First Descents Coronavirus Update

By: First Descents HQ


Given the current rise in the Delta variant and First Descents’ work with immunocompromised individuals and healthcare workers, FD strongly encourages all Parties (e.g. Participants, Staff, Visitors, and Volunteers) to obtain full vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. For the remainder of 2021, all Parties must submit proof of 1) full vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 or 2) submit proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of the individual’s departure to an FD program. This policy is effective immediately.

In 2022, all Parties will be required to submit proof of full vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. FD can make accommodations for individuals that can provide proof of exemption. Those individuals will be required to submit proof of a negative PCR test or NAAT test in the timeline outlined above.

For more information, contact [email protected].

Programs are Live | Update on Protocols and Eligibility for 2021 Season

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were forced to cancel programs for our Oncology and Multiple Sclerosis communities. A couple months later, we launched Hero Recharge to provide adventure and healing to the frontline healthcare workers fighting diligently to care for us all.

Now, with brighter days on the horizon, we’re thrilled to relaunch programs for every community we serve including Oncology, MS, Healthcare Workers and Caregivers. We will provide a minimum of 70 programs this year, kicking off this summer and continuing through the fall. From surfing and kayaking in southern California to rock climbing in upstate New York, there is an adventure for everyone and we can’t wait to out live it with you this year.

In light of the ongoing pandemic and 2020 program cancellations, First Descents will be operating in a slightly different way for our 2021 season. Please read through our approach and protocols below for more information.

Program Approach and Protocols

  • First Descents will continue to operate based on a regional model throughout 2021. What does that mean? Simply put, participants won’t be able to fly into program locations and need to live within a few hour driving distance from the program locations.
  • Participants who were scheduled to attend a 2020 cancelled program will receive early access for 2021 spots. You will not be automatically registered for a program and will still be required to register as programs open. Our programs team will be in contact via text and email as program registration begins, so please keep an eye out for more information soon.
  • Program registration will open 10 to 12 weeks ahead of the program start date. Our team will send emails with registration instructions, but don’t forget to check out our website now to identify programs near you!
  • At First Descents, we guarantee all eligible participants will be able to attend one free program, and our goal is to get you on an epic adventure as soon as possible. In 2021, we will be focused on getting first-time participants out to a First Descents program. In the meantime, check out our Community Adventures. Community Adventures are adventure experiences created and facilitated by FD alumni and members of the FD community, and are an easy way to start Out Living It right away.
  • With the ongoing pandemic and vaccine rollout, First Descents will still be requiring masks, social distancing, and COVID screenings at this point. For more information about our program protocols, check out our Pre-Program Health Agreement.

First Descents Program Update

As COVID-19 cases continue to decrease and the vaccines are distributed, First Descents is looking to a brighter program season ahead. We’re thrilled to be relaunching programs for all First Descents communities including young adults impacted by cancer and multiple sclerosis, caregivers (FD Rocks), and healthcare workers.

Right now, our Programs Team is hard at work building a full schedule of outdoor adventures, and we’re excited to provide the following number of programs beginning in Summer 2021:
  • Healthcare Worker Programs 35+
  • Oncology Programs 20+
  • MS Programs 8+
  • Rock Programs 3+

We will be working with our Medical Advisory Board and infectious disease specialist to ensure a safe program delivery and experience for all participants. Oncology participants who were scheduled to attend a 2020 program will receive first access for 2021 adventures and will be contacted by our Programs Team with more details and information in the coming weeks. Please note, you will still be required to register for a program. Attendance will not be automatic, but you’ll have the opportunity to register for a program before spots are opened to other participants.

More program announcements are forthcoming but don’t forget to keep an eye on our programs page for program dates and locations. In the meantime, don’t wait for adventure! Create an Adventure or check out Out Living It Project community adventures near you.

2021 Program Update

While we’re stoked to turn the page on 2020, we know there’s a long way to go until everything returns to normal. So, you’re probably wondering what that means for First Descents Programming in 2021?

This year, we’re planning to relaunch programs for all of our communities, including young adults impacted by cancer and MS, as well as frontline healthcare workers. In an effort to provide the safest experience possible, programs will begin later this year following the widespread rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those who were scheduled to attend a cancelled program in 2020 will be given first access to register for 2021 adventures. Stay tuned for program announcements on FD’s Programs Page. While we safely relaunch programs over the next few months, we may not be able to serve every person who was scheduled to join a 2020 program, so be sure to check for Out Living It Project community adventures near you.

If you have any questions about adventures happening this year or program eligibility, please contact programs@firstdescents.org or call 303.945.2490.

Dear Friends,

First Descents is built to serve, and we’re committed to supporting the FD Family through this crisis. We’ve been thrilled by the participation in our virtual programs, and will soon have a new platform to support alumni with their own future adventure planning. Furthermore, we will continue to assess when it is safe to offer programs to Oncology and MS communities, and will communicate updates as soon as possible.

With service in mind, I’m honored to share that First Descents will soon launch programs for healthcare workers on the front-lines of COVID-19. Appropriately titled HERO RECHARGE, this effort is made possible by a leadership gift from the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation. As such, these activities will not impact programs for young adults coping with cancer and MS.

We are fortunate to have amazing relationships with hundreds of hospitals nationwide, where doctors, nurses, and social workers have Prescribed Adventure to thousands of their patients. Now, these devoted healthcare workers are on the front-lines of the most devastating health crisis of our lifetime. This compounds the existing anxieties and high-stress nature of their work. Simply put, we must care for those who care for all others, and we believe adventure can help these heroes recharge.

CLICK HERE to view the new program landing page and share with healthcare professionals and first responders in your network. To learn more about this campaign and how you can help, please reach out to Ray Shedd, Director of Advancement.

Please take care of yourselves and continue to support one another. This storm will pass, and when it does, let’s be ready to adventure together! Meanwhile, hold fast to the Out Living It spirit and Standby for Adventure…

With gratitude,


Executive Director

A Special Video Message from First Descents Founder, Brad Ludden

Our Path Forward – A Message from Ryan O’Donoghue, Executive Director

Dear First Descents Family, 

I’m writing with an update on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is impacting the First Descents (FD) community. It goes without saying, recent weeks have been challenging for all of us. Each new day brings about change, varying degrees of uncertainty, and underlying anxiety about what the future holds. Moreover, this pandemic compounds the fears and feelings of isolation for those coping with cancer and other serious health conditions

Adventure teaches us the power of adaptation and resilience. Navigating these uncharted waters will require balancing optimism with a realistic understanding of what must be done to keep our community safe. 

First Descents is planning for inevitable changes and actively preparing to support members of our community who are especially impacted. It is clear that this unprecedented crisis will have implications that may extend well beyond the near-term. Ensuring the health and safety of this community, our team, and the courageous participants who we serve is our highest priority. 

With this in mind, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to suspend programs and events until further notice. We simply cannot risk the health and safety of our participants and staff, especially when travel is involved. Please know we stand ready to provide programs as soon as it is safe to do so!

In the meantime, we are closely monitoring federal and state health and safety mandates while working in close coordination with FD’s Coronavirus Task Force. Stay tuned for more information to follow.

Furthermore, we must embrace uncertainty and its creative potential. As much as we typically encourage detaching from devices and screen time in favor of time spent in the great outdoors, we are in the process of developing FD-inspired online experiences that will unite our community during these unusual times.

As members of the FD community, we share a profound connection – one that will have meaning throughout our lives. Being part of this community offers much more than memories. We have the opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves during this time of need.

Lastly, our work would not be possible without the generous financial support of those who believe in our mission. If you’ve given in years past, we humbly ask you to consider recommitting at a similar level. Regardless, gifts at any level help to fuel the healing power of adventure. CLICK HERE to show your support.

Holding fast to FD’s Out Living It mindset, we must stay the course, support each other, and standby for adventure once this storm clears. And it will…

With gratitude,


Ryan O’Donoghue
Executive Director




When this storm clears, First Descents will be ready to support our participants who’ve been especially impacted by this crisis. Here’s what you can do: 

  1. Share your story by creating an FD Ripple Campaign. Right now the world needs stories of resilience and Out Living It.
  2. If you’re able, please consider a donation to our Standby for Adventure Campaign. While programs are in a holding pattern, the generosity of the FD Family never ceases! Every $1,000 raised sponsors a participant to attend a local multi-day program.
  3. Reach out to a friend and take care of each other. Practice self-care. Adhere to the healthcare guidelines currently in place in your area. Stay safe and Standby for Adventure! 

1 thought on “First Descents Coronavirus Update”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Silverton Mountain Takeover: Hitting the Slopes with First Descents

Previous Post

I'm Not Done Yet Foundation Supports First Descents

Next Post