Sarah Doherty has overcome many obstacles in her life to excel personally and professionally and was recently honoured by the girls’ group that helped shape her.
Doherty was named the eighth annual Woman of Achievement by Girls Incorporated in Taunton, Massachusetts, where Doherty hails from.
She was a member of Girls Inc. when she lost her leg after being struck by a drunk driver at the age of 13. At the time she was involved in dancing, cooking, sewing and swimming through the local girls’ program.
“After my accident, I became particularly close to my swim coach from Taunton Girls Inc. Her name is Kathy Koss and she became a family friend,” Doherty said. “I continued swimming with one leg and it gave me confidence to join the Taunton high school swim team.”
She soon became the team’s co-captain and helped lead the swimmers to victory on many occasions.
With one athletic success under her belt, Doherty went on to push herself mentally and physically, becoming the first female amputee to climb Mount Rainier in 1984 and Mount McKinley in 1985 without an artificial limb.
Doherty later became an occupational therapist and designed and created a new type of forearm crutches dubbed SideStix, which are now used by active people and athletes with mobility challenges around the world.
“It seems silly but when I learned to sew with Girls Inc. I learned all about how to see two dimensional patterns and make them into three dimensional objects, and that helped me be able to design and create,” Doherty said.
She travelled from her home in Roberts Creek to accept the award from Girls Inc. in Massachusetts last month, which came with a resolution from the mayor.
“Sarah Doherty is an extraordinary role model and inspiration to all who have the good fortune to know her,” the resolution read. “Sarah Doherty has not only increased the quality of her life by developing SideStix, she has increased the quality of life for countless others as well.”
Doherty was honoured to accept the award and copy of the resolution, saying she was “quite overwhelmed.”
She has other good news on the horizon. The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) has just agreed to purchase 80 pairs of SideStix to help rehabilitate soldiers when they return injured from combat.
The deal was made through the Build in Canada Innovation Program and will include research and testing by the DND.
“We’re going to be working with the physiotherapy department and their personal support programs, which provide recreational activities for injured soldiers,” Doherty said.
SideStix will also gain some global attention during the World Cup of soccer coming up in June. Star soccer player Nico Calabria, who is sponsored by SideStix and has just one leg, will be featured in a Powerade commercial set to run during the World Cup titled “There’s Power in Every Game.”
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