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Giving Back to Her Community – Kara's Story

Kara Gehan is a physician assistant at the Gunnison Valley Health Urgent Care and Emergency Department. When she is not busy with her work or her family, she also spends time raising money for First Descents.


Kara’s story started when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36. Kara was pregnant at the time and could not undergo testing. Kara waited until her daughter was a year old, and then went to see Dr. Bonnie Strickland at the Gunnison Valley Health Family Medicine Clinic. Bonnie recommended she receive testing due to her family risk, and she underwent scans. At age 36, Kara was also diagnosed with breast cancer. She was also diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome, a genetic disorder that increases risks of other cancers, for both her and her children.

Kara received most of her medical care in Denver, undergoing a bi-lateral mastectomy and hysterectomy. Following her surgeries, she was declared cancer free and found comfort in physical fitness and the outdoors. It was this passion that helped Kara find First Descents.

First Descents is a charity that provides “life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and other serious illnesses.” They serve cancer patients and survivors, MS patients, caregivers and healthcare workers. First Descents sends those affected by illnesses on weeklong adventure trips, free of charge. These trips range from rock climbing, to surfing and even white-water rafting. The trips help patients regain their confidence and activity following a diagnosis or recovery.

Kara was able to attend a rock-climbing trip through the program and made lifelong friends. That trip sparked her interest in giving back. She heard that a group of people were planning on running the New York City Marathon in order to raise money for First Descents. Kara was immediately intrigued. The longest race she had run was a half marathon. Not one to back down for a challenge, Kara started training and fundraising for the marathon.

Kara raised over $6,500 for First Descents. Her team raised over $94,000. The money will go back into the program to help provide adventures to other people just like Kara and help them regain confidence following a diagnosis. Each weeklong adventure costs about three thousand per participant.

Kara completed her first ever marathon on the biggest stage possible. Running with 50,000 other people, in record breaking heat and humidity and a thousand-foot elevation gain, Kara finished with a smile on her face.

“It was tough, but I really enjoyed the race,” said Kara. “It is so inspiring to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and I am excited I can offer this chance to two more young adults.”