Dear Dream Team,
We are so grateful for the tremendous support from each and every one of you - whether you are a friend, family member, colleague, or fellow cancer thriver. We are humbled and excited to share these updates about Danielle’s Dreams!
Danielle’s Dreams Adventure Program
Over the past year and a half, Danielle’s “Dream Team” has raised nearly $140,000 to support young adults battling cancer with life-changing programs through First Descents. These funds sponsor the Danielle’s Dreams Adventure Program, held in collaboration with SOUL RYEDERS, as well as sustained funding for First Descents’ core oncology programs.
In October of 2022, First Descents hosted the Danielle’s Dreams Adventure Program, in collaboration with SOUL RYEDERS, in the Shawangunk Mountains. The four-day, three-night program welcomed 12 participants to Lundy Farm for a weekend of adventure, mindfulness, and social connection.
Program activities included two days of guided rock climbing in Minnewaska State Park from Alpine Endeavors, a rejuvenating yoga and mindfulness class, and a reflective art workshop in honor of Danielle. Throughout the weekend’s down time, participants biked, swam, enjoyed afternoon saunas, and explored the beautiful property nestled into the Hudson Valley.
Additionally, the group was fully immersed in First Descents’ core program traditions. First Descents’ commercial outfitter partner, Alpine Endeavors, facilitated two days of guided rock-climbing instruction and the opportunity to participate in a rappel. This challenge-by-choice environment encouraged participants to try a new recreational activity, explore their comfort zones, and reclaim their identity. Following rock climbing, First Descents’ Lead Staff led the group in nightly campfire discussions, allowing participants to celebrate one another, reflect on the events of the day, and share personal stories in a safe, supportive space. Further, participants participated in both Rock and Baci ceremonies, which are long standing traditions and moments for introspection on FD programs. Additionally, First Descents’ professionally trained chefs prepared health supportive meals designed to combat fatigue, reduce stress, improve mood, and support physical activity.
Throughout the weekend participants were encouraged to take note of their physical surroundings and explore the relationships between nature and physical, mental, and social healing. On the final morning of the program, FD Lead Staff led the group in a reflective art workshop where participants were encouraged to use elements from their environment to create a mixed-medium piece of artwork. The activity honored Danielle, who knew the power of drawing inspiration from the natural world. This gift - the ability to see beauty and potential in all things - is one of the many ways we keep Danielle’s Dreams alive.
The following testimonials from participants on the Danielle’s Dreams Adventure Program demonstrate the healing power of adventure, and the profound impact of your support:
“I am immensely grateful for this opportunity. I have not forgotten the reason why this program is possible and will carry Danielle in my memory as if I had known her personally.”
“This program was life changing. I have a new outlook on life, and new friendships that will have a significant positive impact to my wellbeing.”
“Thank you so much for this amazing experience. It has changed my life and I am forever grateful.”
Danielle’s Dreams Art Program at MSK
Over the past 18 months, Danielle’s “Dream Team” has raised over $30,000 to support Danielle’s Dreams Art Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering. The monthly guided Art Night is the hospital’s most popular program for Adolescents and Young Adults at MSK (AYA at MSK), with an average of 40-45 patients registering for each session. It was so important for Danielle to take a break from medical challenges and create art whenever possible, and she dreamed that art would be accessible to every young adult going through cancer treatments. This special program features online instruction by professional artists and art therapists, as well as all of the art supplies for each participant. Recent workshops have included Guided Paint Night, Fashion Design and Terrarium Creation. Here are a couple of testimonials from patient participants:
“The Art Nights have completely changed my life for the better. I’d never painted before, and now I paint all the time. It’s soothing and a great thing to do with loved ones.”
“This is a wonderful program that MSK offers. So much fun and such a perfect stress-releaser.”
Mallory Sanderson leads Cycle for Survival Team in Danielle’s Honor
We are always getting updates from Danielle's beloved friends about the many ways they continue to remember and honor her. We are grateful for and proud of all of you! Here's a peek at Mallory as Team Captain for her J.P. Morgan Chase team at Cycle for Survival. Not only did they raise $8,000 for desperately-needed research for rare cancers, they also ran into Danielle's rock-star oncologist, Dr. William Tap, who is leading the charge in finding new treatments and eventual cures for Sarcoma. Way to go, Mal!