Thrift Store Heroes: ‘Carousel Lady’ Transforms Goodwill Finds Into Dazzling Creations

To me, there’s no more iconic symbol of childhood happiness than a carousel ride. The brightly colored animals trimmed with accents of gold, the lullabying ice cream truck-like melodies played overhead as you circle around while the outside world whirls around you…’s a magical experience that can take any adult back to age five in an instant.

That same magic is the essence that Marilyn, avid Medina Goodwill store shopper, aims to capture through her art of crafting and decorating carousel horses. Marilyn’s love of horses began as a little girl. She loved amusement park carousels as a child, and desired to have one someday. Fourteen years ago, she came across hobby horses that people were turning into carousel horses and found that to be a perfect fit for her. She says she’s always been good at art and drawing animals, and this was a wonderful outlet for her creativity.

Horses of all shapes and sizes
Marilyn has transformed nearly 1,000 carousel horses of all materials and sizes – from glass horses atop music boxes to plastic Barbie horses to large, wooden, antique rocking horses. And without Goodwill and the ability to save money on the materials, she says, none of it would be possible.

According to Marilyn, who is affectionately known as the ‘carousel lady,’ she ‘practically lives at the store.’ And if she doesn’t go for a few days, she often feels compelled to go because she knows there’s something there waiting for her. She likes to purchase wedding gowns and shoes most often because she uses the intricate beading and buttons to decorate many different parts of the horses. She uses the buttons from the dresses for boots, and the beads for decorations on saddles and bridles. She also uses the straps from the shoes to make the bridles, too. And, she even uses Halloween wigs and fun fur products that she’s found at Goodwill to make some pretty wild manes and tails! Each horse takes days to complete, but the exact time varies depending on the size of the horse and level of detail.

Some of the ‘themed’ horses she’s made include:
• Cleveland Indians horse
• Cleveland Cavaliers horse, complete with a mouth guard, real basketball hoop and basketball
• Breyer horse with sleigh
• Southwest-inspired Horse

Marilyn says it’s hard for her to choose a front runner, but because it’s her favorite color, her ‘all-purple’ horse ranks high on her list.

Her creativity stretches well beyond carousel horses, however. After she cuts the straps from the shoes off to make the bridles for the horses, Marilyn couldn’t stand to throw the rest of the shoes away – so she decided to make wine glass holders with them instead. She’s also made commemorative plaques for individuals who have lost a loved one and decorative wreaths to be displayed at cemeteries.

‘Goodwill is helping me do something good’

Marilyn has given some of the horses she creates as gifts, but so many others have been donated to charities including the American Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (ASPCA) as well as Akron Children’s Hospital’s Holiday Tree Festival for fundraising purposes.

And while Marilyn’s creations are doing a lot of good for organizations like these, she says it’s also doing a lot of good for her as well. She refers to Goodwill as her ‘therapy store.’ She knows everyone there and considers them friends, so it is nothing but therapeutic for her to spend a few hours combing the aisles for treasures. Marilyn exclaims, ‘It’s like a second home to me. I go there and I feel better when I leave.’