Creativity pays off big for local blogger and her chosen charitySep 03, 2022 12:39PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Blogger Kelly Ballard of City Girl Meets Farm Boy won first place in a national contest sponsored by FrogTape, and a nonprofit dear to her heart will benefit in a big way from her win.
It was an approaching milestone birthday that was the impetus of a creative turn in Ballard’s life, and the beginning of her blog. With a degree in social work, she’d been a school counselor and volunteered with the PTA, but she was ready for a new challenge. “It’s a page I started when I was getting ready to turn 40 and I was thinking ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’? I’ve always wanted to learn to use tools, so I thought that’s what I’m going to do. I decided to do a small project a week for the year leading up to turning 40.”
At her request, her husband taught her how to use a nail gun. They’d recently moved with their family into a home in the Bellevue neighborhood, a home Ballard said “had no upgrades” and was “a blank slate.” She started with small projects like building a bench or repainting a wall to make her home more customized, and she posted her projects online once a week. “Over a few months I got 400 followers. It started as a side hobby and changed to where brands started finding me and sending me paint or flooring. Five years later, it’s my full-time job, doing DIY projects and working for brands to show how-to. I work as a brand collaborator.”
Ballard was raised in Sacramento, California while her husband grew up on a big ranch in Montana. “I’m a city girl and he’s a farm boy and that’s how the name (of the blog) came to be. I never knew it would turn into a long-term thing, but here we are,” Ballard said.
Because of her blog, FrogTape reached out to Ballard and invited her to participate in their seventh annual Paintover Challenge. She was asked to do five separate projects using their product, each following a theme established by FrogTape. The themes were: embrace, rise, gather, revive and shine.
“I was posting for followers and there were five of us around the country doing this,” she said. Professional designer Taniya Nayak chose one project out of each of the five submitted by the selected DIYers and the public was invited to vote online to choose one grand-prize winner.
Ballard’s prize-winning project was a removable table-top for her family’s outdoor firepit, a patio furniture upcycle project following the “gather” theme. “When we’re done making s’mores, you can put it on top and eat on it. Because we have four kids, we love to have them home with us and we love to have their friends, too. We wanted a space on the back patio where they want to eat and gather,” Ballard said. She and her husband teach a weekly church class, and every Sunday, the kids from their class come to their home for s’mores, hammocking and hanging out.
Seven years ago, Ballard heard a woman named Rinda Hayes speak at Willow Springs Elementary about a nonprofit she’d founded called Kenya Keys. “She helps build desks, libraries, and schools in Kenya. The kids stop going to school in Kenya after eighth grade, unless they have money to pay for it, so she gets them sponsored to pay for schooling beyond eighth grade,” Ballard explained.
Ballard’s win in the Paintover Challenge comes with a $10,000 donation to the charity of her choice, Kenya Keys, along with a make-over of the charity’s office space valued at $2,500. “It’s going to be such a blessing for Kenya Keys,” Ballard said.
In addition to the charity donation, Ballard won $5,000. She’s doing a drawing for $1,000 of that among her followers and plans to use the remaining funds for a family project. “I’ve been slowly teaching my children to do these projects. I think we’re going to come up with a family project that we can do in our own home.”
Ballard’s message to others is that you don’t have to be a professional to have creative success. “I am a self-taught DIYer. Anything I don’t know, I Google. I don’t feel super-qualified, but people like to join in my journey. We can do fun things in our home and we don’t have to have a degree in it.”
Lynn Muir of Lindon was also among the five finalists chosen to participate in the challenge. Her blog is Pocketful of Paint and she created a sunrise mural on a cement fence behind her home following the shine theme.
“I thought it would be fun to have something happy to look at,” Muir said. She wants to encourage other women to be creative and use power tools, to not have to wait for their husbands to come home from work to use power tools, but to have projects to create and do around the house all on their own. “I’ve always loved art. I wanted to do projects and didn’t want to wait for anybody to get things done,” Muir said.
Ballard complimented her fellow finalists. “All of the gals that did it were amazing,” she said. “I think I’m just lucky that lots of people went online and voted for me, but I feel like any of them could have taken the cake. They’re fabulous decorators.”