SheLift Goes to Moab

Four young women from around the country came together to overcome self-limiting beliefs through adventure in Moab with me and SheLift. They overcame obstacles, learned about each other's struggles and worked together, transforming into more confident, stronger women. Ready to take a giant leap of faith on adventure – and on themselves – Kaitlin, 25, Laura, 22, Maria, 22, and Madisyn, 20, all ventured to the mecca of adventure, Moab, Utah, for an experience of a lifetime.

Rappelling was one of the few outdoor activities I was scared to try because I thought it was difficult to do it with one hand but after doing it I felt more powerful and capable of doing anything I decide to do.
— Maria

Kaitlin, an occupational therapist and self-proclaimed adventure junkie from Atlanta, Georgia applied to SheLift looking for her next big rush. While Madisyn, the epitome of a California beach babe, was setting out to try something all by herself for the first time. Laura, from Lincoln, Nebraska, an avid cook with an Instagram account to make any food junkie salivate, was eager to learn something she had never dreamed of doing. And Maria, our Venezuelan mama, was looking for women she could relate to and call sisters.

These girls were complete strangers before coming to the Moab retreat and became instant BFFs the minute they laid eyes on one another. For the first time in their lives they had met someone born just like them! They all shared one commonality, they all had an upper limb difference (missing part of an arm).

When the girls arrived to our beautiful campground, I was greeted with the biggest, most excited smiles I’ve ever seen. Eager to explore the camp and get the adventure started, Madisyn, Laura, Kaitlin and Maria had already overcome any feelings of anxiety and awkwardness. They were here, they were ready and they were eager. We spent the afternoon having snacks, getting crafty and getting situated in our tents. The girls rummaged through their insanely generous swag bags, donated by Osprey packs, Danner Boots, Nalgene, and many more. The retreat had officially begun!!


The mission of SheLift is to take young women on adventure retreats to get them outside and push their comfort zones – physically and emotionally – in the pursuit to overcome life's obstacles and to gain universal confidence. Each retreat highlights an adventure activity that promotes girls’ abilities to conquer physical obstacles in an inclusive, safe environment. Participants are empowered to take risks, share openly, connect deeply, and step more fully into their highest selves with the support of a team of mentors. As a woman who has lived her life without her left forearm, I have faced many obstacles and I strive to share these experiences and learnings with as many women as possible.

For this retreat I selected these four young women, all born with upper limb differences, to experience the adventures of Moab in a similar and relatable way.

I recently ventured to the desert for my first canyoneering experience last spring, which became the inspiration for the 2018 SheLift Moab retreat. On my trip I learned to rappel, canyoneer and camp under the desert stars for the first time, an accomplishment that left me braver and more adventurous than ever. The sense of empowerment I felt tackling these obstacles for the first time helped me realize what a powerful experience it could be for the SheLift girls.

If you aren’t familiar with rappelling, it’s a desert activity where essentially you walk your way down the side of a canyon wall (backwards), while attached to a rope. You have no choice but to trust your guide, your equipment and your steady breathing to get you to the bottom of the canyon. Exhilarating to say the least! It was with these themes I knew rappelling would make a perfect SheLift retreat.

I shared a more in-depth recap of my experience rappelling on the REI Co-Op Journal. Check it out if you’re interested in more of the technical details involved with rappelling.

The perfect activity for a SheLift retreat, rappelling requires teamwork, it encourages camaraderie and it provides ample heart-racing excitement. Many people think you need two hands to do rope sports like rappelling and rock climbing, but it isn’t true. With the help of a guide, you can rappel with no hands at all which is exactly why I wanted to dispel the belief that girls with one hand can’t go rappelling and show them that they can.

Because no girl should have to sleep on the desert floor after being put through a day of adrenaline induced adventure, I wanted to elevate the camping experience and provide comfort and restoration. I teamed up with Under Canvas Moab, where we had the experience of camping with the comforts of a hotel. If you haven’t seen this place pop up in your news feed yet – you will. Locations are opening at nearly every national park!


But a retreat isn’t complete without proper mentorship and programming. I had the honor to bring on Alli Stark, a life coach based in the Bay Area. With over fifteen years experience in health and wellness, Allie’s coaching and facilitation provides ideas, tools and resources to help people realign with their intuition in order to become their healthiest, happiest and most balanced self. I was recently on Allie’s podcast series Gutted a few months ago. Once you listen to our episode here, you’ll understand why I had to incorporate her coaching into SheLift. Allie and I designed a wellness mission that helped the girls cultivate confidence by taking risks, sharing openly, connecting deeply and stepping more fully into their highest selves.

My experience in helping to guide this retreat was a powerful reminder of how important it is to be in community and to help one another rise up into their fullest potential. I learned so much seeing life through the eyes of these women. Coming home I felt changed in how I view the world and people with physical differences.
— Allie

Our incredible leadership team didn’t stop there. I invited Sarah Hubbard, former marketing director for First Descents; a nonprofit that provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer. Affected by cancer as a child, Sarah began volunteering with FD in her twenties and became the marketing director in 2013. In early 2017, she left to start her own business, Good & Partners, where she consults impact-driven organizations and non-profits (lucky me!).

Megan Ambrose, who I’ve known for nearly a decade, also joined us. We worked together at 72andSunny advertising agency and have since become great friends. And it just so happens, she is an incredible photographer. All of our photos were captured by her – thank you Megan.


Over the next 4 days, we camped, we rappelled, we cooked and had meaningful conversation. We explored Arches National Park and had a beautiful photoshoot on our last evening together. We talked about overcoming our self-limiting beliefs and set intentions for ourselves to carry out through our newfound confidence. The girls did an amazing job rappelling, and almost without any hesitation, jumped fearlessly into the unknown. I wasn’t surprised to hear that witnessing the bravery of one another and receiving the encouragement of the group is what allowed them to step courageously out of their comfort zone.


The women forged an undeniable bond throughout the weekend. Brought together by a physical commonality, bonded by trust, friendship and vulnerability, our group of women left more confident, more self-loving and open to adventure than when they arrived.

Rappelling allowed me to face a fear of mine head-on. Like many people, I was fearful of the unknown. From the top of the canyon, it was difficult to truly know what we were about to face. However, after witnessing the bravery and strategy displayed by the other SheLift girls, I could feel my uneasiness quickly start to dissipate… After reflecting on the rappel, I felt more confident than ever in the fact that I could take on any activity that may peak my interest in the future!
— Laura
The girls at the bottom on the canyon were constantly cheering you on and supporting you while you were rappelling, it was a complete self-esteem booster and gave me the confidence to conquer the canyons!
— Madisyn
I have never felt so comfortable and such a connection with complete strangers. I challenged myself both emotionally and physically throughout the weekend and I feel like I grew exponentially. I discovered new things about myself thanks to the amazing guidance, support, and encouragement from the ladies around me. I now know that I have a family and a support system I can turn to if I ever feel alone or insecure. I have returned home with a new found confidence and a burning desire for new adventures and challenges.
— Kaitlin
In each of their life stories, I found a part of myself. I could relate to the puzzled looks from people passing by, and the unavoidable daily questions. I could relate to the struggle of completing even the most menial tasks (like braiding hair!). We were able to form such a sincere bond during our nights spent chatting away in our tents. After the journey that we took together, I can without a doubt say that these women will now be considered lifelong friends of mine. I cannot wait to witness as each of these women continue to challenge themselves to become their very best in the coming years.
— Laura
Attending the fall SheLift retreat in Moab not only changed my life, but saved my life. For the first time, I was able to meet other women who share similar physical differences as me… These women taught me the importance of self-acceptance and self-love, and helped me realize that my imperfections are my gifts. After this retreat I can honestly say that I am a completely different person; I no longer feel the need to hide my physical difference in public, I know that I am good enough.
— Madisyn

I am beyond proud of the women who showed up for this retreat, bared their true selves, and expressed the very scary desire to improve. This group, and the team who helped make this magical experience happen are some of the most beautiful women I’ve met, assuring me that there is more love and acceptance be had, and that these retreats are only just beginning.

If you are interested in joining us for our summer 2018 retreat (for young adults), I would LOVE to have you. Applying is the hardest part, so if you’re looking for some words of encouragement, I know 11 fabulous young women who can motivate you to take the leap. Join the email list for today so you don’t miss out on any updates. If you are interested in our upcoming Mother + Daughter ski retreat, the application period closes December 10th, so apply before it’s too late.

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Help us fundraise for the 2018 retreat scholarship fund

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors, friends, family and volunteers who made this retreat possible. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Under Canvas Moab
Moab Cliffs and Canyons
Osprey Backpacks
Danner Boots
Outdoor Voices
Erin Condren
Le Sportsac
Goal Zero
RX Bar
Suja Juice

Thanks to
Megan Ambrose – SheLift Chair, Photographer
Sarah Hubbard – Mentor
Allie Stark – Wellness Program Director, Mentor
Dylan Brown – Director of film
Dave Wruck – Film Editor
Emma Calderon – Leadership Support
Wendy Power – my mom!

sarah herron