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A generous surprise

Allan Goldberg
Vail CO, Colorado

I’ve had an “interesting ride” since relocating to the Vail Valley last August to take the reins of the First Descents organization.

Being diagnosed with cancer as a young adult after taking over an organization that provides outdoor adventures to young adults with cancer was almost too much to swallow. Irony can be pretty ironic at times…

However, through the support of this close knit-community I’ve been able to regain my equilibrium and focus on getting the word out about First Descents’ programs as well as, of course, doing the necessary fundraising needed to continue to allow our programs to be free of charge for all that attend. Fundraising … that nasty word that strikes fear in the hearts of men, the necessary evil, the dark underbelly, the unwelcome cousin that all nonprofits must grudgingly accept into the family reunion. I’ve been in the “foundation game” for quite a while now and have done more than my share of development work. You know you’re particularly good at it when your friends see you with a clipboard and go running in the other direction.



Charity walks, jogs, crawls, marathons, bike-a-thons, chess-a-thons, sleep-a-thons, you name it; I’ve produced it and hit people up for it. However, on an innocuous Saturday night, something out of the ordinary happened at the inaugural First Descents Ball. The kind of deed that makes you stop and marvel at the capacity of human kindness that is so often lost when the horrors of CNN and the Fox News Network dominate the public consciousness.

The evening was hosted at the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail and was a fantastic success. Our guests were having fun, both our live and silent auctions were doing remarkably well and the crowd, a mix of older philanthropic types, young do-gooders and a table full of First Descents participants came together to create an “elegantly hip” type of energy. I know this is all sounding very run-of-the-mill so far, however during the guest’s check-out time one of the parking valets tracked me down and pulled me aside. Of course, my initial thought was, “whose car got smashed and I hope it’s not the guy that bought the cruise …” but then this young guy thrust into my palm a wad of cash that made me want to catch a red-eye to Vegas. I asked him what this was for and he simply said that the guys parking cars upstairs, including him, wanted to donate all their tips for the evening to our cause. I was dumbfounded and my first reaction was to tell him that we couldn’t accept this kind gesture, and while I really appreciated the thought I would feel really bad taking their hard-earned money. (By the way, did I mention that all the parking guys were already volunteering their time on behalf of First Descents that evening?) But as I tried to decline this kind offer I saw a look in his eye that made me think twice. It was a look that said, “We really want to do this and it would mean a great to us if you accept this money.” This same parking attendant also let me know that his family had been touched by cancer and he could personally relate to what First Descents was all about. After a moment’s hesitation I graciously accepted this kind offer.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



The guys upstairs weren’t doing this for recognition or applause, they didn’t want people to know what good guys they were and they wanted no aggrandizing announcements made on their behalf. The donation they made was altruism in its purest sense. The need to help others not coupled with the need for recognition. It’s as rare as an albino tiger skiing Blue Sky Basin.

On a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago we raised a fair amount of money thanks to a lot of big and generous spenders, and I am truly grateful for everyone who opened their hearts and wallets to provide our programs to the young adults with cancer who need them. However, this selfless gesture speaks volumes to the spirit of giving that sits within all of us. When that small voice whispers to us that we can make a difference, regardless of how much we can offer, and we decide to act on it, that’s when the magic happens. My hat is humbly off to all the workers at the Sonnenalp who graciously donated their time and energy towards the creation of a very special evening. My special thanks and admiration also goes to the parking guys who braved the cold and ran back and forth all evening so our guests wouldn’t have to and, more importantly, for heeding the call of their inner voices that told them to do something really special and amazingly selfless. Those guys gave me my true “Christmas in April” moment.

Allan Goldberg is the executive director of First Descents.


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