Brad Ludden

Advocate | 2012

As a boy in Montana, Brad Ludden became captivated by kayaking. While in his teens, he traveled the world to pursue the thrill of “first descents” — running courses of white water no kayaker had tackled before.

When Brad’s beloved aunt Lori Pederson was diagnosed with breast cancer, he decided to share his passion for kayaking with young adults coping with cancer. He believed that kayaking had much to offer a young person facing a terrifying diagnosis — the joy and freedom of exploring a river, the empowerment of learning a new and challenging skill, and the grandeur of nature.

Brad founded First Descents, which offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure. They climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, reclaim their lives and connect with each other in a wilderness setting.

In 2011, First Descents hosted 27 weeklong camps in seven western states and Canada. No more than 15 attend each session, which Brad and his team conduct as a highly supportive, small group experience.

“Through First Descents,” writes one participant, “I realized that it was possible to live fully — and joyfully — after cancer.”

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