First Descents Expands Adventure Program to Include Young Adults With MS

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by Mary Chapman |

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Following its well-received pilot program, First Descents has broadened its adventure-based program for cancer patients to include young adults with multiple sclerosis (MS).

For 17 years, the non-profit has specialized in free outdoor activities, community building, and skills development for young adults with cancer. In September, First Descents conducted a successful pilot program with MS patients that called for expansion beyond the oncology field.

“Anxiety, isolation and depression are common side effects for young adults impacted by serious illnesses, and our programming works to address those psychosocial issues,” Brad Ludden, First Descents founder and professional kayaker, said in a press release. “We’re excited to grow the First Descents family and bring the proven healing power of adventure to young adults with MS.”

Offering individualized care, medical attention, and the chance to establish relationships with fellow patients, the organization features week-long, local and international adventures, including activities such as climbing, kayaking, and surfing.

Two years ago, CNN awarded Ludden one of its Top 10 Hero Awards. After that airing, First Descents was asked by various healthcare organizations to provide outdoor experiences for its patients.

That led to the pilot program, in which 14 young MS adults spent a week kayaking and socializing in Tarkio, Montana. The event was sponsored by employment services company Velocity Global, and organized by First Descents, the National MS Society and CanDo MS.

“Our Team has supported and volunteered with First Descents on numerous occasions, but it’s especially rewarding to help the organization bring these transformational experiences to young adults coping with MS,” said Ben Wright, Velocity Global’s CEO.

CNN, which has continued to follow First Descents, broadcast a segment on Oct. 25 about the organization’s inclusion of MS patients, showcasing the Montana expedition.

First Descents programs are offered free of cost to participants.

“At First Descents,” its website reads, “we define our lives by the depth of our friendships, the adventures we have, and the moments of laughter, peace, fear and humility we experience. We remember the important things, the defining things, like brilliant sunsets, big rapids, glassy waves, and endless rock faces.”

Through its Out Living It Projects, the organization encourages participation in its fundraising events. Upcoming First Descents events include a Nov. 4 fundraising marathon in New York City, and its 2019 13th Annual First Descents Ball. The organization’s events section has more detailed information.

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