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Section Banner: Unitarian Universalists attending a rally for the 'Stand on the Side of Love' campaign. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

Volunteer with First Descents: Change a Life

"My name is Cheesesteak, and First Descents saved my life. I was diagnosed with Stage IIIA ovarian cancer in December, 2007. In August, 2009, I went rock-climbing in Jackson, Wyoming with First Descents. When I arrived at camp, my life as a survivor was still very much defined by fear, sadness and anger. My body had been debilitated and weakened from my treatments. I was unsure how to go on living. Through First Descents, I was given the opportunity to connect with other young adults who truly understood my struggles. And through First Descents, I realized that it was possible to live fully – and joyfully – after cancer. I truly cannot imagine my life as a survivor without First Descents. It means the world to me. Through Team FD, my hope is to raise enough money to give another young adult this same second chance at life." —Cheesesteak, 2009

First Descents Story

In 2001, ten young adults took to the rivers of Colorado in white water kayaks. For seven days, they learned the basics of the sport, eventually conquering Class III rapids before the week’s end. They were there to prove themselves and to prove a point: that cancer, no matter how aggressive, dormant, advanced, or invasive, would never be stronger than they were.

First Descents Mission

First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors (ages 18 to 39) a free week-long outdoor adventure experience designed to enable them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.

What Happens at First Descents?

During the week-long First Descents experience, young adult survivors are empowered through conquering legitimate outdoor challenges to push their limits and face their fears, and by doing so, they are able to regain the confidence and self-efficacy lost to cancer. First Descents places an emphasis on each individual’s experience and provides the right support for every participant to achieve their goals for the week. The experience is designed to allow healing to happen naturally and organically – no forced conversations and no structured group sessions or therapy. Each program is limited to 15 campers, ensuring individualized care, medical attention and an intimate experience with fellow survivors. First Descents programs are available to young adults with cancer regardless of their financial means. All meals, accommodations and program activities are provided free of charge, including travel scholarships, when needed. In 2011 First Descents will host 27 week-long programs in 7 states (ID, MT, OR, CO, NC, UT, CA) and Canada.

First Descents Programs

Read more about the First Descents programs.

Volunteer with First Descents

Read more about volunteering with First Descents.

For more information on First Descents, feel free to visit their website, check out their blog, or contact them at any time.

“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”—Anonymous

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

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