$1M Gift Will Expand Adventure-based Healing Program

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by Mary Chapman |

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First Descents

A $1 million gift from Velocity Global will help expand First Descents, an adventure program for young adults living with multiple sclerosis (MS) or other serious chronic conditions.

The money will go toward program development and is expected to help First Descents reach 1,000 MS patients over the next five years. The organization is a leader in “adventure-based healing” and has served more than 10,000 participants over the last two decades.

“First Descents serves people first to fill a gap in psychosocial supportive care for young adults living with MS,” Ben Wright, founder and CEO of Velocity Global, said in a press release. “Velocity Global is honored to support the expansion of these programs through this donation and volunteer efforts from our global team. I have witnessed the healing impact of First Descents programs firsthand, and am proud our company is in a position to advance this important work.”

First Descents seeks to improve long-term outcomes and quality of life for young adults affected by MS, cancer, and other serious health conditions through outdoor adventure, community building, and lifestyle development.

First Descents and Velocity Global began their relationship in 2014, when the two Colorado-based companies were office neighbors at Industry Denver, a business center. Since then, Velocity Global employees have volunteered and raised funds for First Descents. In 2018, the company pitched in $150,000 to help start MS programming, which began with whitewater kayaking in Montana.

“Velocity Global’s support will help us to serve more than 1,000 young adults living with MS in the coming years while investing in vital partnerships with patient advocacy groups and neurology clinics nationwide,” said Ryan O’Donoghue, CEO, First Descents. “We want MS patients to learn about first Descents closer to the time of diagnosis and know that we are here for them. Velocity Global’s leadership support will make this vision a reality.”

Multiple sclerosis is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with a median age of 34. Young adults who have the neurodegenerative condition may experience marked physical, neurological, and psychosocial changes that can interfere with key developmental milestones. In addition, clinical depression is a common MS symptom that, along with social isolation and apprehension about the future, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Descents hopes to reach even more people with MS through alliances with advocacy groups, including the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA).

“There is an important need to support young adults who have MS, specifically with age-appropriate programming that can improve their outlook and quality of life,” said Gina Ross Murdoch, CEO of MSAA. “Staying fit and active — especially alongside peers living with MS — can greatly benefit patients’ mental and physical health. We are excited to work with First Descents and Velocity Global on the launch of these innovative programs.”

First Descents’ all-inclusive programs are free and offer safe and accessible lodging, a nutrition program, and fully accessible outdoor activities. The programs are crafted with consideration given to patients who may experience heat sensitivity, balance issues, or fatigue.

“Ultimately, First Descents creates an environment where young adults with MS can reclaim their physical agency, explore new activities, and nurture lifelong supportive peer relationships,” Velocity Global stated in the announcement.

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