Design with a purpose

By on November 7, 2018

In October 2006, tragic headlines captured the attention of the world when a man entered a one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster County and shot ten Amish school girls, ages six to 13.
Five girls died and another five were wounded.

Like so many other residents of the area, Esther O’Hara was devastated by this tragedy.

“I worked for the Mennonite Central Committee at the time the Amish school shooting happened,” she said. “I heard that Charles Roberts (the shooter) had come from a good home, but I didn’t not know much about the family. Then in 2016, a friend gave me the book ‘Forgiven’ and recommended I read it. I was deeply touched by this story, written by the mother of the shooter.” For over a decade, O’Hara, a local artist by trade, has designed faceless Amish folk art clay figurines which are sold in shops across the United States and Canada for many years.

“Forgiven,” a figurine created by Akron artist Esther O’ Hara. Proceeds raised will go towards Amish children affected by the Nickel Mines school shooting.

“After reading Roberts’ book, I felt I would like to help give back to the Amish community by creating a limited edition figurine and give profits to the Amish girls that were left with ongoing medical problems,” she explained.

Before she began the project, she contacted Roberts for approval to use the name “Forgiven” for her line of figurines. She then confirmed where she could contribute funds raised through sales, which will go to the Amish girls who suffer from ongoing physical needs created by the incident. The finished product takes the name from the book “Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace,” authored by the shooter’s mother, Terri Roberts. Although Roberts passed away last year, O’ Hara was able to secure permission from her to use the name for her collectible.

After creating the design, O’ Hara, who is from Akron, ordered reproductions through Blossom Bucket Gift Company, Inc. The feedback she’s received so far from collectors is that these figurines respectfully portray the Amish culture.

“I like to call this ‘A design with a purpose,’ O’Hara said. “I hope this figurine will encourage people to revisit this story of forgiveness in light of a world where revenge and retaliation are predominant.” She intends to do only one run of the figurines, totaling 324 in all. The limited edition collectible is sold only through O’Hara’s Gallery at the Amish Farm and House, 2395 Covered Bridge Drive, Lancaster, as well as through her website

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Ephrata Review. He welcomes your comments at or 717-721-4423. 

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