Marvelous Adventures of Millissa Martin (Mil)


Many of you have had the privilege to meet the marvelous Mil when you travelled to Mexico to paddle with Girls at Play. Besides being an outstanding kayak instructor, she is amazing for so many reasons. She keeps the music playing, keeps you laughing, helps you stay right side up in your boat and can boof and dance like no other. Her vibrant smile and energy are contagious. For all of these reasons she is perfectly qualified to be helping us, but also for what she does when she’s not helping out Girls at Play.

During the summers Mil works for First Descents, the non-profit organization committed to curing young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing outdoor adventure therapy through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports. She is also an instructor for the Whitewater Intensive Leadership Development School (WILD) which is a 90 day semester training program providing instruction and certification in the 6 core elements of whitewater kayaking, canoeing, raft guiding, riverboarding, swiftwater rescue and wilderness first aid while spanning rivers throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico.

We all love Mil for all that she does with Girls at Play, but read on to find out what she has learned from working with FD and WILD. We are grateful for her sharing her talents and spirt with us and so many others!

How long have you been working for First Descents (FD)?
I started volunteering in 2007 with FD for a few weeks in the summer. In 2009/10 I worked seasonal full time on the camps.

What is your job there?
I am one of FD’s camp directors. Last year I did 2 camps in Washington State and 5 camps in Colorado.

What is the most rewarding thing about working there?
The main thing that I feel while I am there is love. Total strangers come together each week that have one thing in common to try a new and slightly scary activity and through the activities of the week we all leave with full hearts. It’s amazing to be apart of this!

In the FD mission, it says you work to empower young adult cancer patients. What sort of tools do you use to do this?
FD uses the outdoor adventure activities like kayaking and climbing to build confidence and trust in the campers. There is something so satisfying when you run a rapid or reach the top of a mountain because you know you got there using your own strength.

What has working with FD taught you?
That life is special.

What do you like most about working for FD?
I love the people that I meet along the way and hearing and their stories: their tiumph over their cancer and how special they are.  Then, at camp I get to see them triumph on the river or the rock face. Also, really we laugh a lot and if anyone knows me, I love that!

What is the most challenging thing working with FD?
Knowing that there are so many young adults out there that do not know about FD and would benefit from the week so much. But, each year FD is growing so the word is getting out there. So spread the word!!!!

Why do you like working for WILD?
I like that WILD can change your life. I took WILD 5 years ago and it changed mine. Before WILD I was working in bars and had no real direction. WILD gave me so many more opportunities so I like to be able to give that back to other people that come on WILD looking for a change in what ever way they need.

What is your favorite memory from a WILD program?
There is so many.  I have been an instructer on 4 WILDS and and a student on one.  I have a special memory for every student and staff that I have been privileged to spend the 90 days with.

What has working for WILD taught you?
It has taught me patience. Patience for others and the importance of patience within yourself.