Mary Lara Hardesty makes amigurumi animals to sell, raising money for zoos and aquariums.

ASHLAND Boredom can make some do crazy things, but it made one local Girl Scout do constructive things.

Mary Lara Hardesty was working on her Voice for Animals badge when the stay-at-home order was issued. The homeschooled teen suddenly had no job or extra-curriculars to attend, so after she completed her school work each day, she began teaching herself amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting small, yarn, stuffed animals. She’s using her skill to raise money and awareness for zoos and aquariums during the coronavirus shutdown; the project also helps her complete her Voice for Animals badge.

“Mom bought me a craft kit that was for this type of this crochet. It included yarn for a couple of the projects and a book with instructions for making woodland creatures,” the daughter of Philip and Teresa Hardesty said. “I really love crocheting, but I really like this kind. It’s more three dimensional and maybe not as useful as some other projects, but they’re really cute and kind of a keepsake.”

Hardesty already crocheted, so she was familiar with the basic process, but she said amigurumi uses a few new terms and techniques. “It’s a different combination of the same stitches,” she said. “The only thing that’s different is you crochet in rounds instead of rows, so it’s just the difference in how you start and proceed.”

She started putting the animals on Facebook to show her friends and family what she was doing  when she started getting requests.

 “The cost of each depends on the size of the animal,” she said. The bigger, more complicated animals cost $25 to $35, while smaller ones are $10 to $15. “How thick the yarn is and how big the hook is determines how big the project is,” she said.

Local orders are dropped off on the buyer’s porch, but one item was shipped to Australia.

Hardesty said her mother’s friend through Girl Scouts lives there and requested Hardesty make a kakapo bird, an Australian species of flightless bird.

“It’s basically a ground-dwelling parrot,” Hardesty said. “I couldn’t find a pattern, so for that one, I took pieces from multiple patterns to get it as close as I could.” Other animals she’s made range from a pig to a baby Yoda.

“I learned a lot making the kakapo,” she said. “It’s an unusual animal, very interesting, not something you’d hear about without being prompted.”

The animal lover said donating her profits to aquariums and zoos was an easy choice.

“They are closed right now, but all the staff and keepers are still there having to work for the animals and I thought that wasn’t really being addressed,” she said. “Everyone was paying a lot of attention to workers we think about daily, especially in Ashland, where we don’t have an aquarium and I wanted to be sure they’re thought of as well.”

The project so far has generated $100 for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida; $100 for the Georgia Aquarium; $100 for the Columbus Zoo; and $100 for the Guardian Animal Medical Center’s wildlife fund. She plans to make at least one more donation.

Hardesty has a personal connection to each place that received a donation.

She visited Clearwater Marine Aquarium on her 13th birthday and participated in the Trainer for a Day program, which gave her the chance to see Winter, the dolphin whose tail was amputated. She worked with dolphins, great white pelicans and river otters.

At a visit to the Georgia Aquarium in 2018, Hardesty was one of the few visitors so trainers allowed her more interaction with some of the animals.

Her family met Jack Hanna from the Columbus Zoo when he appeared at the Paramount Arts Center, and it was her most recent zoo visit. Guardian is where the family takes their cats for veterinary care.

“Animals are our responsibility, to see that they are taken care of,” she said. “I wanted to draw attention to them and help how I could while we were in shutdown.”

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