Dress fundraiser benefits cancer survivors of all ages | VailDaily.com

Dress fundraiser benefits cancer survivors of all ages

Vail resident Gretchen Pleshaw donated this $10,000 Vera Wang wedding dress to Epic Experience, a charity which provides cancer survivors with rafting trips near Dotsero.
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EAGLE COUNTY — A few years ago, Nancy Ferro witnessed the incredible things that First Descents does for young adults struggling with cancer.

Her son, Michael, was 23 years old, just graduating from college, when he learned he had the disease.

“He went on a First Descents trip, stayed in Minturn, paddled the river and had an amazing time,” she said. “It really helped him cope with his situation.”

The Ferro family started volunteering with First Descents, and was eventually able to start an organization of their own, doing something similar. They call it Epic Experience.

“It’s like First Descents only it’s for people 18 and up, not just young adults,” she said. “A 70-year-old has been the oldest we’ve had so far.”

Epic Experience takes guests to the Sweetwater Ranch, near Dotsero, and works with a company called Renaissance Adventure Guides to get survivors out on the water.

“It’s a way to get back living again after a cancer diagnosis,” she said.


Earlier this year, Vail resident Gretchen Pleshaw received a wedding gift most girls could only dream of — a $10,000 Vera Wang dress.

“I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life, it was like magic,” Pleshaw said of wearing the dress.

But she realized the dress had a bigger purpose, and Epic Experience struck a cord with her.

“My mom’s sister lived with breast cancer for years and then lost her battle, and then my dad’s mom lived with breast cancer and lost her battle, so I have it on both sides of the family,” she said.

So she decided to use the dress to raise money for Epic Experience.

“Nancy asked me like a hundred times, ‘Are you sure, are you sure you want to give your dress away?’” Pleshaw said. “It was never a decision of mine, it was like it was always just meant to be.”

Ferro said at first the plan was to simply auction off the dress and use the proceeds to fund a few Epic Experience trips for cancer survivors.

“But then we thought, ‘How could we have this not only raise money for Epic Experience, but then have the dress go to a young cancer survivor who could probably never afford a dress like that while going through cancer?’” Ferro said.


The story of Pleshaw and her dress currently has its own fundraising page on donate.epicexperience.com. Their goal is to raise $10,000, which would send four cancer survivors on an Epic Experience trip.

The fundraising is scheduled to close on Wednesday. Once it does, the dress will go to a cancer survivor, complete with the proper tailoring so that whomever it goes to will look and feel as good as Pleshaw did this year.

“There’s so much love around this dress, I want someone else to wear it and feel this magic and this beauty that I felt,” Pleshaw said.

Visit donate.epicexperience.org/events/the-dress/e36350 to donate.

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