With campaign, Maui woman embraces her disability and encourages
“I am a writer, speaker, and all-around optimist.”
That’s how Maui’s Sarah Foley introduces herself in one of her videos on YouTube.
To understand the 36-year-old Kihei woman’s incredible outlook on life, you have to know what happened to her six years ago during a four-wheeling accident in Utah.
The vehicle she was driving flipped and landed on her.
“All I heard was just the crunch, the crunch of these bones breaking,” she said.
A spinal injury left Foley paralyzed from the waste down. She was relegated to a wheelchair.
“I thought this was the new life that I had to accept,” she said. “I would look in the mirror, and I had something that would constantly go through my head. I would say, ‘There’s no such thing as being sexy in a wheelchair.'”
Wanting to walk and become “vertical” again became an obsession — until she realized her wheelchair wasn’t her enemy.
“There was a moment where everything just changed,” she said.
That attitude shift turned into action. Obstacles became opportunities.
“Once I got through that grief and the acceptance started to come, then I could just embrace it. Then it was like, ‘OK! This is my life,” she said.
Foley plunged into her newfound freedom.
With her writing, she encourages other women in wheelchairs to live beyond limitations.
Her blog has hundreds of followers.
“It’s really about changing the inner dialogue so that the outer world and so that society can have a different picture of us,” she said.
Foley is married and has a young son.
She’s also a tireless advocate for disabled women, organizing free makeovers and photo shoots for them as part of her, “Vertical Beauty Project.”
“You can tell that they are just then catapulted to feel better about themselves,” she said. “That same moment happens with each and every singe girl. There’s a moment where their glow turns on.”
Foley’s work caught the eye of organizers of the annual Ms. Wheelchair America competition, where contestants are chosen for what they do for others. She finished first runner-up at this year’s event in Michigan.
The exposure attracted a wave of new followers to her blog.
“I’ve got new followers from all over the world. I feel like the possibilities are just endless right now,” she said.