Kristen M. White
McCamey Brings Attention to Depression and Suicide Prevention
All the pieces have fallen – one by one – into place for Shelby McCamey and her nonprofit organization Yellow Felt Soul. She never saw most of it coming, but instead the mission found its way to her.
The foundation started when McCamey was just 6, and her biological father, Donny Joe McCamey, committed suicide on April 20, 2001. It was difficult for her to understand, and also to digest because he was her best friend. It left her vulnerable and confused, and she eventually fought her own battle with depression and some suicidal thoughts for years.
That struggle as a youngster put her on the path to the first breakthrough and first piece of what would eventually become Yellow Felt Soul.
In college, while going through a really tough time, McCamey attended a life-training course aimed at helping her see what her life’s purpose was. There, she found clarity.
“My mission is to inspire those affected by depression and suicide that they may have a life and a purpose, by being a living example,” McCamey said. “I can’t help people if I’m six feet under myself.”
And although she felt confident that she knew her life’s mission, and her heart had always been with the rodeo industry, she wasn’t sure at the time how to put the pieces together and do something with it.
It was McCamey’s biological father that had her on the back of a horse before she could walk. After his death, her mother stepped in and began taking her to clinics and things so she could get more knowledge. She already knew she loved barrel racing.
Several women in the industry – Marlene McRae, Brenda Tyler and Jolene Montgomery to name a few – served as role models and helped McCamey through the years.
She competed as a child, making her way through the National High School Rodeo Association, although she said things never really went her way those years with either an injured horse or a rash of hit barrels. Still, she enjoyed the competition even if she wasn’t at the top.
She experienced a similar turn of events in her college years, and during a dark time in her life she started working for Montgomery and fell in love with a horse, Frenchie.
“Jo didn’t care for him at all,” McCamey said. “When she found out I loved him, she said, ‘He’s yours to ride.’ Then he sat in a pasture for over a year when the owner called and needed to sell him.
“It was to the point where I was almost suicidal, so not only did Frenchie pull me out of such a dark place in my life and gave me a second chance, but I did the same thing for him. That horse is my best friend! I really didn’t think I’d be capable of rodeoing (at the professional level) and then God put Frenchie in my life – and he is capable.”
Yellow comes into the picture
In 2016, McCamey’s rookie year in the WPRA, her good horse colicked and went through a series of life-threatening trials, and she found herself out of the game for two years.
“One night though, I had a dream. I’ve never been a superstitious person about anything except one thing, and that’s wearing yellow inside the arena,” she said. “But in this dream, God was telling me to find a yellow hat and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’”
She thought to herself, “My horse isn’t even sound and I’m not even rodeoing right now.” McCamey wasn’t sure what to do with the dream, until the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in 2018.
While hat shopping, she was moved to ask if they had a yellow felt hat and everyone started laughing. She was told the store didn’t do fashion hats and she assured them she was looking for a rodeo hat.
“The manager said he was going to the warehouse in the next month and that they had a bunch of hats there from the 1980s, so I gave him my hat size and phone number. I have kind of a larger head, so I didn’t think there was much chance.”
A month later, she received a phone call – they had one yellow hat, and it was her size. McCamey purchased the hat, shortly after that Frenchie was sound again, and the next piece of Yellow Felt Soul fell into place.
“I got a lot of giggles at first and, ‘You know yellow is bad luck, right?’” she said.
But she stuck with it, and finally came up with a name for the organization she was slowing forming, deciding to call it Yellow Felt. She asked a friend to create a logo for her, giving her free reign on the design.
“My friend had prayed about where to go with this design and she added “Soul” to it, telling me that God had advised her to add it. I wasn’t really sure at first … but if that’s what God told her to do. And now I absolutely love it. It defines what it is.”
The remaining question for McCamey was how to tie suicide prevention, the yellow hat and rodeo altogether. Because the color yellow is associated with suicide prevention, she realized how she could connect everything, including her life’s purpose that she’d discovered in college. Using her degree in communications, she created a Facebook page and wrote a concise piece about her mission and how she hoped to help people struggling with depression.
Spreading the hope of Yellow Felt Soul
The feedback was unimaginable.
“The amount I received was indescribable. I had messages where people told me they’d been battling depression and were starting to feel so alone that it was almost to the point of suicide,” McCamey recalled. “Almost everyone I talk to has either personally dealt with depression or suicide, or known somebody in their life that has. My post reached people.”
McCamey’s writing, and Yellow Felt Soul’s mission, truly spoke to people. In a world where the best parts of people’s lives are king on social media, McCamey said she felt it important to post the failures, the realities, the imperfect pieces of life.
“Life is not always greener on the other side. And if we were more true and real with each other, then we wouldn’t be comparing our lives to everyone else. I want people to know that I’m here to listen, a non-judgmental ear. I want people to know that I may not actually know you, but I still love you and God loves you.”
McCamey’s post in May 2019 quickly spread and the idea behind Yellow Felt Soul, to support those who need help during tough times, took off. She is finalizing the process of making Yellow Felt Soul an official nonprofit organization and she has big plans for its future.
“I would love to have a yellow night at the NFR, like the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night,” she said. “On a smaller scale, I also really want to be able to give people a little pick-me-up when they need it.
“Whenever I walk to the secretary’s office or look down the alley, sometimes I pass someone who looks like they need a pick-me-up. I’d love to have little gift cards, along with a positive quote and Yellow Felt Soul’s mission, to give them something to brighten their day.”
McCamey’s yellow hat has become her calling card, and now that all the puzzle pieces of her passion are in place, she’s ready to help everyone she can.
Learn more at Facebook.com/yellowfeltsoul.