Molly Barnes bounced eagerly from foot to foot as she waited to play her first game of catch.
She looked excited, but a little baffled until her mother pressed the nose on the smiley-faced Nerf ball. A loud, steady beep echoed across the room.
"I hear it. Where are you hiding?" Molly crowed and chased after the noisy ball.
Playing a simple game of catch was a new experience for the 4-year-old, whose blindness prevents her from participating in most sports.
Born three months prematurely, Molly has damaged retinas and a deformed left leg from receiving high doses of oxygen while fighting for her life in an incubator.
She walks with a leg brace, but probably will have to get a prosthesis later on, said her mother, Patricia Barnes of Severna Park.
"Molly has really kind of surprised us all," Barnes said. "Everyone predicted doom and gloom when she was born. But she's an incredible kid."
A spunky bundle of energy, the blonde, hazel-eyed girl loves music and has learned to play a few basic tunes on the family piano. She also enjoys clowning around, singing and dancing for her admiring parents and teachers.
Lisa Wright, who leads the early childhood intervention class that Molly attends at Pasadena Elementary School, describes her as "very curious and very active."
Molly was the perfect choice to try out one of three beeping balls that were donated last week to the county school system's program for visually impaired children. The Anne Arundel chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America raised money to buy the $20 balls from another chapter that manufactures them in Lisle, Ill.
Wright plans to use the beeping Nerf ball to teach Molly motor coordination skills. She practices catch and similar games in class to help Molly and the seven other handicapped children master commonplace motions.
Although she had a beeping ball a few years ago, the spongy material wore out quickly. Wright had to rely on neon-bright balls to teach visually impaired children even the most simple catching skill since then.
"This ball will give her (Molly) a lot more input," Wright said. "Some kids need training to figure out how to catch the ball from the noise, but they usually rely more on their auditory sense, anyway."
Molly picked up the rudiments of catch fairly quickly when guided by the beeps. She spent a few minutes throwing and rolling the ball to her mother until another noise caught her attention. Then, she started humming, "Jingle Bells."
After all, Christmas is around the corner, and Molly wants more than a beeping Nerf ball. The aspiring musician asked Santa to bring her a drum and xylophone from Severna Park High School.