Founded by community members wanting to provide a platform for wellness of the mind, body, spirit, and environment, SVWFC is now widely recognized as the longest-running wellness festival in the world. This non-profit organization has hosted speakers among the world’s greatest thought-leaders on the subject of wellness and has become a beloved annual community tradition that attracts attendees from around the world. Attendees are individuals of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds interested in wellness and people dedicated to making the world a better place. We are committed to increasing the offerings of science-based knowledge for mind and body presented at the conference and will continue to present speakers and workshops that celebrate the spirit and nurture environment as well.
SVWFC has a hard-working/committed volunteer Board of Directors, a full-time salaried Executive Director as well as an Advisory Council.
Andria Friesen | President
Andria has been enthusiastically involved with the Wellness Festival on various levels for nearly twenty years. In addition to hosting select events, sponsoring speakers, and serving on the board, most notably in 2014 she prompted the addition of Environment to the original three pillars of the Wellness Festival; Body, Mind, and Spirit. In 2017, as newly elected President, Andria spearheaded the change of both date and venue for the Festival and in early 2018 she initiated the vote for the new identity; Sun Valley Wellness Festival & Conference.
“The time and passion I am devoting to SVWFC is my contribution to this community that has been so generous to me. Paying it forward is both an honor and rewarding”. -AF
Andria Friesen moved to Idaho in 1986 to open Friesen Gallery Sun Valley, which she still maintains. The Gallery represents select artists of international and national recognition working in the mediums of painting and sculpture. Friesen Gallery Seattle was Andria’s additional endeavor from 1990-2012. In 2009 Andria composed and published Speak For The Trees. A 200-page hardcover book featuring 76 important artists from around the world and poignant offerings by 70+ significant authors throughout history.
Marya Hecht | Chairperson, Speakers Committee
Marya Hecht is the Vice President and a founding member of the Sangham Foundation. The Sangham Foundation is a private family foundation that has a strong focus on improving the lives of children and clean water through grantmaking to grassroots organizations for the most part. Marya has spent a great deal of time volunteering for organizations that the foundation supports, traveling to Africa and other parts of the world to assist first hand in the work being done.
Marya has served as a board member for the Family Nurturing Center, a school in southern Oregon for children in need from low-income families. She is passionate about providing safe homes for children and is dedicated to collaborating with others to support orphanages.
Marya is the co-founder of the Parenting Program within the Pear Organization in Portland, Oregon. This organization builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth in the Portland area and providing them with resources and education to live more meaningful and healthy lives.
In addition, Marya is a facilitator of the Byron Katie Work, which is a very successful self-inquiry program worldwide known as The Work of Byron Katie.
In her free time, Marya enjoys running, hiking, skiing, playing soccer, and traveling the world!
Nick Maricich | Chairman
Nick Maricich serves as Chairman of the Sun Valley Wellness Festival & Conference board of directors. He has passionately been involved with SVWFC for nearly two decades. Nick is a lifetime resident of the Wood River Valley and was born in the Sun Valley Lodge in 1957. In addition to his role with SVWFC Nick is an executive board member of the Sun Valley Ski Education and a manager in the Sun Valley Ski School. Additionally, Nick has held a real estate license in the Wood River Valley since 1994 and is actively involved in commercial real estate management, construction, development, and sales of residential property. Through practical life experiences, a professional athletic career spent in Idaho and around the world, his active real estate occupation, and a lifetime of connections in Sun Valley, Nick is an important asset to the SVWFC board.
Brenda Powell | Chairperson, Movement Committee
Brenda came into her passion for health and wellness at a very early age as a competitive track and cross country runner, long-distance cyclist, and later a competitive triathlete. She competed for many years on the world stage completing several marathons, endurance bike rides, and 2 Ironman triathlons. She found the completion of the body-mind-spirit connection when she discovered yoga, meditation, and spirituality, and knew she needed to make this the central force in her life’s work as an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, and yoga teacher. She has been a health leader, nutrition and weight loss coach, yoga teacher, and spiritual travel guide for over 30 years. Brenda moved to the Wood River Valley in 2006 and has been an active leader in the Wellness Community here, primarily as a trainer and yoga teacher at Zenergy and the community. In 2017 she completed the 500-mile northern route of the Camino de Santiago and had a profound revelatory experience and is now stepping into a larger role in helping others to reach their highest potential as spiritual beings having the best human experience possible. Joining the board of the Wellness Festival is a vital part of that new calling for her.
Her lengthy list of certifications and interests includes: Certified Personal Trainer, 500YHT yoga instructor, Certified Nutrition Coach, Certified Spin Instructor, and Certified Intuitive Healer
Geneal Thompson | Vice President
Geneal Thompson is at heart a business woman who totally loves what she does. Lucky enough to have discovered her passion in the world of skincare, Geneal has been devoted to her career in Esthetics for over 30 years. She is the owner and operator of About Face in Ketchum, Idaho. She also represents Esthetics on a State and National level by being part of a Board that oversees, regulates, licenses, and promotes esthetics in the State of Idaho all the while putting public protection at the forefront.
Thompson has written legislation that has been placed into law that governs the Scope of Practice for estheticians. Throughout her career, she has helped guide and advance the Esthetic profession to where it is today.
Geneal has made her home in the Wood River Valley for 46 years.
Spiritual studies at the oo academy in India have been a very important part of Geneal’s last six years. With repeated trips to India, a philosophy of One Consciousness and Connection has become an integral part of her life.
Blair Lauren Brown
Blair Lauren Brown is a plant medicine activist, formulator, and wellness practitioner. Armed with twenty years of experience navigating the intersection of eastern and western medicine from yoga to sadhana to Ayurveda, Blair has found herself at the forefront of cannabis advocacy. Moved by her mother’s experience with cannabis as a treatment for her chemo-induced nausea in the early ’90s, empowered by her grandfather’s uncompromising commitment to do the best by his patients, and putting his license on the line prescribing cannabis under early prop 215 regulations, and educated by her brother, a 20-year cultivation expert under California medical, she was afforded the perfect entree into the development of a plant medicine product line driven by cannabis formulation. In 2016 she started Verté Essentials, the first collection of modern plant medicine skincare influenced by Ayurveda and infused with cannabis-derived CBD.
Following a path of deep appreciation for the journey of cannabis culture from prohibition to the present day, Blair’s advocacy in the space illustrates a dedication to building a more progressive future. Blair created a trusted process for bringing together a host of qualified partners from biochemical engineers to cultivation experts and spa directors to manufacturers to create an intersection between science and nature for the creation of high-quality efficacious products.
As marketing noise and jargon saturated the skincare market, Blair teamed up with Beryl Solomon, Founder of Poplar, to expand the reach of Verté, plant advocacy, and plant medicine education. Verté, now Poplar’s in-house brand, maintains its reputation for innovative and effective formulations while providing personalized guidance and recommendations to the customers, while Blair now serves as Poplar co-founder and Chief Product Officer.
Collectively they have built a set of standards for their ecosystem that support efficacy, plants, people, and the planet in the most cohesive and uncompromising standards the wellness market has seen to date. The standards are called the Poplar Promise.
Prior to starting Verté, Blair started the first precious metal jewelry company to be certified as B-Corp, dedicated to elevating the environmental standards of one of the most environmentally damaging industries in the world. Recognized for her efforts in a sustainability initiative by the CFDA, she was able to leverage her business as an advocate for better practices across the manufacture of US-made precious metal jewelry. Feeling confident in her influence over industry practices she made the transition into consulting on environmental initiatives and operations for various luxury outdoor industry brands.
In 2019, Blair led a TEDx Sun Valley talk “Cannabis Mirror,” where she explored the history of cannabis in the USA. She recently authored CBD: Self Care Secrets to Hemp-Derived Wellness and is in the process of directing and producing a documentary on the legalization of cannabis in relation to the AIDS/HIV epidemic. Her second book on Cannabis CBD will be released in spring 2021.
As a certified advanced Sadhana yoga instructor, Blair can often be found speaking and teaching on plant medicine, cannabis history and ritual, between her resident towns of Brooklyn, New York, and Sun Valley, Idaho.
Emeritus Board Member
Cheryl Thomas Welch