ELKHART — Judi Ballard spent much of the day Saturday in a church parking lot, where she’d organized a car wash to not only raise funds for the family of Braxton Barhams, but also as a way to thank the community for their help last year when her own extended family struggled with the tragic death of her young niece, Kristyana Jackson.
“I’m paying it forward,” Ballard said. “Unfortunately, it happens to be for someone I know.” She went to school with Braxton’s mom, Jeanette Barhams Dancler.
“I did all the fundraisers for Kristyana, I got to meet and get to know so many people through our tragedy,” so after the 16-year-old boy was slain just two blocks from the church on June 22, Kristyana’s family reached out to Braxton’s.
Kristyana, 7, died in a shooting at her home on the city’s west side on Aug. 17, 2012, a shooting which injured her father, John Jackson.
Kristyana’s mother, Kimi Jackson, has offered her help to Braxton’s family, Kimi’s sister said. “She talks with Braxton’s mom a lot. She supports her,” Ballard said. “What better way to get you through a tragedy but someone who’s been through it yourself?”
Ballard asked for volunteers from the community, and she got them. As children and teens splashed each other under Ballard’s watchful eye, she said as much as anything she wanted to “find something for these kids to do so they’re not at the wrong place at the wrong time.” She talked with Pastor Jermaine Sanders, who’s working on a charity called “My Hood Needz Me,” and Ballard said she’s giving serious thought to joining Sanders’ mission to try to inspire greatness and hopefully prevent deaths like Braxton’s and Kristyana’s.