LEXINGTON – Eight-year old Remington Hedrick had never seen a circus before Wednesday, May 9.
Not for the lack of interest, but because of her two visual conditions: nystagmus, which causes the eyes to make repetitive uncontrolled movements, and retinal dystrophy, which affects her sensitivity to light.
Remington's parents, Amber and Shane Hedrick, told Richland Source in August 2017 that Remington has trouble seeing things at a distance, has little to no depth perception and has significant color deficiencies.
But everything changed when Remington received a pair of eSight glasses in October, which was made possible through a fundraising effort led by The Visual Bucket List Foundation. The glasses allow her to zoom in on things she otherwise couldn’t see.
Since then she’s seen dozens checked dozens of items off her personal visual bucket list – including giraffes, which she mentioned to the Richland Source in October – but she hadn’t yet seen a circus.
So, when the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus brought their traveling show to Lexington Wednesday, May 9, Remington and her family were in the crowd.
Now in its 33rd edition, the C & M Circus is internationally known. Each of two 90-minute shows included performances like the Wheel of Destiny & Tight Rope by The Perez Family, Miss Simone on the trapeze, The Arlise Troupe on their unicycles, Miss Paulina’s proud “Big & Little” prancing ponies, Natalie’s American Eskimo Escapades and Miss Georgia displaying flexibility to the extreme.
“I’ll be surprised,” Remington predicted before the show.
She was most excited to see the tigers but was nervous about the clowns.
Also, in attendance was 13-year-old Connor Wills, of Berlin Center. He was born with Optic Nerve Atrophy, a disease affecting the central and peripheral vision, visual clarity and his ability to see in dim lighting conditions.
He received a pair of eSight glasses Friday after the Visual Bucket List Foundation wrote a $2,050 check to the boy’s family for the remaining cost of the $10,000 glasses.
“I almost fainted when they said they’d cover the invoice,” Connor’s mother Staci said. “I was like ‘I think I need to sit down.’”
It was a stretch for the Mansfield-based nonprofit, but founder Steve Myers was hopeful the partnership with the circus will bring in enough funds to counter the expense. The circus’s proceeds benefited the Visual Bucket List Foundation.
“It was just through a string of very convenient circumstances that allowed us to pull this off. It was definitely one of those meant to be type things,” said Simone Key from the C & M Circus.
She met the Myers’ family in Butler, Ohio two years ago when they took their daughter Lizzy to the circus for the first time. She was diagnosed in May 2015 with Usher’s Syndrome, a rare genetic condition which will likely take her hearing and vision away completely during her adolescence.
Through the generosity of others, Lizzy has received a private tour at the Warren Rupp Observatory and went on a trip to Rome. This inspired the family to give back, which they’ve done since starting the Visual Bucket List Foundation.
When a date opened up for the C & M Circus, Key reached out the Myers to see if they could make a Richland County stop. The circus typically teams up with nonprofits, but rarely donates all the proceeds like they did Wednesday evening.
“They are some of the best people we’ve ever met. I think what they are doing is so important. And I’m just so happy to be even a teeny, tiny part of it,” Key said.
After hearing from Key, Myers spoke with the Lexington Village Council about using space along Plymouth Street.
“They’ve been amazing to work with. They instantly said, ‘yes, we’d love to do this for you,’” Myers said.
The rest fell into place, but since then, the Visual Bucket List Foundation has heard from more people in need of donations. Myers recently spoke with a family in Virginia that hopes to raise funds for a pair of eSight glasses, and he’s working with a Shelby family to arrange a trip to Disney for sisters with Usher’s Syndrome – what Lizzy has.
Anyone interested in donating, can learn more at thevisualbucketlistfoundation.com.