Christopher “Topher” Jones, 12, of Boise, Idaho, a seventh-grader at Hillside Junior High School, has raised more than $15,000 through his “Lonesome Larry Project,” a conservation initiative dedicated to saving sockeye salmon by selling sockeye-themed socks. When he was in fifth grade, Topher learned a lot about fish from his science teacher, and was fascinated by the fact that steelhead and salmon swim almost 900 miles from their home streams in Idaho to the ocean and then back to spawn. On a family trip to a fish hatchery, he discovered just how hard it is for fish to make that journey. In fact, he learned that one year, only one sockeye salmon survived the ordeal. The hatchery nicknamed that fish Lonesome Larry. “I knew this was a big problem,” said Topher, “because if the sockeye don’t return to their home streams to lay their eggs, the next generation of fish is lost.”
So in 2019, he founded the “Lonesome Larry Project” to support sockeye salmon conservation – by selling red and blue socks emblazoned with the image of a male sockeye. First, Topher held a competition to design his salmon logo, and then enlisted the help of college students build a website. After his initial order of 2,000 pairs of socks arrived on his doorstep, Topher began selling them on his website, at sporting and fishing events, and through local businesses. All of his proceeds are being donated to the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund grants for conservation and research. The first grant was awarded last summer to build a kiosk near Redfish Lake explaining sockeye salmon recovery efforts.