REI and First Descents partner to offer life-changing outdoor experiences for young adults impacted by cancer

Private programming to launch in San Diego, Washington D.C and Portland, Oregon

SEATTLE – REI and First Descents partner to provide outdoor experiences for young adults impacted by cancer beginning May 12. Programs launching in San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon will be led by REI Outdoor School and highlight each region’s unique outdoor spaces through kayaking, climbing, camping, backpacking and stand up paddle boarding classes.

“Having a connection with the outdoors has proven benefits to an individual’s health and overall well-being. REI Outdoor School provides opportunities to spend time in nature through a variety of educational and inspirational outdoor activities,” said Rebecca Bear, director of REI outdoor programs and experiences. “We’re so thrilled to partner with First Descents to provide life-changing experiences in the outdoors.”

The first classes to launch this month include Overnight Backpacking in Shenandoah National Park and a Sunset Kayak Tour of the D.C. Monuments. Classes in Portland and San Diego will also be available throughout the summer. REI Outdoor School instructors will guide participants through these unique outdoor experiences. The largest provider of outdoor education in the country, REI Outdoor School had over 375,000 participants in 2017.

“We are excited to partner with REI Outdoor School to scale adventure programs and build supportive peer relationships for young adults impacted by cancer,” said Ryan O’Donoghue, executive director of First Descents. “Each year more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer. This population represents the fastest growing and most underserved age demographic within oncology. Our partnership with REI will enable First Descents to bring the healing power of adventure to thousands more survivors through expert-led programs that are both empowering and accessible in local communities.”

First Descents knows firsthand the positive impact spending time in the outdoors has on long-term health. The organization’s programs address the psychological and social impacts of having cancer through experiences that foster resilience, confidence and self-efficacy, as well as improved body image and self-compassion. Participants also build healthy long-term habits through the development of outdoor skills, practicing mindfulness and learning about healthy nutrition. Equally inspiring, First Descents’ Prescribe Adventure program seeks to improve survivorship and quality of life by working directly with healthcare professionals and medical centers nationwide with the goal of introducing First Descents closer to the time of diagnosis.

To learn more about REI and First Descents experiences, or to apply to participate, visit

About REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 16 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 151 stores in 36 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at, REI-Garage or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs more than 200 custom-designed itineraries worldwide. The REI Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.

About First Descents

First Descents (FD) is the leader in adventure-based healing. Through outdoor adventure, community building, and skills development, FD improves long-term survivorship and quality of life for young adults impacted by cancer. Headquartered in Denver, First Descents will provide more than 1,200 experiences across over 100 adventure programs nationwide in 2018. All services are fully-adaptive and free of charge. A Guidestar Platinum-ranked nonprofit, First Descents has been recognized on CNN Heroes and Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work. 



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