DENVER (KDVR) — The therapeutic benefits of the outdoors have been known for years.

For some people who are battling cancer, multiple sclerosis and other life-threatening illnesses, the outdoor experience can be life-changing.

The nonprofit First Descents was founded by pro kayaker Brad Ludden in 2001. First Descents provides white water kayaking, rock climbing and surfing for those with life-changing illnesses.

“First Descents in the outdoor world is the first time a river or a mountain has been successfully descended,“ said Ryan O’Donoghue, First Descents CEO. O’Donoghue said it is the perfect metaphor.

“You know, when they’re navigating a serious health diagnosis they are oftentimes encountering challenges they’ve never seen before,“ said O’Donoghue.

First Descents provides free outdoor adventure programs for young adults with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other life-impacting illnesses.

“We were born out of the belief that adventure has the ability to help heal,“ O’Donoghue said of the nonprofit. Over the years O’Donoghue said they realized that the combination of adventure and community is the magic formula.

O’Donoghue is a believer in First Descents and its mission. His brother Colin was diagnosed with cancer.

“Colin was diagnosed with cancer when he was 26 years old and unfortunately passed away at 28 years old,“ said O’Donoghue.

Being outdoors, being challenged, even being a little scared is a successful formula.

“Beyond the smiles and beyond the anecdotal testimonials, we help to forge these lifelong bonds that are there forever,” said O’Donoghue.

Forever indeed.