Clobbering COVID-19: How Menlo Park woman's pandemic piñatas became a smash hit

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- Handmade pandemic piñatas are becoming a smash hit for Menlo Park resident, Elizabeth McCarthy.

She's a full-time nurse at Stanford Hospital, and is now spending any free moment constructing giant germs, modeled after COVID-19.

Necessary materials include corrugated cardboard, textured crepe paper and time.

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"Each one, start to finish, takes me about a week," McCarthy told ABC7 News. "Because it's many, many steps that require drying in-between each step."

Headquarters is her home kitchen.

McCarthy said her creativity comes from her time as cake decorator. She also said her family celebrated many milestones with celebratory piñatas.

She went through a half-dozen prototypes before settling for the current design.

"Some looked great, but took forever to make. So I knew I wouldn't be able to scale it up," she said about the discovery process. "Others were just far too labor intensive. Others just didn't look right."

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The news of vaccines inspired her to start the piñata project. She also works directly with COVID-19 patients and understands people may be searching for an outlet after an awful year.

"It's been emotionally draining, physically draining, intellectually draining," she shared. "I hope no one has to go through this ever again."

Putting together the piñatas offers a welcome distraction. As cases drop across the U.S. McCarthy is introducing a tangible take on pummeling the pandemic.

"This is a huge deal and I want everyone to just enjoy smashing COVID," she said.

"It's gonna take more than one piñata to get over this one," Dr. Thomas Plante joked.

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Dr. Plante is a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University. He said there is quite a bit of research pointing to this type of release. Studies found "letting things out" provides at the very least, a brief moment of relief.

"Still get the vaccination, as the public health people would say," Plante shared. "But certainly, it's a fun thing to do. And you know, we need all the fun we can get during this awful pandemic time."

McCarthy admitted she has yet to take a whack at one of her piñatas. Although, she knows just the perfect time.

"When this is over, I want some way to celebrate it," she shared.

McCarthy said she's already sold a couple dozen piñatas. Her "biggest fan" has already purchased five.

She plans to send one to the country's leading expert on contagious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"Fauci is, top of my list, getting one. He is my hero, and I just want to say thanks to him," McCarthy told ABC7 News.

Each piñata costs $40. If you're interested, McCarthy invites you to text her at 650-328-2083.


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