Shining moments: `She's like that'

As the newly crowned Miss Teen of America, Katy Ballenger was asked if she would like to extend a trip to the South Pacific by several days to spend on the beaches of Tahiti. Expenses had been paid, and she needed a rest from the rigors of her new title.

But the extended trip conflicted with an invitation to speak at a fireside in Salt Lake City. Her part was relatively minor, but she still felt that if there was one person who might be strengthened by her testimony, then she needed to speak."That's the type of person she is," says her mother, Tina Ballenger. "She's always been that way."

As a 5-year-old, Katy started saving money to buy her friend a Cabbage Patch doll. She pinched pennies for a year - even saving money she would have spent on a family vacation to Disneyland - and bought the doll.

Her attitudes carried into high school where she became creative and inventive with her time, sometimes working as a hospital volunteer, sometimes taking her dog to cheer up patients through pet therapy, sometimes reading to children in the public library. In total, she spent 500 hours rendering service.

The next year she organized a service club dubbed H.U.G.S. (Help Us Give Service) which became the largest club at Olympus High School in Salt Lake City.

Its popularity was based on two principles, says Katy's mother. First, it was fun. And second, activities like painting fences, raking leaves or stacking cases at a food bank give teens what they need most - namely, "the three selfs: self-respect, self-confidence and self-worth," as Katy calls them.

Now, as a sophomore at BYU, Katy's joy in being crowned Miss Teen of America is not the $10,000 scholarship, nor the travel, but the doors her title is opening for her to share her testimony. On a speaking engagement in Australia earlier this year, which came several weeks after President Hinckley visited the country, people recognized her affiliation with the Church and asked many questions about her religion.

"It's not often an angel falls out of heaven on your doorstep, but that's what happened when Katy Ballenger came to our school," said McKell Withers, principal at Olympus High School.

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