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First Descents – An Amazing Experience

By Office Staff

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people.  Zoar Outdoor is working with a program called First Descents, a really amazing program for young adults with cancer.  There are a wide variety of participants from all over the US and Canada ranging from about 18 up to about 39 years old.  All of the participants have had cancer.  Some are in remission, while others are going through chemo and other treatments.  For many participants cancer has taken over their life.  “Out Living It” is the First Descents motto and the program is all about introducing people to new things, challenging them and pushing them to their limits to show participants what they can accomplish and to help them get back to living a more normal life.  

Working with First Descents was a truly an amazing experience.  This is by far the most powerful program I have ever worked.  Although they had just met, they showed up with an incredible bond because of what they had been through.  We had 11 participants in the group and they were all really amazing people.  In addition to the participants, this program also had 2 house moms, 2 medical staff, 2 chefs, 2 program staff, and a photographer making for a fairly large group. 

The week was full of fun.  Everyone faced new challenges and really stepped up in a big way.  On the river, participants worked through the wet exit, learned to swim rapids, catch eddies, peel out, ferry and one participant even learned to roll.  We ran a lot of rapids and a few participants even ran the gap.  In the evening everyone hung out.  There were many games of mafia and stump/nails.  People hung out in the hot tub or sat around and talked.  Throughout the week there were constant dance parties, sometimes even without music.  These dance parties seemed to break out everywhere.  There was one at every putin and takeout, many at the house where participants were staying and even one or two on top of a minivan.  At the end of the day, there was a campfire where awards were given out and everyone shared their experiences from the day.

It was an awesome week and it was a lot of fun getting to know some amazing people.  Working with First Descents was such a powerful experience.  I was truly honored to be able to be a part of the experience that the 11 participants went through.  It was a really powerful and touching week and I left with a bunch of new friends that I hope to have the opportunity to paddle and hang out with again.  It was such an amazing experience.  First Descents is an incredible program and does so much for young adults with cancer.  To learn more about the program or to donate, please visit:

-Ben Natusch


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