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The outdoors belong to everyone, and more and more organizations are encouraging spending time outdoors to positively impact others, such as The Venture Out Project, which benefits the LGBTQ community. First Descents is similar to these outdoor enthusiast organizations, with one key difference: they provide life-changing, outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer.
First Descents explores outdoor experimental programming by offering free adventure programs to empower those diagnosed, help reclaim their lives, and connect with others who are going through the same experience.
The doctors and medicine involved in the treatment of cancer are lifesaving, but another major determinant of long-term survival is ongoing psychosocial supportive care. That’s where First Descents comes in, with a focus on body image, self-compassion, and improving self-esteem. Of course, this does not eliminate the disease among the youths involved, but it does create a sense of positivity and increased ability to cope with their diagnosis.
There are three different program types offered: week-long programs, local adventure communities, and international programs. These programs are all open to young adults aged 18-39 years of age diagnosed with cancer after the age of 15. They are free of charge and offer individualized care to all participants, as well as medical attention and intimate experiences with fellow survivors. The week-long programs are intended for first timers, and the local adventure communities are intended for both first timers and alumni, but the international programs are geared towards alumni only. The First Descents website has a handy search engine, so any future participant can find a program in their area and filter it based on what activity they would prefer to participate in.
Activities for participants include rock climbing, surfing, and kayaking. They can also choose a “local adventure” which is a weekend trip filled with different activities, a “global adventure” which hosts participants abroad as they experience the outdoors in a whole new place, and activities titled “MS” for those who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis.
Anyone can volunteer and donate to this cause, and there’s even a way to host an event! This program not only benefits the well-being of participants but also gives them an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while learning about the importance of respecting nature as well as different international cultures.
Have you or someone you know been impacted by a cancer diagnosis? Do you know of other great programs that give opportunities to those diagnosed to travel and embrace other cultures? Let us know!