Plan hatched to help homeless in Calgary

Family selling praying mantises to raise money for Inn From the Cold

Alexander Farn displays a praying mantis. The five year old is selling them for charity. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

A Calgary family is raising money to fight homelessness through sales at a good old-fashioned stand in the front yard.

But instead of the typical lemonade or baked goods up for grabs, Tara Guthrie and her five-year-old son, Alexander Farn, are selling praying mantises.

“He wanted to raise money for Lego … because it’s expensive,” said Guthrie, who offered to help her son raise money.

“[Alexander] said, ‘Well, let’s do a lemonade stand,’ and I said, ‘Well, lemonade isn’t going to get you very far.'”

She suggested selling insects as pets to try and bring in more cash.

“We just decided maybe it would be cool if we could try to raise some baby praying mantises, that they’d be good kid pets, instead of just letting them go in the garden,” said Guthrie.

Guthrie opted to donate half the money they brought in to charity, and after young Alexander said he wanted to help children without homes, they opted to direct the money to Calgary’s Inn from the Cold.

“Our goal was to raise money for three things. Number one, Minecraft Lego. Number two, bank account. And number three, Inn from the Cold,” said Alexander.

They purchased a mantis egg online from Costco in February, with about 100 surviving out of the 200 insects that hatched.

“Some of them died … and some of them ate each other. Some. I only saw one [eat another],” explained Alexander.

According to Guthrie, the overall expenses were low, with supply costs of around $150. Each praying mantis sold for $10. Out of 100 up for grabs, less than two dozen were still available by Monday.

“They don’t bite, they don’t scratch. They’re very gentle. They’re not the same kind of bug as most bugs. They don’t jump and … they don’t scare people,” said Guthrie.

Alexander, who is set to begin kindergarten in September, believes the praying mantis sales will be a big help to both Inn from the Cold and those who are making a purchase.

“The praying mantis are really cool … They’re great pets,” said Alexander.

As of Monday, they had raised more than $500 for charity.

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