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Shelby Ball helps Kenyan infants for Girl Scouts’ Gold Award

MADISON – Shelby Ball has earned the Gold Award in Girl Scouts. Her own birth and empathy for faraway mothers in Africa led to her service project.

In Girl Scouts since kindergarten, Shelby has always aimed for the Gold Award. She wanted a project to help babies and foreign, underprivileged people.

That theme was influenced by her premature birth, 13 weeks early and two months in Huntsville Hospital NICU. For 17 years, Ball helped ‘preemies’ by participating in Swim for Melissa. In fifth grade, Ball volunteered for a mission trip to Costa Rica, which profoundly affected her conscience.

For ideas, Ball contacted Jeri Vance, a missionary serving in Kenya. “She told me about the poverty and how new mothers in Kenya were often sent home that same day without any basic newborn necessities,” Ball said. “After researching about Kenya, I discovered single-use plastic bags are outlawed.”

Ball decided on the project, Sewing for Good, to sew drawstring bags and fill them with baby supplies for Kenyan mothers.

COVID-19 thwarted her plan to teach friends to sew a drawstring bag. She instead held numerous one-on-one sessions to teach Madison youth to sew. “. . . Very rewarding. We sewed 100 bags to fill and send to Kenya,” Ball said.

Ball’s project required almost one year to complete because of COVID-19 and shipping the barrel with infant supplies by ocean cargo to Kenya took about three months. Ball invested 80-plus hours for the project to plan, sew and fundraise for supplies.

“I received some money from my troop from many years of cookie sales. Several family members gave me money to start. She conducted garage sales, vegetable sales and collection drives for blankets, washcloths and baby clothes.

Ball borrowed a few sewing machines from her grandmothers. “I also needed hundreds of bandanas. Each bag included a blanket, washcloth, nasal aspirator, baby brush and baby clothes,” Ball said.

“Unexpectedly, one of the most rewarding parts of the project was teaching people how to use a sewing machine. Many people don’t know how to sew, and this is a life skill they can now build,” Ball said.

Even four-year-olds volunteered. “I also taught my grandmother to use a machine that she never took out of the box. One boy went home and put a sewing machine on his Christmas list. One girl asked to come back and help the next day,” Ball said.

A missionary with Hope Matters in a Kenya clinic will distribute the bags. “My wish is that women who receive these bags will not only have physical items they need but also know the bags were made with kindness, love and hope,” Ball said.

Ball participates with Girl Scout Troop 719 in Madison. Troop Leaders are Susie Averitt and Jennie Horne.

Shelby Ball’s parents are Travis and Jenni Ball.

A senior at Bob Jones High School, Shelby Ball is a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Tri-M and Student Government Association. She plays trumpet in Bob Jones Competition Marching Band. “We were just named the 7A State Champions at the Alabama State Marching Band Championship,” she said.

Ball enjoys her part-time job at Rita’s in Madison. A member of Asbury Church, she serves as a Fathom student leader.

She will attend Auburn University next year.

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