We are Family! We are Family!

I’ve done many write-ups about the organization, First Descents , (FD) in the past.  However, this year I am writing about my experience from a different perspective.  For the last 4 years, I have had the opportunity to work with FD on the outfitter side.  I was the lead kayak instructor for the FD camps in Hood River, OR.  My role was to figure out where to paddle, what time to meet, whether we had the appropriate gear for the participants, etc.  Basically, it was my responsibility to create a safe, fun and effective environment to experience kayaking.

This year, however, my role changed.  I was brought on directly by First Descents as a lead staff person for a few of the summer camps.  My role changed from creating an experience for the participants on the water to creating an experience for the participants in every realm possible.  Myself, along with my amazing partner Patch, worked side by side to develop a week long camp that would empower, challenge, amuse and develop each participant in different ways.

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The camps I had the opportunity to be a part of were held at Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Mass.  Their professional and caring staff made my job that much easier.

There are so many memories from the two camps in Mass. ~ random dance parties, playing “stump”, listening to cancer survivor stories from some of the strongest people I know, challenging participants to push past where THEY think their limit is; and, so much more!

Every year my FD family grows.  And, every year I learn more and more about cancer and how much it sucks.  But, that people CAN and DO push past it and ‘keep living it’.

Every year I ask myself why I feel such a desire to stay connected with First Descents.  This year I think I found out why.  My mother had breast cancer; my husbands mother had breast cancer; it is only a matter of time before someone else close to me develops cancer; and, though I don’t like to think about this fact, one day I may hear that awful news.

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At any rate . . . spending time with these people I feel has prepared me.  They have taught me that though cancer and treatment SUCK, you don’t have to loose your identity.  In fact, you can come back just as strong and just as fierce as before.

Here’s to First Descents and the lives’ that have been touched because of it!  If you want to support this organization, check out the website and become part of Team FD.

See you on the river,

Heather Herbeck

"Out Livin' It" "Out Livin' It"

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