CNN  — 

When Covid-19 hit, Shannon Basara was a registered nurse working at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

Right away, the 26-year-old volunteered to work in the Covid intensive care unit.

“I live alone, I don’t have kids, I’m not taking care of parents,” Basara said. “So, I was lower risk and felt comfortable that I was in a good place to quarantine should I happen to catch it.”

Basara didn’t know how long she’d be working in the Covid ICU – where she cared for patients requiring ventilators and life support – or how bad things would get.

“Working through peak Covid was kind of terrifying as we saw every ICU bed fill up and fill up,” she said. “It’s very hard to look at life knowing I am being actively traumatized, and I am likely going to have PTSD from this. But you have to put that out of your head because you have to show up to work every single day and take care of these patients.”

After a few grueling months, Basara knew she needed to take care of her mental health and process some of the trauma she experienced.

That’s when she learned about the Hero Recharge program provided by the non-profit First Descents. She knew this was the opportunity she needed.

First Descents normally provides free weeklong adventure retreats to young adults with cancer and multiple sclerosis. When Covid-19 hit and it was no longer safe for those groups to gather, the organization realized it could help a whole new community.

“These health care workers have been stuck for days, weeks, months inside, without seeing the light of day,” said Brad Ludden, a 2016 CNN Hero and founder of First Descents. “The outdoors is a tremendously powerful place for healing and connection … (and) one of the most powerful things we can provide them.”

During the pandemic, Brad Ludden and his non-profit realized they could help a whole new community in need of healing.

First Descents teamed up with the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation to provide free outdoor adventures, such as surfing, rock climbing and mountain biking, to hundreds of frontline health care workers in major cities across the United States.

The non-profit also worked with an infectious disease specialist to make sure it took every safety precaution necessary to keep everyone safe and healthy.

The retreats are open to frontline workers from across the medical field – nurses, doctors and EMS workers. Basara said she was most excited about connecting with other frontline health care workers.

“It’s nice to connect with people who understand what you’ve been through and what you’ve seen,” she said.

Basara also took part in rock climbing, mountain biking and yoga classes.

“It feels like I’m finally taking a step for myself in finally feeling like I can breathe,” she said. “We focus so much on the lungs of this respiratory viral illness that when you get outside and breathe, you’re so thankful for it.”

For Basara, the retreat was the break she needed to recharge and get back to work.

“It feels like we’ve actually taken those guards down and we’re starting to feel things again,” she said. “Maybe moving forward, I can handle this a lot better knowing that there’s other people, and I’m not alone.”