Kelsie Young and Taylor Ball had never met until very recently. Being 12 and nine-years-old respectively, they would not have thought they had much in common. Little did the girls know they would soon be working on a project together in hopes of bringing comfort and healing to the family of George Floyd.
Both were troubled by Floyd’s manner of death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
“I knew I wanted to do something,” Young said. “I’d seen the marches in other towns and I thought maybe that’s what I’d like to organize. I wanted to speak to Mayor Carolyn Rader but I was nervous. So I called a teacher, Mike Knopp, to get his advice. He encouraged me to approach her.”
When Young met with the mayor, the conversation became more involved. They decided that while a peaceful march may show support, it was the Floyd family that they wanted to impact.
“The mayor suggested a community sympathy card,” Young said. “We would try to find a way to get it to the Floyd family. I was excited by that idea because the mayor said we need to be leaders not following what others are doing.”
When Young went home after that meeting, she kept thinking about Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna.
“I decided to call Mr. Knopp again,” she said. “He has always been a teacher that would listen. He also has a daughter about the same age as Mr. Floyd’s.”
That conversation led to stuffed animals, children’s hospitals, and donations in honor of the Floyd family. Young, not one to shy away from finding an answer, called The Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. Knowing the concern for COVID-19, she wanted to see if a donation could be accepted.
“I finally got to the right person,” she said. “While we didn’t get permission right away, the hospital was very interested. One condition was that any stuffed animal has to still have the price tag. It has to be new.”
If the Minneapolis hospital is unable to accept the donations, Young has several others she will contact, both out of state and closer to home.
Having this plan in mind meant another trip to the mayor’s office. And there fate stepped in as Taylor Ball was meeting with the mayor at that time.
Ball, who is the reigning Young Miss Jackson County World Kindness, was speaking to the mayor about a beautification project for Evans and Ripley. She also wanted to find a way that random acts of kindness could be done because she was troubled about the pain and anger in the United States.
“I couldn’t believe that two young girls in two days had approached me about wanting to do something that many adults weren’t ready to do,” the mayor said. “I was telling Taylor about the idea of the community card and her eyes lit up. As we walked out of my office, there was Kelsie with her new idea that I thought was wonderful.”
Ball immediately said, “If she does the stuffed animals, I’ll do the card!”
As for her motivation, Ball said it’s simple.
“I hope this cheers the family up,” she said. “This is such a time of negativity in the world. A lot of bad things are happening. I just want this to show Mr. Floyd’s family that we care.”
And so the project “Stuffed with Love” was born.
On Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to noon, the two girls will be outside the Ripley Municipal Building with a donation box for new stuffed toys and a card for the Jackson County community to sign.
“We’ll have more than one card there,” Young said. “I hope we get lots of signatures and need several.”
Each stuffed animal will have a tag placed on it in memory of George Floyd from the people of Jackson County, West Virginia.
Mayor Rader said that she will reach out to the mayor of Minneapolis to let him know about this project. She hopes that he can put her in contact with the Floyd family or find a way to share with them what these girls are doing.
“I truly believe when Kelsie came to my office the day Taylor was there, it was the Lord’s way of saying, ‘Here you go,’” she said. “I have no doubt the community will support this idea wholeheartedly.”
As for Young and Ball, they hope two things happen.
“We first want to comfort the family,” Young said. “It almost seems that they’re forgotten in all of this. And we hope this idea, to do something positive, will catch on all over the country.”
“Stuffed with Love” Campaign
Event: Donate stuffed animals with price tags; sign community card
When: Saturday, June 13
Time: 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Ripley Municipal Building