A Holiday Greeting (and Update) from First Descents


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Founded by professional kayaker Brad Ludden in 2001, First Descents provides life-changing, outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions. From its first year when it hosted a  single camp of 15 young adults kayaking on the Colorado River, living its motto “Out Living It,” today it offers as many as 100 programs a year as a recognized leader in outdoor experiential programming. Through outdoor adventures, skills development, and local adventure communities FD improves the long-term survivorship of young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions.

Thousands of their participants have now paddled, surfed, climbed and pedaled through First Descents in the past two decades, experiencing the healing power of outdoor adventure. Last year it also launched one of the world’s first “cause corporations” Stoke Brokers — offering customized, one-of-a-kind adventures for individuals and groups, with all profits supporting First Descents.

Paddling Life is proud to present the following Holiday Letter from First Descents, ushering in 2023:

“Adventure, community, resilience, and trust. These values have anchored us through times of uncertainty and helped guide us through uncharted waters to brighter horizon lines.

The past few years gave us the opportunity to reflect and reevaluate how best to serve our community. With the leadership of our Board, the dedication of our team, and our longstanding relationships with healthcare partners, outfitters, lodge owners, and our incredible volunteers, First Descents successfully returned to our foundation: week-long adventure programs for the young adult communities we serve.

In 2022, we safely administered 39 transformative week-long programs, serving 461 participants across 12 locations nationwide. We watched in awe as participants rappelled down sandstone arches in Moab, surfed rolling waves in Santa Cruz, and paddled through rapids on the Blackfoot River. At every program, we witnessed the Out Living It spirit and were reminded of the healing provided by adventure in wild places. These shared experiences also allowed our community to form deeper bonds and build relationships that have continued long after their week-long program ended. This season has reignited our commitment to serving as many young adults impacted by cancer and MS, healthcare workers, and caregivers as possible.

We also created resources like our Out Cooking It video serieswith FD Chefs and our Mindfulness & Yoga video series that enable our community to engage with healthy practices and continue to out live it for years to come.

And through it all, I’ve felt one resounding sentiment: gratitude. Gratitude for coming out of the pandemic as a more intentional and focused organization. Gratitude for the First Descents community who continue to lift one another up. Gratitude to be able to serve participants who consistently show us what it means to live everyday to the fullest. Gratitude for the Healing Power of Adventure.

As we turn the corner into this holiday season, I invite you to join us and Give the Gift of Adventure to help provide life-changing outdoor adventures for over 600 young adults impacted by cancer and MS, caregivers, and healthcare workers in the year ahead.

Thank you for your continued support and friendship. Here’s to another incredible year full of adventures.

With gratitude,

Brad Ludden


Read more at The Colorado Sun


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