Making Good Season 6 Episode 2 Recap: River Discovery


In the second episode of the season, Kirby sets off to Riggins, Idaho to join River Discovery, a whitewater rafting non-profit that provides experiences to inspire, empower, and heal cancer survivors and their loved ones.

Kirby found the organization from Jill and Wade Houser, longtime friends of the show and founders of The Blessing Bike, which was featured in season 3 of Making Good

Now, Kirby is joining his friends for a once-in-a-lifetime whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River. But first, he needs to convince founder Betsy to make him a River Guide. 

Kirby learns Betsy has been taking cancer survivors and their loved ones on river tours since 2011. Now, 22 cancer survivors and their co-survivor will embark on a three day rafting trip down the Salmon River (also known as “The River of No Return”, to Kirby’s surprise).

“It allows these people to experience an amazing part of Idaho, and a part of nature that we believe is incredibly healing and empowering,” Betsy tells him. 

After questioning Kirby’s non-existent experience as a River Guide, Kirby’s enthusiasm is enough to secure him the position and get started on training. Betsy can relate, as she had no experience with rafting, non-profit work, or someone close to her battling cancer when she took the job at River Discovery. But in March of 2020, her father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“I had so many skills to offer him. I got to give him the best gift: people in the cancer community that can support him, we took him on the river, we took him fishing…I got to do what I did for other people, for my father. And it was incredible,” she tells Kirby.

Kirby heads to camp to meet Hunter, Rubicon Outfitters Lead Guide, to help set up tents, chairs, and other campsite necessities before the survivors and co-survivors arrive. 

Co-survivors, who are often caretakers, join the cancer heroes on the trip to connect with the co-survivor as equals- whether it’s a parent and their child, a pair of siblings, friends, or spouses. 

As the groups begin arriving in rafts, Kirby is reunited with Jill and Wade before meeting his new family for the next three days, including sisters Deidra, a breast cancer survivor, and Farrah. 

The next day, Kirby gets a moment to sit down and catch up with Jill and Wade. A few months after filming the “Blessing Bike” episode, Wade broke a rib and went to the doctor, which ultimately led them to find multiple myeloma all over his body. Wade was going through his stem cell transplant the same time Jill’s mother Rosemary’s health began to decline, proving to be the most challenging chapter of their lives. After Rosemary’s passing and Wade’s transplant, the pair started reaching out to cancer related organizations- then they found River Discovery. 

Jill reflected on the experience to Kirby, “Those waters are hard to navigate by yourself, but when you have a community of people like this with River Discovery, it makes it a lot easier to be able to go through those rapids in life. Those really tough mountains of things that come at you and make you not be able to breathe…you can breathe among friends because they’re likely going through the same things.”

It’s finally time to kick off the rafting, as the group prepares to run a scenic stretch of river. Hunter surprises Kirby by telling him he’ll be taking over the Guide Sticks for this run. The pressure is on, with raft mates including Farrah and Diedra as well as couple Ashley and David. As they triumph the rapids, the group erupts in laughter and excitement. 

Now safe on the shore, the group circles around the campfire to reflect on their day. 

“It’s a lot of firsts for me,” says Deidra. “I’ve never been rafting, I’ve never slept in a tent. It’s just something that if it were not for River Discovery, this wonderful, life changing experience would never have happened.” 

Deidra got her cancer diagnosis in 2017, and it completely changed the way she saw herself and life, and valued living in the moment. She cites the extreme fatigue, cognitive changes, and pain she experienced as medication side effects, “things that make you have to stop even though you want to live out loud,” and kept her from living loudly for many years, 

Farrah stresses, “I think that it’s huge for us to connect in this kind of environment with no cell phones, nothing but each other.” 

Survivor Ashley explains how isolating and lonely going through cancer can be, following her diagnosis of an acute form of leukemia in 2021. But she finds it incredibly healing to be able to join this loving community of people and be present with nature. 

Her co-survivor, David, goes on to say one of the hardest things was not being able to do anything about her diagnosis or the changes it brought, but coming on this trip, “You have other people who know that…all you can do is sort of surrender to what was going on.”

“It’s like you can just be really organic and real,” adds Christine, who joined the trip as a co-survivor alongside Ted, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. 

“Our co-dependents that are taking care of us, they let us know that it’s not going to be that bad. And it’s really not because we’re sharing stories with other cancer patients,” Ted adds. 

“A year later, we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh he’s still here.’ And both of us just kind of looked at each other and said then we better start living,” explains Christine.  “I think with his cancer diagnosis we have completely come out of our comfort zone. And doing things that we wouldn’t do before. We’re kind of living in this world of no regrets.” 

On day 3, the group reached the whitewater section of the river- the most challenging rapids yet. Kirby’s role shifts to Raft Supervisor so Diana, one of the best guides on the water, can take over as Raft Guide. After the nerves subsided, the entire group had a blast. 

“It totally blew them away,” says Diana. “The people that were kind of nervous on the boat totally loosened up a little bit.”

Ashley reflects on her time on the river and what it was like to see herself and others feel empowered to do something outside of their comfort zone, “I think that's especially important when you feel like you kind of lose yourself through a cancer experience, to watch people finding themselves in these challenging moments, watching the fear go to fun, that turns into joy. That’s what it’s all about.”

There’s an undeniable feeling of gratitude in the air as Kirby gathers the group to perform his song and reflect on the experience, “I know you came here with a special person, but now you’re leaving with a big group of friends…River Discovery, it isn’t about taking some hard rapids or kayaking down the river, it’s about creating a community of people who genuinely care for each other and love each other.” 

Many members of the group were brought to tears, with Jill insisting, “We watched a lot of Making Good episodes, but I think that was the best song he’s ever written.” 

Deidra speaks to the instant connection they all felt on the trip, “I know you, because I’m going through it. It’s like it’s an instant family.”

“Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you can’t help but stare death in the face,” says Betsy. “You know what the worst thing that could happen is, and you’re not afraid. I experienced that with everybody today- they were not afraid, they pushed forward. They knew that they had each other's back. They made it out smiling, and happy and full of joy, and hopefully some memories that last a lifetime.” 

Stream the episode now, and stay tuned for more brand new episodes of Making Good, premiering Sundays on BYUtv.