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First Descent
May 24, 2011

This camper story says it all about this organization:

'm not really good with words, but I'm going to try. Every day since I finished treatment I woke up and told myself I was healed because it was so much easier to deny that I was still hurting than it was to admit that I probably wouldn't be completely healed for a long time, or ever. I never spoke to anyone about my illness, not even my parents, I wanted people to treat me normally and not see me as "that girl with cancer." At FD people accepted me, and for the first time in 14 years I was able to talk about my illness, it wasn't easy but I finally feel like maybe I'm on the right track. I got to work on my fears of being underwater (I never really learned to swim because I couldn't get my central line wet when I was sick), and I met some of the most awe-inspiring, courageous, beautiful, and warm hearted people on earth. I was terrified of the graduation rapid, but just as I was going over it I felt all of the love and support of everyone at camp 61, family, friends, and that of my friend/hospital roommate who passed away when I was 7. That love and support brought me safely through the rapids, and there was a huge sense of accomplishment and freedom when I caught that final eddy. A lot of my emotional pain was washed away somewhere between the lake on the first day and running the graduation rapid. Thank you is not enough for what you and the other staff at FD have done, but I have to say thank you so so much for being so supportive and fostering an environment that allowed us to challenge ourselves, face our fears and learn from each other. I will be joining Team FD to say thank you and pay it forward, hopefully rowing a marathon. This will be the greatest athletic challenge I have ever faced, but I will draw my strength from my week at First Descents. What an amazing organization.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

In forty amazing camps in 11 years and I believe it to be the best adventure therapy camp for young adult cancer survivors.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Expand the number of programs to include more participants.

MY ROLE:
Board Member & I am a Camp Director.

First Descent
July 28, 2009

As one of the co-founders of this organization, I have had the amazing opportunity to see what can happen to young adult survivors when they are given the chance to "check" their cancer experiences at the door and get back a piece of their lives that sometimes gets forgotten. This "sense of self" is allowed to blossom through our intense (and sometimes downright scary) whitewater kayaking camp. Now in our 10th year, we have touched nearly 500 lives from all over the country and nearly everyday I get an email or a letter from past participants about how much joy they have found from their experience at First Descents whether it was through the fear and challenges they overcame to complete our week at camp or through the amazing network of survivors they have found as a result of attending camp who now have become closer than family in some cases. I think that what we provide can best be summed up by one of our recent participants from this year's camp up in Glacier National Park in Montana when she said, "I have been to many cancer camps and this is the first one that is not about the cancer." We urge any yound adult survivor between the ages of 18 and 40 to come experience the magic of First Descents and we will do everything we can to help them get "back their spirit" of life!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Every participant whether it is building confidence by kayaking big rapids or finding hope in fellow survivors.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Continue on the same track of expansion that we are now on.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Watching each and every camper grow over the course of the week from non-kayakers with reservations about life and themselves to skilled paddlers that now are ready to go back to their world and take it on!

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

N/A

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Reach our goal of 1000 campers per summer and create an army of ambassadors that have understood the value of nature as well as the gift of being present in life.

Ways to make it better...

We could reach more campers per summer.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Funding and finding the right mix of staff and volunteers to continue to create the magical experiences that we have now.

One thing I'd also say is that...

First Descents is THE young adult survivorship camp.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & I am a co-founder of the camp and head counselor.