hayes-Lattin serves as Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University, and Medical Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program. His clinical background is in the management of hematologic malignancies and the use of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and he is the Clinical Director of the Knight Cancer Institute’s Center for Hematologic Malignancies. As a young adult cancer survivor himself, and a physician caring for many young adults with hematologic malignancies, Dr. Hayes-Lattin has taken a leadership role in the development of the discipline of AYA Oncology. He has served as the Senior Medical Advisor to the LIVESTRONG Foundation, the Chief Medical Officer for Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance, the inaugural Chair of the AYA Committee for SWOG, participated on the expert advisory panel to the Children’s Oncology Group AYA Committee, and was a member of the CDC’s Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women.

Brandon was raised in Northwest Montana and maintains a passion for outdoor adventures. After a youth and collegiate ski racing career, he went on to coach ski racing from the Mitey Mite to the FIS level, and now enjoys heli-skiing each spring out of Thompson Pass in Alaska. His other hobby is cycling, whether that’s riding LA to DC in the Tour of Hope, touring his old stomping grounds in Glacier/Waterton Parks, or commuting to work.

Brandon is honored to bring his love for the outdoors and his expertise in AYA cancers to First Descents.

Alix Berglund – Secretary

Alix was born and raised in New Jersey and received a B.A. from Dartmouth College before moving to Colorado where she has spent the entirety of her adult life. She worked in the non-profit sector before receiving her MBA from the University of Colorado and pursuing a career in the field of finance. That career was interrupted by an incurable cancer diagnosis at the age of 33 which is when she met Allan Goldberg, the Executive Director of FD at the time.

Alix had first gotten sick as a teenage and a three week Outward Bound course in Montana helped her overcome the trauma of that time and reclaim her life. Because of that experience, the mission of First Descents immediately resonated with her and she got involved first as a volunteer, then as a program participant, later as an Alumni Advisory Board member and finally as a member of the Board of Directors. Alix is passionate about helping others experience the healing powers of both outdoor adventure and the comradery of the First Descents community.

Alix lives in Edwards, CO with her husband Hans and together they own and operate Berglund Architects with Hans as the creative genius and Alix making sure he gets paid for it! Having earned a Master’s in Holistic Nutrition after her diagnosis, Alix also works as the Director of Operations for Remission Nutrition where she works with a team of nutrition consultants who educate clients on therapeutic diets, supplement protocols and lifestyle approaches for the prevention and management of cancer. Alix is happiest and feels most alive while recreating in the outdoors hiking, biking, skiing and camping. Alix also serves on the Board of the Walking Mountains Science Center.

Michael Kantor – Treasurer

Michael is a technology entrepreneur who has worked for and helped found a number of companies, most notably InfoSpace, where he was an Executive Officer and instrumental in the company’s successful IPO.  Today, Michael is an advisor and investor in startup companies.

In 2012, Michael and a partner took on a challenge to raise money for First Descents.  They traveled to Chili to climb the world’s highest volcano (Ojos Del Salado), which they did carrying mountain bikes on their backs.  After summiting (22,615 ft) they raced down the mountain and rode over 170 miles to the ocean with the goal of going from Summit to Sea in 24 hours.  They fell just short of reaching the ocean stopping at 1249 feet above sea level for an altitude descent of 21,366 feet in 24 hours, which is believed to be a world record.

Michael is a 1989 Graduate of Syracuse University and lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife Mia and son Max.  Michael is an avid traveler who has visited over 50 countries and all 7 continents, usually in search of outdoor adventure and never without a camera in hand.  Having recently participated in his first FD camp, Michael has witnessed the incredible value that FD brings to young cancer survivors.

 

Brad Ludden – Founder

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.

Larry Smith – Medical Director

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.

Tanum Davis Bohen

"UniKitty"

Tanum Davis Bohen (a.k.a. – UniKitty) is the Founder & Principle of The Bohen Group, LLC, a Silicon Valley-based consulting firm that focuses on Personal & Professional Leadership Development. Tanum is also a Motivational Speaker, CTI Trained Co-Active Coach, Certified Leadership Circle Coach and soon to be Author.

Prior to founding The Bohen Group, LLC, Tanum was the Head of Strategy & Operations for Genentech BioOncology®, a member of the Roche Group. Genentech, Inc. is a leading biotech company that develops and brings to market life-saving medicines for patients with a wide range of cancer diagnosis. Tanum held multiple Sales & Marketing leadership roles within Genentech over her 13-year career.

Before joining Genentech, Tanum was a medical advertising executive in New York City focused on business development and strategic guidance in support of launch & promotional marketing for various pharmaceutical companies. Past employers include Parexel, Quintiles, Thomson Medical and New York Life Insurance Company. Tanum began her career as a research scientist for FMC in Baltimore, MD. Tanum holds a BA in chemistry.

Tanum has been active throughout her entire life – training as a classically trained ballerina for 9 years early on then later participating in 8 marathons, and is currently an avid Bar Method devotee. She was first introduced to First Descents in 2014 on the Yellowstone River. FD staff might recall Tanum “cryaking” on that initial venture on the water but she has since overcome her fears – that’s what ‘Out Living It’ is all about!

Tanum’s passion for the FD Family is undeniable. She is fully committed to supporting patient empowerment and is excited to contribute to the FD mission that helps young adults surviving with cancer connect to an inclusive, loving, encouraging community.

 

Brent Goldstein

Brent Goldstein is a 1989 graduate of Colgate University and a 1993 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.  Brent spent 6+ years in private law practice with the Paley, Rothman law firm in Bethesda where he specialized in corporate, general business, private securities and real estate law.  In late 1999, he took a position as a Vice President-Senior Counsel for the healthcare finance division of Heller Financial. When Heller Financial was acquired by GE Capital in 2001, Brent remained with GE Capital’s healthcare lending division, but switched from a legal function to a business/underwriting/risk management function.  From 1993 through 2002, Brent was also actively involved with Mark Goldstein (through an entity known as Apollo Investments, LLC) in the organizing, structuring and capitalizing of multiple real estate partnerships as well as private business start-ups. 

In February, 2003, Brent left GE Capital to devote his full attention to a growing real estate portfolio, an expanding group of investors and the sourcing and structuring of new real estate transactions and several “one-off” non-real estate green-technology venture capital transactions.  Brent and Mark formed Avanti Capital LLC in February, 2003 to succeed Apollo Investments, LLC as their investment conduit. At the time, Brent also formed Goldstein Legal PC to handle the legal work for the various Avanti and Apollo transactions as well as to perform contract transactional work for clients (business formation and structuring, business and real estate acquisitions, leases, buy-sell agreements, contract review, estate planning, etc.)  Since its formation in early 2003, Avanti Capital LLC has organized or been affiliated with real estate acquisitions (office, multi-family, mini-storage, hotel, office and residential condominium, industrial, industrial-flex, etc.), real estate developments and private companies with fair market values aggregating in excess of $850 million. While most acquisitions occur in the greater Metropolitan Washington D.C./Baltimore area, Avanti has also spearheaded and closed deals in Levittown, PA, Coral Gables, FL, Cherry Hill, NJ, Valley Forge, PA, Greensboro, NC, Richmond, VA, Harrisonburg, VA, Huntington, WV, Meadville, PA, Rehoboth Beach, DE, Greenville, SC, Wilmongton, NC, Jackson, TN and Canton, MI.

Over the course of his adult life, Brent has been very active in philanthropic endeavors.  He served on the National Board of Directors of Maccabi USA from 2000 to 2007 and was Chair of the Washington DC Maccabi USA annual golf fundraiser from 1994 to 2013.  In November, 2013, Brent was among a group of individuals honored by Maccabi USA as a “Legend of the Maccabiah.” Brent also served as Vice President of the Washington DC Chapter of American ORT from 2004 to 2007, a Member of the Board of Directors of the Washington DC Chapter of American ORT from 2002 to 2012 and Chair of the Washington DC American ORT annual golf fundraiser from 1999 through 2012.  He has served on event committees for Capital Camps, Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, and the US Olympic Committee. Finally, Brent served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the First Descents cancer organization (www.firstdescents.org), a national organization that provides outdoor adventure programs (kayaking, rock-climbing, surfing, etc.) for young-adult (ages 18-40) cancer survivors and fighters.  Over the past twelve years, Brent has spearheaded a fundraising campaign that has raised over $1.5Million for First Descents through his annual participation as a competitor in the ultra-endurance Leadville 100 mountain bike race held every August in Leadville, Colorado and his participation and successful completion of  the Tour Divide in the summer of 2018, a 2,700+ mile unsupported mountain-bike race down the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, NM. The Leadville100 is known is one of the most grueling one day mountain bike races in America and the Tour Divide was hailed by Outside Magazine as the “Toughest Bike Race in the World.” Following the Tour Divide, Brent wrote a book about the experience called “Divide and Conquer: 2,731 Miles Out Living It on Two Wheels.”  All proceeds from the sale of the book are for the benefit of First Descents.

Joel Appel

Joel has been an entrepreneur and business manager most of his life. After graduating from 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 with his parents.  The company’s brands included Orange Glo, OxiClean, and Kaboom, which they sold to Church & Dwight/Arm & Hammer in 2006. A year later Joel founded Launch Pad LLC which partners with inventors and entrepreneurs who have created such cool companies as Tortle, Brainetics, FullBar, Base Education, and Sleep For Life.  Joel also sits on the board of the Hoffman Institute.  Joel is married to Tiffany Glucksman Appel, has two kids, loves everything outdoors, and has tremendous passion for personal and spiritual growth…he always wants to be ‘Out LIvin It!’

Michael Gross

Michael has lived in New York City for over 30 years. He has traveled extensively around the world, and loves to explore new places with his wife, and as many of his five children as he can gather. Despite being a city person, Michael has always appreciated the healthy benefits of spending lots of time outdoors, and as a result, has become an avid runner who is always on the lookout for a good marathon. In 2020, Michael will complete his 19th consecutive TCS New York City Marathon.

Michael is a founding partner and managing member of the investment advisor, Solar Capital Partners which manages public and private funds totaling $6.5 billion of capital dedicated to direct lending to U.S. middle market companies. He holds a B.B.A. in accounting from the University of Michigan and an M.M. from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Throughout his adult life to present day, Michael has been a vigorous philanthropist. He currently serves as co-chair of the Mount Sinai Children’s Center Foundation, and has served on the Board of Directors of New York Road Runners for over a decade, playing a vital role in the creation of the first youth running events. Michael also serves on the University of Michigan Ross School Advisory Board, and the Northwestern University Kellogg Global Advisory Board. In 2019 Michael was an honoree at the NYRR Night of Champions, receiving the Civic Champion award.

Susan Rafferty

"Hawk"

After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, Susan “Hawk” Rafferty discovered First Descents by way of attending a rock climbing program in Estes Park, Colorado. That program proved to be the perfect way to cross the bridge from treatment to getting back to living, and since then Susan has attended two FDX (International) programs and has served as a volunteer at three week-long FD programs. She feels strongly that First Descents provided the adventure and community that helped her move from the physical toll of treatment back to an active lifestyle, and she is still in daily contact with many FDers she connected with in the past decade.

Susan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to Colorado to attend Colorado State University. After several years in Chicago post-graduation, she moved back to the Colorado Rockies, and currently resides in Denver. In February of 2019, with ten years professional experience in HR leadership in the public sector, Susan joined McWhinney Real Estate Services as their SVP of People Services. Susan holds a BA in Social Sciences from Colorado State University, an MA in Educational Counseling and an MS in Organizational Leadership and Human Resource Management from Regis University.

One of Susan’s passions is dog rescue. She previously served on the board of directors of Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue. She has fostered over one-hundred Great Danes, and currently has three rescued senior dogs. Susan is excited to be able to serve and give back to the organization that brought such adventure, healing, joy, and community into her cancer journey.

Kip Cross

Kip Cross (aka “Wombat”) has spent the majority of his career working in patient advocacy and corporate philanthropy and currently serves as Director of Customer Engagement for Kite Pharma.

In the course of his professional life, Kip has worked closely alongside numerous nonprofit organizations to ensure that cancer patients and their caregivers have access to education, treatment and resources to ensure quality of care and quality of life. Kip was introduced to First Descents in 2010 and developed an almost instantaneous bond with the organization both professionally and personally. As a native of New Hampshire, Kip grew up in the mountains, on the water, and participating in any sport or activity that brought him outside – a passion he has channeled as a volunteer on numerous FD kayaking trips.

Kip has a BA in Political Science from Skidmore College and an MBA from the University of New Hampshire. He lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Mass with his wife Jessica.

Ben Davis

Ben Davis is a native Coloradoan, a recovering political consultant, a father and husband, a rock climber, mountain biker, and devout believer in live music. Following ten great years at OnSight Public Affairs – a firm he helped found and lead – he left for an opportunity to apply his political experience and skill set to a range of challenges facing communities in the United States in a philanthropic role. At the Wend Collective, he works with an incredible team of partners to deliver on greater sustainability in urban environments, support for high quality journalism, political action on climate change, and many more public endeavors.

At OnSight Public Affairs, he specialized in strategy development, communications, and creative direction. He employed these skills with organizations in the business, sport and political industries to meet their individual goals, working some of Colorado’s highest-profile efforts including GOCO’s Inspire Initiative, the USA Pro Challenge and campaigns for both Senator Mark Udall and Governor John Hickenlooper.

When he’s not working, you can probably find him hanging with his family, climbing at the local crag, riding one of his many bikes through the woods, or shaking a tail feather to the nearest live show.

Rochelle Shoretz – Honorary

It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Rochelle (aka “Hefty”) in 2015. Her dedication to helping others, her adventurous spirit, and sense of humor were infectious, and we will miss her dearly.

After her first diagnosis of 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 a kayaking adventure and later participated 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.

Brad Reiss – Honorary

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.

Josh Behr – Advisory

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”.

Out Living It Blog

READ THE BLOG

Find Your Program

Get Started