13-year-old Paralympic swimmer and philanthropist, McClain Hermes, is suffering from progressive vision loss. After being told by doctors that she had less than two years before losing her sight entirely, Hermes has been on a quest to create lasting, visual memories.
On her visual bucket list before she loses her sight, Hermes has listed National landmarks, including the Grand Canyon and The District of Columbia, and up close animal connections as her must sees.
Hermes recently met Maple and Aurek, two beluga whales at SeaWorld Orlando’s Wild Arctic attraction. She also swam with dolphins at Discovery Cove. In her words, “It’s been a great thing to check off my bucket list because now whenever my brother and sister say, “oh look there’s a whale or dolphin,” I can remember how they look, feel, and sound, and how I was able to interact with beluga whales and other animals at SeaWorld. Maple and Aurek were soft and felt like marshmallows and I loved hearing them make different noises through their blowholes” said Hermes.
McClain is a swimmer ranked in the top ten nationally in her division. Starting next year she’ll attempt to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she aspires to be the number one Paralympic swimmer in the world.
In 2009, after reading an article about recycling shoes, she was inspired to help her local community. McClain founded Shoes for the Souls, a non-profit organization that collects shoes for residents at Atlanta Mission, a local Georgia shelter. In five years, Hermes and her Shoes for the Souls have collected nearly 10,000 pairs of shoes for those in need.