Kalispell’s Ludden Named Finalist in CNN Hero Contest

Flathead High School graduate founded First Descents 15 years ago

By Beacon STaff
Brad Ludden, professional kayaker and founder of First Descents. Beacon File Photo

Brad Ludden, a professional kayaker from Kalispell who founded a nonprofit organization providing outdoor adventures for young adults with cancer, is a finalist in this year’s CNN Heroes contest.

Ludden, 35, is among 10 finalists in the nationwide event organized by the cable news network. Each of the finalists receives a $10,000 cash prize and the winner will be named “CNN Hero of the Year” and receive an additional $100,000 for his or her cause.

Votes are being tallied on social media, including Facebook Messenger and Twitter, as well as email.

The winner will be announced on a live broadcast on Dec. 11.

Ludden, a Flathead High School graduate, was a successful professional kayaker when he founded First Descents 15 years ago after watching his young aunt battle cancer. The nonprofit offers free outdoor adventures based around kayaking, surfing and rock climbing to young adults fighting cancer. The organization hosts weeklong camps each year. Since its founding in 2001, First Descents has taken more than 3,000 people on trips.

“I have learned more from First Descents’ participants than anything else in my entire life,” Ludden told CNN. “I’ve learned how to be much more vulnerable, the importance of laughter and to not just accept each day as it comes but to go out and define it.”

For more information on the CNN Heroes contest, visit http://www.cnn.com/specials/cnn-heroes.

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