First Descents provides life changing outdoor adventures for young adults (age 18-39) impacted by cancer. During each week long program, lives of these fighters and survivors of cancer are transformed through learning how to kayak, surf or climb while being supported and surrounded by peers. These week long camps are offered at no charge to the camper by First Descents, through the generosity of their donor and sponsorship program.
Camper Lindsey “Dozer” Brookshier shared her journey during her FD program here at Wet Planet. “After battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I needed to believe in my body again. For the past year and a half I have felt that it has betrayed me. The very core of my blood carried this malignant destruction and turned mutiny on me. My faith in my physical self had been shattered. (During my FD program) I discovered fears and uncovered knowledge about myself that I never knew before. And I felt so much stronger for it. While my battle with cancer became my mental mantra, ‘You fought cancer… this is nothing,’ the experiences on the river awakened the core of my soul. And because of that, I felt powerful.”
This past summer, I had the opportunity to row a support raft during one of the FD camps at Wet Planet. It ended up being a very different week of ‘work’ for me, and one that I’ll never forget filled with amazing people and moving experiences.
Campers come together from across the country to form an incredible support system, and to do something that most of them had never even thought about doing. Learning new things, particularly sports, is a challenging, exhausting, and humbling process for everyone.
Making these experiences possible for a group of people who have been through trials that many of us can’t imagine, is humbling and rewarding. Depending on how and when they were impacted, many may have lost faith in the abilities of their bodies, yet made the choice to do something that they’re not sure they’re capable of. And guess what? Every single one of them did it. The energy was contagious. High fives, hugs, stories over dinner of the incredible feats of the day, celebrating one another, and how what seemed like a small sporting success was so much bigger than that.
It was the success of saying, “Yes, I can.” It was the success of taking one step, and then the next. It was embracing challenges instead of shying away from them; having the confidence that you can handle any obstacle that life puts in your way. And it wasn’t just on the river. Learning to kayak helped provide a new confidence and energy in living life.
“We came here to get out of our comfort zone, to learn something new about ourselves, and what we can accomplish. That’s the reason we all know each other only by our nicknames – to escape our usual lives for a while. My fellow campers and I were bald, chemo-addled, disabled in a variety of ways. And by graduation day, each one of us rode down something we thought was impossible only five days before. We took control of our bodies and our destinies in a way that we hadn’t been able to in years. At a closing ceremony around the campfire, we tied red string around each other’s wrists before we returned to doctors’ appointments, scans, blood tests and the uncertainty that lay ahead. Perhaps that was the greatest part of kayaking camp, feeling excited by the rough water ahead, maneuvering through everything blocking our paths, and seeing the calm waters ahead where we knew that we could just float.” –Becki Melchione, First Descents alumni
We are excited every year to host First Descents’ programs, meeting this year’s heroes and putting these bright smiles back on their faces.
Choose to have a life changing experience of your own this summer. Discover the art of being a life-long learner. Take a page from the books of hundreds of adults impacted by cancer who discovered that learning to kayak would give them the tools to shape their lives, and take a kayak course. You might just realize that learning something new changes the way that you look at things, too.
Wet Planet offers great 2 and 3 day beginner kayak courses, as well as intermediate and private kayak classes. In addition, if you want to combine your new kayak skills with an amazing multi-day whitewater adventure, you should check out Wet Planet’s six day Main Salmon River trip. All that is required is one previous beginner class! If you do not live in the area, ask around. There are many great kayak schools around the nation!
For the last 9 years, Wet Planet has been the regional host and facilitator for the First Descents program. If you watch CNN, the name Brad Ludden may ring a bell. Brad, professional kayaker and founder of this program, was nominated for CNN Hero of the Year, honoring the fantastic work of this non-profit organization. If you’d like to get involved, visit First Descents for volunteer opportunities or donation information.