The Program Whitewater paddling and other outdoor sports for young adults with cancer
The Instigator Brad Ludden
The Method Empowering young people to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.
First Descents introduces young adults with cancer to outdoor challenges, allowing them to push their limits and face their fears. The experience allows them to regain the confidence and self-reliance often lost to cancer. The experience is designed to allow healing to happen naturally and organically—without forced conversations, structured group sessions or therapy. The program has grown to include a variety of outdoor sports, with whitewater kayaking being the original and still most common setting. Programs are limited to 15 participants, with professional staff and volunteers from the outdoor sports community. The program is free, including travel scholarships when needed.
More Info Currents TV: First Descents
The Cause Healing wounded spirits through kayak fishing
The Instigator Jim Dolan
The Method Bring wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers, and go fishing
Heroes on the Water serves all military personnel who have been wounded, injured or disabled. What looks like a day trip of paddling and fishing for wounded vets is in fact something much deeper and long-lasting. As all paddlers know, time on the water is therapeutic. HOW facilitates that healing by bringing wounded veterans together with experienced kayak anglers in 35 chapters around the country. Founder Jim Dolan estimates HOW has introduced 4,800 wounded veterans to kayak fishing, and his goal is to have 100 chapters nationwide serving 10,000 veterans. Being on the water gives soldiers a feeling of peace and freedom from their wounds—an experience that “coalesces into personal revelations that while the wounds may have closed one door, there are other doors to explore. Life is still good.”
The Cause Mentoring at-risk youth on the Big Muddy
The Instigator John Ruskey
The Method Canoe-building, river-tripping, art and music
John Ruskey, noted local bluesman, canoe guide and owner of Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC), has been sharing his love of America’s greatest river with at-risk youth since 1998. Ruskey’s Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program introduces children from some of the nation’s most impoverished communities to the Mississippi River and the possibilities manifested in its rolling waters. Students in the program learn canoe and paddle making, river guiding, camping and survival skills. Ruskey’s aim is to teach the Mighty Quapaws self-reliance, teamwork, leadership, environmental stewardship and ethics.
More Info C&K On Assignment: Mississippi Wandering
The Cause Teaching children about the outdoors
The Instigator Dave and Amy Freeman
The Method An online curriculum based on the couple’s nearly 12,000-mile wilderness odyssey
The Wilderness Classroom is almost as simple as it sounds. As expedition members-such as founders Dave and Amy Freeman-travel remote pieces of the globe, they interact with classrooms via the Internet. The Freemans are currently on their “North American Odyssey,” a three-year, 11,700-mile trip by kayak, canoe and dogsled across North America. As they travel, they post photos, journal entries, dilemmas, podcasts, videos, and maps for students to follow and learn from. The Freemans currently have 2,100 teachers and 70,000 students participating online, and they hope to push the student number to 100,000 by the journey’s end. They’ll also visit 50 schools and share their experiences with over 12,000 school kids, in person.
MORE INFO Wilderness Classroom
The Cause Building trust between police and native youth
The Instigator Ed Hill
The Method Long journeys in voyageur canoes
Relations between First Nation communities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are complicated by a long, bitter history of institutional discrimination. RCMP staff sergeant Ed Hill works to heal these old wounds using traditional Pacific Northwest-style war canoes. In 1997, he and native artist Roy Henry Vickers organized a 31-day flotilla in which lawmen and native youth canoed more than 700 miles from the village of Hazelton in Central B.C. to Victoria. That journey inspired the annual Pulling Together events, in which law enforcement officers—once charged with enforcing discriminatory laws—and First Nations people get together to renew trust and bridge cultural gaps through the common cause of paddling canoes. Nearly 300 people participated in the eight-day journey last year.
More info In The Same Boat
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