Laurrie “McClain” Hermes is the recipient of the 2016 CVI Sarah Woolf Spirit Award. McClain, 15, is a participant in CVI’s STARS program and was nominated by the STARS staff.
McClain exemplifies the phrase “Independence with Dignity” as a teenager who loves her independence, pursuing activities that she desires to experience in spite of her vision impairment. Her dignity is expressed in the way she advocates for herself and speaks what is on her mind with much respect for others. At a time in her life when it is difficult to be “different” or “not normal,” she embraces it comfortably. McClain pulls out her white cane while ice skating. She uses assistive technology while volunteering in the community. McClain shows pride in her level of independence as a teen with vision impairment. She uses it as a way to educate others. McClain is also a Paralympic swimmer, and trains on a regular basis at several different venues, further spreading awareness of vision impairment and completion.
McClain started her own Soles 4 Souls project in her home town. She spent countless hours and days organizing, marketing, collecting, and distributing shoes. Her efforts were featured by Atlanta news media and posted on YouTube. On a regular basis, McClain helps with and mentors younger STARS students in all of the STARS programming she participates in. When she attended an ice skating party in Atlantic Station, she happily assisted a 6 year old STARS student who was learning to skate for the first time. During after school enrichment, she assists students in selecting snacks and reading Braille even when she has her own homework to complete.
McClain is inspirational because she is only 15 and has achieved so much more than some people might be able to handle in a lifetime. Starting her own service project, training to compete in the Paralympics, maintaining high honor roll at school are examples of the accomplishments McClain has achieved while helping others along the way – and she’s not even in high school yet. McClain truly embodies the heart of the Sarah Woolf Spirit Award.