Ocean Ties

Mystic Aquarium volunteer turns beach debris into bracelets to raise awareness of plastic pollution


If you’ve taken a walk on the beach, you’ve likely stumbled across the reminders of human environmental impact in the form of discarded or washed-up debris. Plastic, rope, trash ­– exactly the kinds of things Westerly’s Heather Bring, eight-year-old son Jack, and service dog Marea make a point to collect, clean, and craft into bracelets.

“I started because I started to lose dexterity in my hands,” Heather, longtime volunteer at Mystic Aquarium, begins. “It was like a form of physical therapy.”

Over the course of the last six years, Heather has had over 14 surgeries and procedures related to health conditions affecting her connective tissue and brain. Shortly after the first, in 2013, she began volunteering with the first response team at Mystic and then at their clinic working to rehabilitate seals and sea turtles.

Heather, who grew up in Hawaii, has always loved the ocean, and walks along the beach became not only crucial to her mental and physical recovery, but a way to bond with her son and instill in him the love she felt for the water. However, Heather also saw a chance for environmental advocacy.

“I want them to be conversation-starters,” says Heather about the bracelets. The recycled jewelry combines the rope picked up by Marea and Jack with metal hardware and whimsical pendants. “That this is why we need to take care of the ocean.” She started giving them to volunteers during last year’s summer outreach program, and today, it’s evolved into a community effort amongst the entire animal rescue team.

“We are so grateful for the way she is bringing attention to the plastic pollution problem,” says Dale Wolbrink, the aquarium’s Director of Public Relations, applauding Heather’s “strength and perseverance, nevermind the amount of time she gives in a volunteer role.”

For Heather, the goal is simple: “The ocean has given so much to us. We want to give back to the ocean.”

Find Heather’s bracelets on Mystic Aquarium’s donation page, or on sale during their Seals on the Rocks event on July 26. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the aquarium.