Please join D.F.S. in celebrating national foster care month in May by helping us acknowledge foster parents and foster care professionals for the important work they do in providing temporary homes for vulnerable youth as well as helping them form and develop permanent connections.  Take a moment to reach out and thank someone who is dedicated to carrying out this critically important work in the lives of children and their families.  It is also a time for the agency to renew its commitment to providing the most therapeutic foster care possible for the youth we serve in order to give them the best chance at having a bright future and reaching their fullest potential.

Chris Gunderson, CEO of Denali family Services, was recently named by the  Alaska Journal of Commerce as one of the 2017 ‘Top 40 Under 40″.  Full article below.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce is pleased to announce the members of our 2017 Top Forty Under 40.

“With this being my fifth year involved with selecting the Top Forty Under 40 I can say without hesitation it gets harder every year to narrow down the group,” said Journal Managing Editor Andrew Jensen. “We had 115 extremely qualified nominees from across the state that generated more than 650 pages of supporting information.

“The state of Alaska’s greatest resource is its people, and in these challenging economic times it is always inspiring to read about so many of our fellow citizens making such a positive impact on the lives of others.”

The 2017 Top Forty Under 40 will be honored at an awards dinner on April 28 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. A cocktail reception will begin at 6 p.m. with the dinner and award event starting at 7 p.m.

The keynote address will be delivered by 2003 Top Forty alum Joe Everhart, who was promoted late last year from Wells Fargo Alaska Region president to Pacific Northwest Business Banking division manager.

The 2017 Top Forty Under 40

Aurora Agee, 37, First National Bank Alaska, Branch Manager/Loan Officer, Healy

Ariane Aramburo, 34, KTUU, Executive Producer/Morning Edition co-anchor, Anchorage

Chrissy Bell, 37, Credit Union 1, Senior Vice President of Communications and Culture

Sabrina Binkley, 39, Spruce Tree Montessori School, Founder and Head, Fairbanks

Kate Blair, 37, Tesoro Corp., Government and Public Affairs Manager, Anchorage

Nancy Boyce, 39, PowerTech, Owner, Juneau

Esther Cetina, 35, Southcentral Foundation, Administrator, Anchorage

Ryan Cropper, 37, Able Body Shop, Owner, Anchorage

Yatibaey Evans, 36, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Alaska Native Education Coordinator

Bill Falsey, 36, Municipality of Anchorage, Municipal Attorney

Ana Fisk, 29, Afognak Leasing LLC, Vice President of Operations, Anchorage

Michael Fredericks, 39, RIM First People LLC, President, Anchorage

Chris Gunderson, 38, Denali Family Services Inc, CEO/President, Anchorage

Andrea Gusty, 34, The Kuskokwim Corp., Vice President of Corporate Affairs

Jess Gutzwiler, 33, American Cancer Society, Senior Market Manager

Haven Harris, 37, Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, Director of Strategic Development, Anchorage

Corey Hester, 25, Alaska Airmen Association, Executive Director, Anchorage

Ross Johnston, 37, Fine Point, Owner, Anchorage

Rebekah Lewing, 30, Great Land Events, Lewing Photography, The Vault, Owner, Anchorage

Jake Libbey, 39, Crystal Clear Creative, Owner, Wasilla

Bill Lierman IV, 39, Alaska Permanent Capital Management, CIO, Fixed Income

Karli Lopez, 33, Alaska Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium, Executive Director, Anchorage

Candice McDonald Kotyk, 39, Salmon Berry Travel and Tours, President/Owner, Anchorage

Dr. Emily McMahan, 30, Alaska Hearing and Tinnitus Center, Owner, Anchorage

Cycelia McMorris, 38, Crossroads High School, Teacher/Counselor, Anchorage

Amy Mestas, 34, PDC Engineers, Senior Associate, Anchorage Structural Dept. Manager; South Anchorage High School, Head Volleyball Coach

Jeff Miller, 38, Cruz Companies, Executive Vice President of Operations, Palmer

Travis Million, 37, Copper Valley Electric Association, Glenallen

Dan Newman, 30, KTUU, Account Executive, Anchorage

Laura Norton-Cruz, 34, Alaska Children’s Trust, Program Director of the Alaska Resilience Initiative, Anchorage

Lael Oldmixon, 39, UA College Savings and UA Scholars Program, Executive Director, Fairbanks

Jocelyn Pemberton, 39, The Alaska Hospitalist Group, Executive Director, Anchorage

Loren Peterson, 39, Azachorok Inc., Chairman/CEO, Anchorage

Victoria Roberts, 33, Vicinity Commercial Management, President/Owner, Anchorage

Lori Rucksdahel, 39, Anchorage School District, Director, Early Childhood and Elementary Special Education

Trish Skoglund, 36, BP, Performance Analyst, Global Operations Organization, Anchorage

Jasmin Smith, 31, The Business Boutique, Owner, Anchorage

Mariajose Stewart, 33, Yuit Communications, Art Director/Partner, Anchorage

Greg Stuckey, 39, USDA Rural Development, Director of Single Family Housing, Palmer

Scott Woodland, 39, Snow White Linen, CEO/Owner


Dan Bigley, Clinical Director, was recently featured on KTUU.  Story in full reprinted below.

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The worst day of Dan Bigley’s life was July 14, 2003. It was also the day he honors because it’s when he decided to live, and pursue his dreams of having a family after a vicious bear attack.

Channel 2 sat down with Bigley to talk about that day, 13 years ago.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Bigley also co-authored a book, Beyond the Bear, with Anchorage writer Debra McKinney which details the attack, Bigley’s recovery and how it shaped his life today.

Rebecca Palsha: “Tell me about that day.”

Bigley: “The last thing I said to her (his future wife) was ‘I’ll call you when I get off the river,’ as we kind of hugged goodbye and of course that was a promise I was unable to keep… It was one of those beautiful days in Alaska where the sun was out. It was warm enough to be in short sleeves but just enough breeze to keep the mosquitos down and the fishing was decent.

Palsha: “When did the bear attack?”

Bigley: “Before I’d even hit the ground she had a hold of my leg and was yarding me out of the bushes and then she picked me up and drug me off into the alders and that’s really where the mauling happened. The next time I woke up she had flipped me over and I was now laying face up and she had me pinned down to the ground she was standing over me with her front paws digging into either shoulder and her face over mine I definitely never forget those moments. I was really struck by the power and magnitude of her lungs as she huffed and puffed and growled and then she delivered to what I refer to as the death blow,m where she cocked her head sideways and bit down on across my face from side to side and then chewed.”

Palsha: “How long did the attack happen and what happened after the bear left?”

Bigley: “It lasted a few minutes and I pasted out a few times. This last time I woke up it was very, very different. There was no pain. There was not terror. In fact it was almost serene and peaceful and I started to figure out where I was and instantly I was aware there was no shape or form. All there was was this brilliant bright blue light. I realized I was on a cross roads. On one hand there was a choice to let go of life, and that was it, and it seemed that was certainly the easy choice to make at that moment. And on the other hand was the choice to sort of fight, to hold on to life and that clearly seemed to be the more challenging of the two decisions.

Almost as soon as I realized there was this choice to make I had this image that came into my mind and it was an imagine of my mom. I don’t know why, but there she was from the waste up with this huge smile glowing like radiant, maybe happier than I’ve ever seen her, and she was smiling and waving to me and it filled me with this feeling, that in a moment, like that is the only feeling that could have made life worth fighting for. From that moment my life would be about taking one small step forward one at a time, never to look back and question that moment. I learned early on that just being alive wasn’t enough, that it was about finding the things in life that make your life worth living. And, for me, it was about love and marriage and family and a few other things like fishing. So I feel like I’ve been given a second chance.”

The Denali Family Services (DFS) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the hire of Chris Gunderson as its President and CEO. Mr. Gunderson has served as the organization’s Interim CEO for the past year, and prior to that as its Director of Training and Development.

Mr. Gunderson assumed the role of Interim CEO shortly after DFS filed for bankruptcy in March, 2013. Over the past year he has lead a reorganization of the company, which has now emerged from bankruptcy with a balanced operating budget. Founded in 1995, DFS is a 501 (c)(3) with nearly 150 employees that provide community behavioral health services to more than 250 children and families in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough.

Mr. Gunderson holds graduate degrees in English and Counselor Education from the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he has also served as an adjunct in the College of Health and the College of Education. He is a lifelong Alaskan, raised in Talkeetna.

The Council on Accreditation (COA) is delighted to inform you that Denali Family Services has been reaccredited. COA’s commitment to maintaining the highest level of standards and quality improvement is designed to identify providers that have set high performance standards for themselves and have made a commitment to their
constituents to deliver the highest quality services. COA is proud to recognize Denali Family Services as one of these outstanding providers.

COA reaccreditation is an objective and reliable verification that provides confidence and support to an organization’s service recipients, board members, staff and community partners. The COA reaccreditation process involves a detailed review and analysis of both an organization’s administrative operations and its service delivery practices. All are “measured” against national standards of best practice. These standards emphasize services that are accessible, appropriate, culturally responsive, evidence based, and outcomes-oriented, In addition, they confirm that the services are provided by a skilled and supported workforce and that all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.

Because COA reviews and reaccredits the entire organization, not just specific programs, you can have confidence in the credibility, integrity and achievement of your entire organization.

COA congratulates Denali Family Services for their hard work and wonderful achievement and is proud to have it as part of COA’s Community of Excellence.

Founded in 1977, COA is an independent not-for-profit international accreditor of the full continuum of community-based behavioral health care and human service organizations. Today, over 1800 organizations—public and private—are either COA accredited or are in the process of seeking accreditation. These organizations serve over 7 million of our most vulnerable individuals each year!