SheLift: Part 2

Each year girls and women with various abilities and limb differences from all over the States meet at SheLift - a camp founded by Sarah Herron to build confidence and self-esteem through recreation.

Sarah Herron was born without her lower left arm, but she has taken this ‘disability’ and run with it. Motivated by her own experiences of trying sports outside her comfort zone, she came up with SheLift; an outdoor education camp which brings young women with physical differences together. 

Sarah hid her missing arm for most of her life but after being the first woman with a disability to feature on the popular television show, The Bachelor, and describes the experience almost as a ‘coming out’. 

Sarah Herron speaking at a SheLift meeting.
Sarah Herron is the founder of SheLift

The support she received from so many young women made her realise how much more people like her needed to be represented, and so spurned her idea for SheLift.

“I started SheLift to help girls and women of all abilities realise that they can discover their confidence and self-esteem through recreation.”

Ava, 12 and Natalie, 25 are two attendees meeting for the first time at the 2019 summit. Ava lives with nail-patella syndrome and Natalie has amniotic band syndrome. Ava’s arms can’t extend past 90 degrees and her nails, limbs, eyes and kidneys are also affected. While Natalie was born without her lower left arm.

Large climbing structure made of wood and ropes.
Girls are encouraged to bond through recreational activities.

Over four days the girls stretch their boundaries trying activities like rock climbing, yoga and making friends along the way.

Natalie pushed through the pain of the right side of her body to master the rock wall. While Ava broke mental barriers to complete the course. She thought she could not do it until her mum and Natalie were cheering her on. 

They also benefited from workshops and mentors who taught them valuable life lessons about self-belief. 

Ava sitting on the couch talking with Natalie and another friend.
SheLift gives an opportunity for young people like Ava to be mentored by other women with physical differences.

The camp has a secondary purpose too. It brings together the girls’ parents to create a support network. Which is just what Ava’s mum Heather was attending for.

“I am here to be part of a community to speak about times when maybe she [Ava] has come to me with a concern that I didn’t know how to answer and how to give advice to her.”

Natalie entered the camp with the view of being a big sister or mentor to Ava. But throughout her time there she realised how much she still has to learn. 

 “I’ve always put on this show that if people were rude to me I wouldn’t care, but it really hurt.”

Sarah believed it was important young women get the opportunity to be around others with physical differences. 

“I’ve always put on this show that if people were rude to me I wouldn’t care, but it really hurt.”

“For the first time, these women are meeting somebody that they can share in their life experiences with and they can talk about shared commonalities.”

Heather wanted her daughter to be accepted and saw her blossom at the camp.

“I’ve seen such a difference in Ava, being so happy and positive just filled my heart with so much joy. I’ll have such a sense of security knowing there are young women who will be there for Ava.”

Ava and Natalie have decided they will be lifelong friends, leaning on each other for support when they need it. SheLift has also given them the tools and values to stand up for themselves and keep trying when life gets hard.

Ava and Natalie on a football field.
SheLift is a one of a kind experience to support all women with physical differences.