Vail Valley Spotlight: First Descents |

Vail Valley Spotlight: First Descents

Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyFirst Descents provides outdoor adventure programs for young adults living with cancer. Its founder, professional kayaker Brad Ludden, started the Vail Valley nonprofit after his aunt was diagnosed with Breast Cancer eight years ago.

Executive Director/president: Scott Macdonald, interim executive director

Location: Our office is located on W. Benchmark Rd in Avon, CO, but we provide our programs all across the country.

Phone number: (970)845 8410

Web address:

Hours: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. and 24 hours a day, seven days a week during summer programs!

Years in business: First Descents was founded in 2001 by professional kayaker Brad Ludden, who still lives in Eagle County. As a young professional athlete, Brad was deeply affected when his aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. He was inspired to share the gift of kayaking and outdoor sports with cancer survivors.

What is the organization’s mission and who benefits from its work:

The mission of First Descents is to provide emotional, physical, and psychological healing for young adults with cancer, utilizing whitewater kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports. First Descents provides week-long adventure programs, completely free of cost to young adult survivors. Focusing on the young adult demographic (ages 18-40), First Descents is able to provide healing, inspiration and resources for a drastically underserved group of survivors. The experience is unforgettable for so many participants.

“The experience I had at First Descents was truly magical, and one that I will never forget,” said Brian Wickman, a First Descents participant. “You helped me believe in myself again and realize how to overcome my fears ” for that I am forever grateful.”

Where does your funding come from?

Grants, grassroots fundraisers, sponsorships, and fundraiser events all contribute to funding, although a huge portion is composed of private donations from individuals who believe in our cause or know someone who has seen first hand the positive effect of our programs.

How many staff members work for you?

First Descents has three paid staff members, and countless dedicated volunteers.

Anything else you’d like the community to know about the organization?

First Descents will be holding nine one-week programs in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Wisconsin in 2009, two of which will be here in Vail.

Community support, donations and volunteers are always welcome! For more information about how to get involved with First Descents, visit

Contact Community Editor Lauren Glendenning at (970)748-2983, or

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