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Make a splash

Laura A. Ball

RANCHO DEL RIO – Grab some friends and your kayak, an inner tube, an inflatable alligator, anything you can find as long as it floats. First Descents’ fourth annual Paddle-a-Thon happens Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Vail-based nonprofit organization that teaches young adults with cancer to kayak. Started by local professional kayaker and Nike ACG athlete Brad Ludden, First Descents uses kayaking and other outdoor activities to help campers face challenges and overcome obstacles associated with living with cancer in a fun and supportive environment.Participants of the Paddle-a-Thon receive pledges and every mile paddled helps raise funds and awareness for the kayaking camp.”The money goes directly to getting new campers and improving their lives,” Ludden said. “The infrastructure is finally in place, we just need to expand. So if we can get the funds, I would like to see us run twice as many camps as we did this year.” Ludden said the four camps in 2005 will host 60 kids by summer’s end and doubling would mean 120 kids would have an opportunity to attend the free seven-day camp in 2006.

This year, the Paddle-a-Thon takes place in three other locales including the White Salmon River in Hood River, Ore., Clear Creek in Golden, as well as the Potomac River in Potomac, Maryland. First Descents’ goal is to raise $20,000 from the four events.”The Paddle-a-Thon events are just another example of how generous the kayak community is,” states Ludden. “I’m looking forward to getting on the river with all of my fellow boaters and racking up as many miles as we can.”Rancho del Rio. aka the center of the universe, is the place to meet. Paddle the Rancho to State Bridge stretch (about 4 miles) as many times as you’d like. Shuttles will be running all day.”This is a perfect stretch for beginner kayakers,” said Ian Anderson, president of First Descents. “There will be lots of great boaters out there to join you and provide some tips.” The party doesn’t end there. State Bridge Lodge in Bond will have free beer and Boulder-based groove quartet Willis gets everyone dancing.

“People come to get out of the heat and get into the water,” Ludden said. “Everyone’s there to have a good time. Anytime anyone gets off the river and parties it’s always fun, and State Bridge is always a good party.”The Colorado River Center will offer $15 full equipment demos for all Paddle-a-Thon participants. Call ahead to reserve at 653-0263. First Descents asks for a minimum donation of $20. For more information or to download a pledge sheet, visit http://www.firstdescents.org. If you can’t attend the Paddle-a-Thon but would like to make a donation, visit http://www.active.com/donations/fundraise_public.cfm?key=ian.



Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or laball@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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