Alumnus Michael Ferro beat cancer, then founded an outdoor adventure camp for fellow survivors

A terrible year. That’s how Michael Ferro described 2007. While most of his classmates rushed toward graduation, Ferro’s college experience ground to a halt when he was diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor. Just a few months later, he learned he had testicular cancer, too.

Medication and multiple surgeries followed. And lots of soul searching. During that time, Michael often found himself thinking back to the retreat experiences he had in his Jesuit high school and at Regis University. Those memories helped him stay positive and grounded in spite of great challenges. And it was during those darkest hours that he made himself an inspired promise: “If I survive this, I’m going to do something to help people with cancer.”

Mike FerroMichael did more than survive. He graduated from Regis the same year as his diagnosis, and shortly thereafter, began taking steps to make good on his promise.

Now cancer-free for five years, Michael recently accomplished his dream. With the help of his mother, Nancy Ferro, and Abby Staible, a physician assistant, he co-founded Epic Experience, a nonprofit that offers outdoor adventure camp therapy to cancer survivors. Campers get a taste of Colorado’s natural wonders on a 200-acre mountain ranch turned campsite, while challenging themselves in a variety of adventure sports. They also participate in a retreat that allows them to process their experiences while forging lifelong relationships. The retreat portion of the camp is based on Michael’s own retreat experiences.    

Using the skills he gained as a business major at Regis, Michael hopes to grow the nonprofit to the point where he can host camps all spring and summer, eventually expanding to offer caregiver and grieving-parent retreats as well. His ultimate goal for the organization is to give those who have been affected by cancer a national network of support.

Michael Ferro believes that his Jesuit education prepared him for his life’s work, but his one “terrible” year showed him what that work was meant to be.

“Sometimes I think that there is a reason God kept me around,” he said. “I’m here to help others.”

 Discover how you can use your gifts to help others at Regis University.