Photos by Brandon Kidd
Words by me
One year ago I left my very safe, very promising, very well-paying job in advertising to take the greatest leap of faith yet – to start SheLift. On the heels of appearing on three seasons of ABC's The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise, and having just been called a "one-arm b*tch" by arguably TV's biggest buffoon, I decided it was go-time. There was a world of young women out there craving connection and belonging and for some reason the universe put me in charge of making that happen. I couldn't put it off or decline the call any longer.
After moving home, relinquishing my livelihood and life to start this nonprofit, I'd trade it all over again for the reward of being apart of SheLift. Participants, mentors, volunteers and old high school buddies have come together to help this mission come to life and I've never been so proud of the bravery, vulnerability and wisdom shared through our short year together.
I could write a thousand words on how special this milestone is to me, but there are 15 women whose words carry much more gravity and importance, so I'll let them do the talking. Thank you to our donors, partners, volunteers, board members, mentors, moms, dads friends and pets who've made this year possible. It couldn't have worked without your help.
"Before SheLift, I didn't know any girls with unique physical differences like my own. The SheLift retreat gave me the opportunity to connect with girls who understand what my "basic-bodied" friends cannot.
In five days, we bonded over our everyday challenges, accomplishments, insecurities, relationships and uniquenesses. It was an indescribable feeling, being able to connect so easily and relate so strongly with girls I'd never met before.
Spending the week with these ladies and learning to ski was an experience I'll never forget. The retreat encouraged me to live authentically, be kinder to myself, and not be afraid to share my story. I not only left the retreat with a new found love for the mountains, but with the most encouraging and supportive group of friends.”
"The retreat was a life changing experience. I am so grateful to Sarah Herron and everyone at SheLift for giving me the amazing opportunity to overcome my inner fears and personal mountains.
I now have a new found confidence, a new passion for snowboarding, and a group of lifelong friends that I can depend on to continue to push me to grow and encourage me to love myself everyday.
I left the retreat feeling empowered and confident and I am so excited to see what is next in store for my future with SheLift!"
"SheLift is so special to me because it helps me not feel alone. I get to see that there are other girls like me Getting to meet Sarah and other Shelift women in LA made me realize that anything is possible even if you have a little arm or leg. I hope to have more fun times with SheLift."
"I loved being a part of the SheLift photoshoot! It was fun to talk to the big girls. I like that we are all similar to each other. I am excited to do more activities with other girls like me. SheLift makes me feel good and more confident."
"I like meeting friends that look like me. How do you be a Bachelorette when you grow up?"
"I was incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to go on such an amazing trip with a group of amazing girls. It's beyond words to describe the amount of fun I had on this journey. From skiing to playing games and laughing till we had tears running down our faces. I got to learn more not only about myself but from the other women as well. It was incredible sharing all this with them. A million times thank you to Sarah for all the hard work and for allowing me to go on such a life changing adventure!"
"Leaving SheLift I feel more confident than ever...something that was not expected for me going into it. Meeting girls that can relate to me in person has changed the way I feel about myself”
"Strength, courage, acceptance, and empowerment, four words I never thought I would ever achieve. It all changed after five days in Aspen, CO, when I attended the first SheLift retreat with seven other beautiful women, all with a different uniqueness: missing arms, missing legs, missing fingers, and missing bones. We bonded over what makes us unique and how it has contributed to who we are as people, discussing the things we love, hate, and wish we can could change. I came to the conclusion, that we are all the same despite the differences in our unique physical appearance, we want love, acceptance, and to feel empowered, to do that we need each other. It was the mountains that brought us together, but our stories of success, heartbreak, love, achievement, and friendship that will forever connect us. This retreat taught me that I am worthy of love, beautiful inward and outward, and that I can move mountains. Thank you SheLift, you have empowered me to help change the lives of others.”
Sarah, Claire's Mom
The day we found out that Claire would be born with a partially amputated arm was one of the most heartbreaking, confusing, and scary days of my life. I instantly started having visions of my soon-to-be-born baby one day getting teased, being left out, sitting on the sidelines, and feeling embarrassed. As a mother, it broke my heart. That wasn't the life I wanted for my daughter - not at all. But fast forward seven years later, and I'm looking at a completely different picture than I could have ever imagined! Because of Sarah Herron's example and through the experiences that Claire has shared with other SheLift girls, my daughter is beaming with confidence! She now knows what's possible, and she has no fears. Not only is she NOT sitting on the sidelines, she is out conquering mountains... quite literally! Happy birthday, SheLift!"
Krista, Cali's mom
"SheLift and Sarah have given my daughter a treasured connection to other girls like her. Over the last year of involvement with this organization, Cali has grown in confidence and self-respect. She has found the courage to try activities that she was previously fearful of due to her physical difference. During the recent photoshoot, Cali was empowered through the camaraderie of the SheLift girls.
I treasure the conversations and relationships that I made during my time at the SheLift photoshoot as well. I look forward to many more adventures with this life changing organization. I am thankful to Sarah for passionately following her heart and for starting SheLift!"
"The five days of the retreat were some of the best days of my life. To challenge myself to do something I've never done before with skiing. And to meet some incredible ladies who are similar to myself. I know I've gained lifelong friends through this retreat and I'm so grateful. I hope to take what I learned from SheLift and implement it in my daily life and encourage other women and girls to conquer their personal mountains.”
SheLift gave me the incredible opportunity to challenge myself and do what I never thought would be possible after loosing my leg. Being able to ski again after enduring so much loss and hardship was the most empowering feeling. I don't know that I would have had the chance to try skiing again if it weren't for SheLift. This organization has made me feel confident and encouraged in following my dreams and not letting limb loss stand in the way of achieving whatever it is that I want- whether it is to ski again or to lead full and positive life with lots of adventure!
I am so thankful for Sarah and her vision in empowering girls through SheLift. In the world of sometimes negative social media that cause insecurities and self-doubt, SheLift represents a positive light that can lift up young women who are struggling to feel confident.
"The retreat was incredible. I surprised myself with my ability to pick up skiing so quickly, and I now have lifelong friendships with the girls.I saw each of them gain confidence in themselves and their ability to try new things and conquer some of their daily struggles. I can't adequately express how grateful I am to have been apart of something so awesome. I can't wait to see where the future takes SheLift and all of us"
Ashleigh, Shaleigh's mom
"Prior to learning about shelift, I felt a void in the support groups available to Shaleigh. Most groups are created by parents and help to support other parents with children with limb differences. Those groups are wonderful, but there has always been a part of me that hoped one day Shaleigh would have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that was created by individuals like herself. As a parent, I can only give Shaleigh so much confidence and support. She needs to be around strong, independent, successful women that are not only proud of their limb difference, but use it as a platform to help others. That is what Shelift has been to Shaleigh. Being able to see her meet Sarah at the Shelift photo shoot and light up with the realization that, "If Sarah can be that awesome, then so can I" has given my husband and I a sense of peace that we couldn't have gotten without Shelift. That's why we are grateful for the organization, and for the future opportunities, connections, and mentorship that it will continue to give to Shaleigh as she grows up."
Shelift means coming together with people who are similar to me, having fun, and being able to share joys and struggles in awesome settings. Being different is not always easy, but once in a while, my difference has opened up some incredible doors, and opportunities I wouldn't have been able to experience. SheLift makes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities a reality.