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EMP: First Descents Names Ryan O'Donoghue as Executive Director

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First Descents Names Ryan O’Donoghue as Executive Director
Press Release from First Descents

Denver, Colo. First Descents, a non-profit providing outdoor adventure programs for adults with cancer, announces Ryan O'Donoghue as the organization’s new executive director.

Prior to joining First Descents, O'Donoghue worked in development at the LIVESTRONG Foundation, managing individual major gifts, foundation grants and a range of business development opportunities. He remains a member of the Foundation’s Young Leaders Cancer Council. Prior to his career at LIVESTRONG, O’Donoghue led high-performing consulting teams at Accenture and is a graduate of Georgetown University.

“First Descents’ mission is deeply personal to me. I’m excited and honored to take on this important role,” states O’Donoghue. “Thanks to the incredible leadership from founder Brad Ludden, guidance from the board of directors, and the commitment of a talented staff, the organization is positioned to grow its impact.”

First Descents currently serves approximately 550 participants every season through kayaking, surfing and rock climbing programs in 16 states and three countries. The organization provides a wide variety of programming for cancer survivors and also works with caregivers and cancer centers nationwide. In April 2013, First Descents launched urban "Tributaries"- regional communities in major U.S. cities to support alumni back at home. The majority of First Descents programs are provided free of charge.

O’Donoghue is also the founder and chairman of Rise Above It (RAI), a non-profit that raises funds to support adolescents and young adults affected by cancer. O’Donoghue created RAI after his brother was diagnosed with a rare form of head and neck cancer in 2004.

“Since founding First Descents, I feel as though we've spent the past 13 years laying the foundation for large-scale impact and change,” says Brad Ludden. “We've been waiting for the perfect leader to take the reins and guide this organization to its potential. Ryan embodies the very passion and culture that FD stands upon and will no doubt grow our community to reach countless more touched by cancer.”

Ludden will maintain his role as founder of the organization and continue to engage in the day-to-day operations, growth and development of the non-profit.

About First Descents
Founded in 2001, First Descents is a non-profit organization offering young adults (ages 18-39) with cancer a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. For more information on First Descents programming, or how to get involved, head to

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