In August 2018 First Descents will pilot a program for young adults coping with multiple sclerosis (MS). Please see below for a video and note from First Descents Founder, Brad Ludden.
Dear FD Tribe,
In 2001, we set out to provide life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults whose lives had been impacted by cancer. We began with one week-long whitewater kayaking program and 15 participants. That initial success took hold, and since then, 5,800 participants have experienced First Descents’ healing power of adventure.
Of course, we have evolved over the past 17 years. FD’s programming has grown to include a variety of outdoor adventure sports, program durations, and target audiences. We now offer experiences that range from weekend gatherings near you, to multi-week excursions in foreign countries.
The First Descents team is stronger than ever, with amazing and devoted staff working tirelessly to create the ultimate outdoor adventure experiences for the young adult cancer community.
And speaking of community, that has been the most impressive aspect of this incredible journey. The FD community—our tribe as we like to call it—has become the epicenter for those looking to harness the healing power of adventure.
So much so, that in 2016, CNN Heroes took note and put First Descents on the world stage, bestowing us with the humbling and honorable title of Top 10 Heroes of the Year. Since then, FDHQ has received numerous requests from patient advocacy groups, medical centers, and other healthcare organizations to support young adult patients. Many of these organizations are working with patients coping with a range of serious conditions that impact young adults. We are learning that anxiety, isolation, and depression are common side-effects for young adults who’ve had their lives turned upside down by illness.
We concluded that if outdoor adventure and social connection can help improve the quality of life for young adults with cancer, it can also help those coping with other illnesses, too. Our staff, our medical partners, and most importantly, our alumni agreed.
To that end, we are excited to explore program development for other medical conditions that impact young adults—beginning with multiple sclerosis (MS). This will be a deliberate and intentional process that will require the support of medical experts and new funding. Our program team is hard at work designing a single, week-long pilot program for MS scheduled for August of this year. Healthcare professionals from the National MS Society and CanDo MS have been instrumental in this process, and Velocity Global has underwritten all costs associated with the planning and implementation of the pilot.
First Descents is a participant-first organization. We focus on individual experiences and value the FD community above all else. With this in mind, the MS pilot program and other discussions with patient advocacy groups will not detract from our focus on cancer. We will provide 1,270 unique experiences in 2018—a bold and impressive 20% increase from last year. Equally inspiring, more medical centers, foundations, and healthcare leaders continue to rally behind First Descents as a leader in cancer survivorship care.
This announcement represents exciting progress, and we would not have set off to summit this peak if we didn’t believe the effort was closely aligned with First Descents’ vision to be the global leader in adventure-based healing. We have an opportunity to do the right thing—a truly profound thing—by beginning to understand how the healing power of adventure can help more young adults, regardless of what their illness is called.
Thank you for being such an important member of the First Descents Tribe.
Yours in Out Living It,