Turning Disabilities into Abilities

Aug 23, 2016 10:21:12 AM

McClain Hermes

On July 3, the 2016 U.S. Paralympic roster was announced –  McClain Hermes, daughter of Keller Williams associate Matt Hermes, made the list! This year’s Paralympics hosts more than 4,350 athletes from 160 nations.

The daughter of Keller Williams associate Matt Hermes, of the Atlanta – Sugarloaf (Ga.) market center, McClain first delighted the Keller Williams family in 2015 when she appeared onstage during Inspirational Brunch at Family Reunion in Orlando, Fla., to share her inspirational story and reveal a big goal.

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McClain is a competitive swimmer – the top-ranked American swimmer in her category. She told the audience that day at Family Reunion that her goal was to make the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team and she did it!

Anything Less Than Amazing

McClain started losing her vision when she was 8 years old. As of today, she has undergone four emergency eye surgeries due to retinal detachments and is now completely blind in the right eye and only has a 5-degree field of vision in her left, with a corrected acuity of 20/600. McClain’s doctors expect her to be completely blind within six months to a year. But that hasn't stopped her from being anything less than amazing.

McClain will be fulfilling a lifelong goal of representing the U.S. Paralympic swimming team in Rio in September 2016. She recently represented the United States at the 2015 Parapan American Games, where she took home a bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle.

McClain goes to Rio as not only the youngest team member, she goes holding 16 American records, 2 Pan American records and 1 World record in swimming - the World record being in the 1500 Freestyle, Class: S12. She is an extremely dedicated, competitive and disciplined athlete, and in her mind she is already a winner.

McClain’s Journey to Rio

McClain_Hermes.pngMcClain will begin her journey to Rio at the end of August. The team will first travel to Houston to train for one week, and then they are off to the Paralympic Village in Rio for the Games in September.

Born with a love for the water, McClain began swimming when she was 4 years old.

Her degenerative disability doesn’t define her – what she is doing with her life does. And this is exactly what she wants you to know about her.  McClain has spoken throughout the community about her accomplishments in the pool, her community service, and sharing her testimony of how she “Lives by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The Power of Giving Back

In 2008, McClain’s older brother Logan was diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disease called Gaucher disease. In addition to the devastation of his body, this disease requires biweekly in-home nurse care for enzyme replacement therapy in his bloodstream. Shortly after the news of Logan’s disease, the housing market crashed.

“We were in a very difficult time in our lives. We were facing very serious life issues without very many solutions,” McClain’s father Matt says. “Our community rallied around us. It was because of them that we made it through and are here to talk about it.”

The Hermes are quick to recognize what their community did for them in their time of need and emphasize the power of giving back. “We took our situation and used it for motivation.”

In 2009, Matt and McClain founded the community service project Shoes for Souls. Shoes for Souls collects new and gently used shoes to donate to the Atlanta Homeless Mission.

The first year, they delivered 365 pairs of shoes. Now, six years later, they have supplied 15,000 pairs of shoes to homeless men, women and children at the Atlanta Mission. The collections are ongoing, all year round. Matt, his wife/McClain’s mother Carmen and McClain manage the collections, the storage unit they are housed in, sorting and bagging the shoes, and their delivery.

Although McClain started the charity before the onset of her degenerative eye condition, she didn't stop her commitment when her vision changed. "My eyes are what they are, but people still need shoes," she says. McClain shows us that it doesn't take large sums of money and you don't have to be an adult to make a positive impact on your community. Anyone can give back.

Bucket List

Since her prognosis, McClain started a bucket list. She wants to create as many visual memories as she can before she loses her sight completely. “This way, when anyone says, ‘Oh hey, look at that!’ I will have a visual reference for it.”

Last year McClain shared her handwritten bucket list with Keller Williams Realty Vice Chairman of the Board Mo Anderson. On that list was a trip to see Italy. Thanks to Anderson and the support of Keller Williams partners, Stevens Worldwide Van Lines, BuildASign, and Office Depot, while onstage at Family Reunion 2015 sharing her story, McClain was gifted a guided tour of Italy led by none other than the guide to the stars, Angelo.

McClain wanted to go to Italy for the culture, the arts, the people, the sights and, of course, the food!  She returned to the stage at Family Reunion in 2016 and reminisced about her exquisite trip and about how much pasta and gelato she ate. She visited Rome, Florence and Venice, taking in such historic sights as the Colosseum, the Aqueducts and the Vatican.  “I even saw the sculpture of David!” she says with marked respect for the experience.

What else has McClain checked off her bucket list?

  • Swimming with beluga whales at SeaWorld Orlando - check!
  • Visiting the Grand Canyon - check!
  • Meeting celebrities - check! “I have a list of celebrities and athletes I still want to meet. I really want to meet Micky Franklin, Michael Phelps and Amy Purdy. And Taylor Swift! Oh, and Luke Bryan!” McClain says.

And what is on her list still waiting to be checked off?
“What I really want to do is to go sky diving!” And then quickly intercepted by her father, he says, “That one isn’t happening.”

A Day in the Life of an Extraordinary Young Lady

McClain, her sister Madeline and her brother Logan all share their home with their three dogs: Scarlett (Goldendoodle), Zeus and Dorothy (Standard Poodles). McClain, who is allergic to dogs, is currently looking for a service dog and hopes to find a Goldendoodle to fit the bill.

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McClain’s day begins at 5 a.m. She trains, comes home to attend high school classes online and then returns to training.

In a typical week, McClain will swim/train 9 - 12 times a week. “My life is swimming/training, classes, eating and sleeping,” she says.

Preparing for the 2016 Paralympics has introduced cross-fitness to her regime to strengthen her core and legs so she goes into the games the best she can be.

McClain’s fortitude and dedication have her sitting as the No. 1 swimmer in the Paralympic vision class S12 for the United States, as well as in the Top 15 internationally.

Fans Everywhere!

McClain_and_Mr_Bear.jpgAt a recent swim meet, McClain’s supporters were on four legs as well as two. Here she is with Mr. Bear, a rescued Rottweiler turned therapy dog and his handler/owner Tina Douglas Cote' of Georgia. You can be sure they will both be watching the games on TV and cheering for McClain this September.

You can too!

The opening ceremony is on Sept. 7 and the closing ceremony is Sept. 18. The games will be televised on NBC or NBCSN. McClain’s competition days are Sept. 11, 12 and 14.

Beyond Rio

What does McClain plan to do when she returns from Rio? “2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo! I get back from Rio on the 19th and then on Sept. 20 I’ll begin training for Tokyo,” she says.

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