Rocket and World-Ranked Paratriathlete Finds Her Purpose

By Karlie Perry '19, '19

Kendra Herber ’07 was born with fibular hemimelia, a congenital limb deficiency where the fibula is short or missing, and had her foot amputated at age two. Rather than holding her back, Herber’s disability would motivate her to become an inspiring teacher, mother, world-ranked paratriathlete, model, self-published author and motivational speaker. She praised The University of Toledo for offering a safe, inclusive place to find her purpose and see her disability as a strength rather than a weakness.

Making a Home at UToledo

“Coming from the Ohio suburbs, I had never really experienced much diversity before,” says Herber.  “When I stepped foot on UToledo’s campus, I saw people from tons of different backgrounds and ethnicities. I made friends with people who were different than me and took classes where I wasn’t the only disabled person.”

“I no longer felt like I was ‘the odd one out’. I fit in because everyone was different in their own way,” according to Herber.

Since then, Herber has learned to embrace her identity and also challenge herself to break down barriers like race, social class or religion.

“When we learn about each other, fear dissipates and it’s no longer uncomfortable. It’s a beautiful thing,” notes Herber.

UToledo was also a place where she made many fond memories. Herber recalls attending Rocket football games decked out with face paint, eating waffles in the dining halls on the weekends, cramming a ton of friends into her small room in Carter Hall for movie night, social outings with the Catholic Student Association, Bible study in the Carter lobby, mud sliding down the hill by Parks Tower and rollerblading on the bike trail.

She was able to take a class with her sister, Rachel, who was already a Rocket when Herber enrolled. Her roommate Christie quickly became a best, lifelong friend. When she lived in her on-campus apartment, she learned to cook and be more independent. Finally, she noted that four professors changed her as a writer, thinker and educator. She also met the love of her life at her alma mater. Since then, the Herbers have expanded their family with two daughters. They all love to spend time exercising together, vacationing, reading and being outdoors.

Just the Beginning

“I’m most proud of the work I’ve done to gain positive representation for the disabled community,” says Herber. “Through writing my book, being a model, speaker and athlete, I think I’ve done that.”

“I hope that what I’m doing is showing the world that people with physical disabilities are capable, strong and beautiful. I love being a Global Mobility Ambassador for Penta because I get to see the fruits of my labor when the recycled medical equipment I get from others make their way to less fortunate countries and changes people’s lives.”

Herber will continue to train for the 2024 Paralympics throughout the coming months — an experience that has been the most difficult of her life, but has also instilled discipline, perseverance and helped to reimagine her own skills and capabilities.

The process has also made her mentally and spiritually stronger, and forced her out of her comfort zone.

“If I had any advice that I could pass on, it would be to find a way to challenge yourself every single day.  Do hard things and keep doing them over and over again,” says Herber.

“We’re capable of greatness, but often we settle for less. Find your reason why, your purpose, and let that be the fuel that drives you.”