In ad land, Sarah Herron is a designer-turned-film producer at 72andSunny who is currently working on a holiday campaign for Target. Yet to the rest of the world, Herron is one of the contestants on the third season of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise,” which premiered earlier this month.
Off the back of the buzz she’s gotten from the show so far, Herron has launched SheLift, a nonprofit that organizes events, day camps and weekend adventures for girls with disabilities. Herron was born with amniotic band syndrome, a birth defect that caused her to lose her left arm, but it hasn’t stopped her from enjoying some of her favorite hobbies like skiing, hiking and camping. Through SheLift, she hopes to help empower other girls with disabilities by getting them out of their comfort zone physically in attempt to help them overcome emotional obstacles.
“I always find that being outside and conquering some physical feat is a way to achieve confidence,” she said.
Growing up in a small town in Colorado, Herron said her disability was essentially a non-issue and that she always felt accepted by friends and family. Yet when she made the move to Los Angeles when she was 20 years old, she suddenly began to feel more and more insecure about it, which led to her skipping out on parties and other outings.
“I had a hard time dating and I had a lot of anxiety about meeting new people. I found myself kind of hiding my arm and making excuses for not putting myself out there,” she said.
By the time she was 25, she was still struggling to date and wanted to do something about it. That’s when she decided to go on the 2013 season of “The Bachelor,” something Herron said was “one of the best experiences ever” since it forced her face her fears and tell her story on a public stage.
“I didn’t get engaged, but it invoked the confidence that I needed,” she said. The following year, she appeared on the first season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” a reality series that features former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants as they compete for roses. This year, she returned for the show’s third season.
Since Herron initially appeared on “The Bachelor” in 2013, she said she’s since received tons of messages from girls on Instagram, Facebook and through fan mail who have similar birth defects to her. Inspired by their supportive words and encouragement over the past three years, Herron said she has always wanted to do something to help them, but at first wasn’t sure what the best route would be. About a year ago, she came up with the idea for SheLift and decided to run with it since she said it felt “authentic and genuine” to who she is as a person.
Since its launch a little over a week ago, SheLift already has more than 70 applications in for its first getaway, which will be a ski retreat in Colorado next year where girls will learn to snowboard from world-class snowboarder and Paralympic bronze medalist Amy Purdy. Herron said that SheLift will likely only accept a handful of applicants since the purpose is to keep the retreats intimate and small, and will base acceptance decisions off of which age group submits the most applications.
Even though SheLift is just starting to get off the ground, Herron said she wouldn’t have been able to get as far as she has without the skills she’s learned during her seven years at 72andSunny. Aside from designing Shelift’s website and being responsible for all of its branding and marketing, Herron said she also had to create a business plan, do market research and come up with a creative vision for the nonprofit before its launch.
“I wouldn’t know how to do any of that if I hadn’t quote honestly learned it from the best people in the industry here,” she said.
Although the ad industry has been slammed over the past few years with allegations of sexism, racism and ageism, Herron said that she does not feel as though she has been discriminated against as a woman with a disability.
“I think 72andSunny has always been extremely supportive of me but also not overly sensitive about [my disability]. I’m just treated like an equal person and that’s how we all want to be treated, so I’m grateful for that,” she said.