A Letter to Friends and Family

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy New Year! Please hold still for a few minutes, while I bore you with why and how you should help a cause near and dear to my heart.

Ever since I became involved with First Descents--wait, what? What's First Descents? Hold onnnnn...

Read this first: 

FIRST DESCENTS (FD) offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle, bike and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. During our programs, adult survivors and fighters are empowered through conquering legitimate outdoor challenges to push their limits and face their fears, and by doing so, they are able to regain the confidence and self-efficacy lost to cancer.

How I Became Involved

I first was told that I must go on an FD trip in the summer of 2011. By January 2012, I'd applied and been accepted to an amazing getaway: five night surf trip in the Outer Banks, where we woke up to a healthy breakfast and morning yoga on the beach. We surfed in an Nor'Easter and rocked out in the car to Call Me Maybe. (You can't judge us; we had cancer.) It was clear from the start that we were an amazingly close group; at the First Descents Gala in Beaver Creek in March of '13, we accepted an award for the best fundraising effort. We sent an entire group of 18 to 39 year olds to camp last sumer.

After you've completed your first challenge, you're invited to a second trip, FD2. You must take on a fundraising effort. There wasn't a limit to what you could raise, but thanks to my friend Hairband forcing me to run a half marathon in Denver with her, we raised over $2500.

Last summer, I was ready for a an even more extreme adventure. I chose to do my FD2 challenge last July white-water kayaking the North Fork river in Montana's National Glacier Park. I can't pretend I didn't want to quit half a dozen times; it was cold, I was sick, and oh, I had a broken arm and collarbone. But at night, as we ate dinner and chatted around the campfire about...BEARS, a conversation from which I may or may not have recovered from, I once again felt at home with these strangers. Strangers who were now my family. My cancer blood, if you will.

After you've participated in FD1 and FD2, you graduate into FDX, a trip that months of training and former trips with FD have prepared you for. You must also raise money for FDX and I believe that this cause is truly worthy. Not only are we giving back to FD, who has given us so much, we are helping to build homes and playgrounds for the destitute families who make up Southern Vietnam.

I fly into Saigon and then we get on a bike for FOUR days and cyle around the country. A COUNTRY THAT DOES NOT LOOK TINY ACCORDING TO GOOGLE MAPS. After we dismount our bikes, the second half of our work begins. We won't just be biking, we'll be building stuff, too! With my own tiny baby hands! Tiny baby hands that can barely hold a drink, let alone a MALLET. 

I think I can do it, and I want to give back. But I need a tiny bit of help. And here's where you guys come in. Because you're so lovely and beautiful and did you get a haircut? No? It's naturally that curly? Gorgeous. 

So Why Support FD Out Of All The Other Organizations You Work With? Dammit, Bergin!

Fundraising makes First Descents possible. Not just for me (baby buys her own plane ticket) but for other young adult cancer fighters.

I fundraise for First Descents because unlike any other lupus, cancer or diabetes organizations or support groups, it has absolutely been the best fit for me. It has changed my body and soul. It has saved me. It's given me hope and ownership of my body. It's helped me, with my discombulated head, accept the body that I have always hated and resented.

(Look, I even drew a self-portrait. Double-chin unfortunately included.)

By giving to FD, we are changing the life of a young person affected by cancer. A young adult, who likely doesn't know any other people with cancer his age.

A lot of the reason that FD targets young adults is because young adult cancer patients are quite often overlooked. They are largely without insurance, so by the time they finally go to the doctor for that weird ache, cancer has blossomed. 

And there are few places they can turn to. Sure, there is an abundance of support for women with breast cancer, children with cancer, and the elderly. But there is a shocking lack of support for 18 to 39 year olds, a population with depressing statistics: there's been little increase in survivorship rates. And it's even worse for young men, who suddenly have to face fertility and libido problems at 23 years old.

My cancer peeps are dying young and they are dying quickly. I've lost friends to this wretched disease, and the fact that I will lose more absolutely shreds me. 

While FD will not cure this disease, it will change the fighter for the better. I can say this with absolute certainty that it has worked for me. And I have seen it in fellow campers who have become family to me.

I've set my goal to raise $1500 this year, which will completely cover one cancer camper and their flights to whichever destination they choose.

The Challenge Besides The Actual Crazy Ass Challenge:

In preparation for a bike trip around a freakin' country, I will bike indoors, perhaps staring a picture of Brangelina with theirs arms outstreched, waiting for me in Vietnam where we will adopt our son, Wolfgang Jolie-Pitt-Berg (the -in is a bit much, no?). 

I've challenged myself to start doing 30 minutes on the bike a day, as soon as I get out of the hospital. (Yes, I'm writing this from a hospital bed.)

This is a new year, a year for hope, and going to Vietnam is a huge leap of faith for me. It is scary, it is far, and I'm not even sure if they sell Froot Loops there. Also, I'm terrified of large insects and land mines, so there's that.

But I am excited to feel charged up about something, after years of depression and pain. This anticipation and joy has propelled me to vow to overcome the challenges 2014 has already given to me.
Where I Say Thank You and Mean It

Thank you for your support. If you donate, please email me your address and I will send you something special for your support. The something special will likely be a #selfie, so you know, you may want to opt-out of that. But donations will come with hugs. I'm allergic to deodorant so, again, at your own risk. Oh! You can lock me in a cage and wave from there.

The link to donate is HERE: http://tfd.firstdescents.org/site/TR?px=1004761&fr_id=1060&pg=personal

Thank you. Thank you so much. For this, sure. But for everything else...there's no amount of smelly hugs that could thank you enough.

All of my love,
Kelly Bergin


  1. Great Blog Kelly! Keep on keepin' on . . . biking AND fundraising!

    Brent Goldstein, FD Board

  2. Amazing post Kelly - so proud of all you are doing!
    Eva, FD Board