Cancer survivors find freedom on the river
EDWARDS – Cancer isn’t meant for the young. It’s supposed to be the privilege of those who are “middle-aged” and older, when, hundreds of years ago, they’d already be extinct.
Brad Ludden, founder of First Descents, knew that wasn’t the case. He also knew that when someone lives with cancer at a young age feeling alone isn’t uncommon. Peers don’t know what to say because they just don’t understand, so he felt it was important to get these young adults into something thrilling and in the company of others who have gone through the same experience.Ludden, a professional kayaker, formed the camp in 2001. What began as a one-week camp with 15 campers has grown to include 75 young adults over five weeks.
“When I had my first roll it was a kind of freedom on the river,” said Kelsey Wolfe, a student at the University of Colorado who has attended the camp. “You know you can get out of it and, when you do, it opens a freedom to try other parts of the river.”Wolfe contracted leukemia at age 8 and is cancer free. The intensive treatment she experienced will always be a clear memory for her.Matt Harper, a student at the Colorado School of Mines, is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed at 16 with a rare form of cancer that attacks the muscles. He endured six months of intensive treatment at Children’s Hospital in Denver.”The camp gave me a sense of belonging,” he said. “I love the outdoor stuff, and kayaking is such a rush. It was great to share with others who have been through the same sort of thing, and becoming friends.”Matt Harper, a student at the Colorado School of Mines, is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed at 16 with a rare form of cancer that attacks the muscles. He endured six months of intensive treatment at Children’s Hospital in Denver.
“The camp gave me a sense of belonging,” he said. “I love the outdoor stuff, and kayaking is such a rush. It was great to share with others who have been through the same sort of thing, and becoming friends.”First Descents had a fundraiser last week – a “dine out” in Edwards. The Gore Range Brewery, Mustang Grill, The Gas House, Eat! Drink!, the Main Street Grill, The French Press, Moe’s and Full Belly Pub served up complimentary appetizers as patrons strolled from restaurant to restaurant enjoying the fare. The evening brought in more than 200 diners who paid $40 a piece to sample what the restaurants had to offer. All the restaurants donated the food for the night. Afterward, the band “All Strung Out” performed at the Rumpus Room.The event was the idea of Allan Goldberg, executive director of First Descents. Goldberg, a triathlete, is also a cancer survivor and met Ludden through Nike when he was working for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. He’s also the founder of the Robert Louie Adolescent Cancer Center Support Group in San Francisco.For more information, call executive director Allen Goldberg at (415)254-7983 or visit http://www.firstdescents.org.
Clockwise from top: Jeremy Campbell, Marilyn Heaney, Ann L’Esperance and Ann Evans.
Christina Schleicher with campers Matt Harper and Kelsey Wolfe.
Brandy Hoeve and Ellen Casey.
Shawnna Sisca, Zak Stone, Heather RussellVail Daily, Vail Colorado CO