River Discovery connects cancer survivors with nature, each other

Healing & empowerment through riding the rapids
Posted at 8:56 AM, May 04, 2021

The week-long fundraising event known as Idaho Gives is in full swing across the Gem State this week, and here at Idaho News 6 we are proud to highlight several different nonprofits that need our donations to keep afloat.

River Discovery is one of those organizations. It was founded in 2006 by Joe and Fran Tonsmeire, longtime whitewater rafting outfitters and ranchers from Lemhi, Idaho. Their mission was to help cancer survivors thrive and heal by connecting them with the great outdoors and with each other.

Fifteen years later, River Discovery is still going strong, and still impacting cancer survivors in the Gem State and across the country. That includes Becky Leach, a hobby farmer and grandmother from Nampa. She was first diagnosed with cancer at age 24, and since then, has battled the disease four different times. She's made lemonade out of all those lemons, though, still standing and still smiling through it all.

Recently, this cancer warrior discovered a unique source of support here in southwest Idaho: River Discovery. The Idaho-based non-profit takes cancer survivors and their loved ones on outdoor adventures like kayaking and whitewater rafting to connect the survivors with nature, and with others who know exactly what they're going through. Executive Director Betsy Carver says, "There's no doubt that being out in nature is a healing process, but being out in nature with other cancer survivors actually doubles that healing process."

For Leach, River Discovery helped her find not only a much-needed outlet for opening up about her cancer battles, but also a thrill - and a hobby - she may not have discovered otherwise. "I had never done whitewater rafting, I had never gone down even a gentle river," she tells Idaho News 6. "It helps so much to grow and talk and have the camaraderie of someone else who's been through what you've been through."

Thanks to those days spent with the river, the rapids, and her fellow rafters, this cancer fighter has found a fresh way to look at life. "There are moments where it's crazy and wild and terrifying, and then there are moments where it's just serene and you can just sit back and relax."

Carver says all of the group's upcoming rafting trips are full, but cancer survivors can still connect with the organization for free paddle boarding and kayaking at Quinn's Pond in Boise. Check out their website here for more information on spring and summer sessions.

If you'd like to help River Discovery raise funds during this week's Idaho Gives fundraising event, click here to donate.