When a mas­sive off-road vehi­cle weigh­ing sev­er­al tons and boast­ing a 10-Liter diesel engine rolls down the Prius-speck­led streets of down­town Port­land’s Pearl Dis­trict, peo­ple can’t help but take a sec­ond look. Stopped at inter­sec­tions, it rum­bles and exhales heat waves from behind a mean-look­ing grill that ris­es above most pedes­tri­ans’ ster­nums. Whether they like it or not, it’s impos­si­ble for them not to appre­ci­ate the sheer awe­some­ness of the rig—the moun­tain bikes hang­ing from a rack on the trunk, the col­or­ful kayaks stick­ing up from its roof like badass bows. Prob­a­bly the last thing this mobile adven­ture goliath con­jures in their minds is can­cer, which is good, because Paul Kel­ly, the stocky shaved-head rep­re­sen­ta­tive of First Descents who is behind the wheel, has­n’t dri­ven halfway across the coun­try to make peo­ple think about can­cer. He’s done it to help them for­get about it.

Head­quar­tered in Den­ver, CO, First Descents is a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides out­door adven­ture ther­a­py to young adults with can­cer. The idea is that once in the wild where they will be forced to con­front legit­i­mate out­door chal­lenges, par­tic­i­pants will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to push their lim­its and face their fears, and through the expe­ri­ence, regain the con­fi­dence and self-effi­ca­cy lost to can­cer. First Descents has over 40 pro­grams in 10 states sched­uled for 2012, dur­ing which the orga­ni­za­tion will enable over 600 par­tic­i­pants to live their dream adven­tures. Kel­ly is in Port­land on his own adven­ture, dri­ving the orga­ni­za­tion’s new mar­ket­ing cam­paign: First Descents Mobile.

“We lit­er­al­ly just got the truck three weeks ago,” says Kel­ly, who stopped by The Clymb office to say hel­lo before leav­ing for a pad­dling event in Hood Riv­er. “It’s been to Moab once with the founder but I’m the guinea pig.” Kel­ly is the first of sev­er­al employ­ees whose job descrip­tions now include dri­ving the mas­sive truck around the coun­try on a pro­mo­tion­al tour. Wend­ing their ways from state to state, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from First Descents will pro­mote their pro­gram at can­cer treat­ment facil­i­ties such as oncol­o­gy clin­ics and at recre­ation events, tak­ing breaks from the road when­ev­er pos­si­ble to lead curi­ous can­cer fight­ers and sur­vivors on mini adven­tures such as white­wa­ter kayak­ing trips and rock climbs. But, as Kel­ly explains, the mobile unit offers just a taste of the true First Descents expe­ri­ence. Con­tin­ue read­ing

First Descents pro­vides young adult can­cer sur­vivors and fight­ers with a free week-long out­door adven­ture designed to get them climb­ing, surf­ing, and pad­dling. It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to reclaim their lives and con­nect with oth­ers doing the same.

First Descents is able to offer these empow­er­ing and con­fi­dence-boost­ing trips because of gen­er­ous dona­tions from peo­ple like Kurt and Deb­bi Krichko. As a part of Team Teva US West Coast, the Krichkos have been vol­un­teer­ing their time in their local com­mu­ni­ty since June 1st thanks to dona­tions that also direct­ly sup­port First Descents in their efforts. They’ll con­tin­ue to vol­un­teer in such activ­i­ties like local area road and riv­er cleanup and soup kitchen assis­tance until Sep­tem­ber 1st. For infor­ma­tion on how you can assist, vis­it their dona­tion page here.


Pho­to cour­tesy of FirstDescents.org

You can also apply to vol­un­teer (Camp Moms, Med­ical Vol­un­teers, Camp Pho­tog­ra­phers, etc.) at First Descents direct­ly at their site here. Or you can start your own team.

We’re always look­ing to high­light peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions doing good works while sup­port­ing their love of the out­doors. If you know of some­one we should inter­view, please send the infor­ma­tion to nina@theclymb.com.