Board of Directors

Brad Ludden

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 Reiss

Brad has 25 years experience in real estate and real estate transactions. He is the Chairman & CEO of Ark Investment 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.

Corey Nielsen

Before that rambling, desolate, and long bus ride in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia in 1999 when friend and founder of First Descents, Brad Ludden, asked Corey to help him get FD off the ground he was training and racing whitewater kayak slalom with hopes of making the US Olympic Whitewater Team.  Having earned two national championship medals and the honor of coaching at the 1996 Olympic Games, Corey was elated to “pay it forward” and has held First Descents close to his heart ever since.

After a career of racing and public speaking he has become enamored with the mystery and adventure of the both the mountains and the ocean and splits his time with his wife, Googley (a chef and volunteer for FD) between a sailboat on the ocean and a home in the mountains of Durango, Colorado.  He has learned much about life in the deep roots of the mountains (never forget where you came from or who helped get you there) and the vastness of the ocean – surfing and living aboard a pint-size sailboat (the ocean puts it all in perspective so carry a huge dose of humility with you wherever you go.)  However, his greatest lesson and truest inspiration has come from his time with the participants and friends from his 70+ First Descents programs over the years.  ”These people have taught me the true meaning of life – to laugh, to love, and to get out there and simply live.  For this I am eternally grateful.”

David Lee

David Lee is a Founder and Managing Partner of SV Angel, an angel fund with investments in companies such as Twitter, Foursquare, Flipboard, Dropbox and Airbnb. Prior to SV Angel, David was at Baseline Ventures, a leading seed-stage venture firm. He was a founding member of Google’s New Business Development team and led business development at StumbleUpon prior to its sale to eBay. He also was a corporate attorney at leading technology law firms. David has an M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford, where he was a National Science Foundation graduate fellow; a J.D. from NYU; and a B.A. from Johns Hopkins. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.

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

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 Feikin

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 Appel

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.

Josh Behr

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 Smith

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.

Rochelle Shoretz

Rochelle (aka “Hefty”) is a two-time breast cancer survivor and a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. A graduate of Columbia Law School, she served as a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  A dedicated advocate, Rochelle founded Sharsheret, a national not-for-profit organization that has provided support and resources for young women facing breast cancer since 2001.  She serves as a media resource on cancer in young people, and lectures at medical conferences nationwide.

A lover of the outdoors and an avid biker, Rochelle completed the NYC Triathlon last year.  In 2009, Rochelle joined First Descents for her first kayaking adventure and has since participated as a camper in FD programs across the country – most recently in Peru!  She brings to the FD Board extensive experience in nonprofit management, an understanding of alumni dedication, and a deep passion for the incredible programs that have connected cancer survivors to the world in which they are still OUT LIVING IT.