Blind Paralympic swimmer reaches out to the homeless, providing them shoes: 'Swim by faith, not by sight'
Instead of seeing the clear blue water of the swimming pool, this swimmer sees only sheer blackness, with a small blue circle in the middle. This is how McClain Hermes describes what she sees in the pool.
However, this does not deter this 15-year-old girl from Dacula, Georgia from showing her God-given talent in swimming. She is currently in Rio de Janeiro representing the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games where she will compete in the 100 breaststroke, 400 freestyle and 100 backstroke events.
McClain has won big competitions in the U.S. and Canada and has big faith to match. In fact, her motto is "swim by faith, not by sight," according to CBN News.
What makes this girl all the more special is that she is also philanthropist. When she is not swimming she is reaching out to the homeless and providing thousands of them with pairs of shoes through her organisation, Shoes for the Souls.
She and her father are working hard to provide shoes for these disadvantaged people just in time for winter.
"My father, Matt Hermes, and I founded Shoes for the Souls in 2009. Shoes for the Souls donate shoes to the Atlanta Mission and we have collected over 15,000 pairs of shoes since we began the program seven years ago," she said. "We are constantly collecting shoes for the mission to be donated each winter."
When she was still a child, McClain had a rare condition that caused both of her retinas to detach, resulting in four emergency surgeries.
"One of the surgeries failed, so I see nothing out of my right eye," McClain told WSB TV. "I see out of a hole... about the size of a coffee stirrer straw in my left eye."
She said she is now considered legally blind, and her faint vision is diminishing further. Doctors anticipate she will completely go blind within the year.
"I've turned my disability into my ability," McClain said. "Bad things have happened to me, but you can't let that hold you down if you have something that you love."
The 10th grader has been swimming for 11 years and has learned to adapt her favourite sport to her changing needs. While training and competing, McClain is tapped on the head by a parent or coach in order to know when to expect the wall for flip turns, open turns and finishes. The tapper is a golf ball retriever with a tennis ball attached to the end of it. The golf ball retriever is extended out to tap her one or two strokes from the wall.
In practices, organisers set up sprinklers at each end of the pool. When she feels the water from the sprinklers, she knows that she's approaching the wall.
"It really means a lot to me that I'm able to represent my country as the youngest member of Team USA, and hopefully inspire other kids to do the same," McClain said.