20 Years of Magic at The Gentle Barn
To rebuild yourself from being broken, beaten, and torn down is not an easy feat, one might say it takes a bit of magic to accomplish this, but through the aide of an unlikely friend, magic is always possible.
For 20 years Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner have been at the helm of helping animals and people heal from past tragedies with their non-profit organization, The Gentle Barn. What started as a small operation in Ellie’s backyard has grown into a six-acre operation in Santa Clarita and locations in Tennessee and Missouri. From celebrities to toddlers,
at The Gentle Barn people come to share in their love for animals and the mission to open people’s hearts to connections with nature.
Since Ellie was a little girl she always dreamed of having a place full of animals. This dream came into fruition with the unlikely meeting of an old goat living in awful conditions at a petting zoo. “…she [the goat] looked like she was going to die any second and she looked me in the eye and I heard ‘can you help me’ and I knew I had to do something.” Immediately she went to the owner and pleaded for the goat but to no avail. Determined to save this poor animal, Ellie told the owner, “I am going to stay right here until you say yes” and for 12 days she stood there until finally the owner waivered. This experience sparked a passion in her that would forever change her life. She immediately began calling local facilities to connect the animals with people who shared the same story marking the birth of The Gentle Barn. Two years after Ellie started creating a space for healing, a young man came along and found his calling in The Gentle Barn. Jay and Ellie share a unique experience with animals that came into their lives in very critical times. “Both Jay and I come from abuse in our childhood and it was animals that saved us”. With these experiences they worked together to build what The Gentle Barn is today.
The Gentle Barn rescues animals that are abused, injured, or unwanted. The animals that come through are given a second chance at life and if deemed safe, become part the educational programs for people that teach kindness and compassion for animals, each other, and our planet. Many of the individuals that attend these programs have experienced some sort of trauma. “We ask the agencies for their population that are not responding to traditional therapy, the ones that are too shut down or too angry….and they are kind of getting nowhere,” Ellie added. In most of these cases the child feels very alone, but learning that some of the animals share their story and share their pain, they are able to open up, and the healing process begins. Over the next several months the attendees go through several tasks. “Sometimes they’ll groom the horses or practice body language, self-awareness, and authenticity, other times we teach them leadership skills or work in the garden,” Ellie stated. “At the end of this program the children will harvest what they have grown and cook a meal with Jay in the kitchen,” she added. “Through our programs, we want to take the false impressions we have of ourselves and replace them with positive affirmations that we put on a rock and drop in the wishing well,” Jay commented.
“You can never have a bad day after hugging a cow,” is something that Ellie and Jay Wiener have been holding true for the past 20 years with The Gentle Barn. Their organization has saved countless of animals and supported those in this world that seem to be looked over and forgotten. Along with volunteers and employees, Ellie and Jay have truly created something special that goes beyond the bales of hay, they have created a sense of hope in humanity that is felt by all those who visit. That is the magic of The Gentle Barn.
For more information on The Gentle Barn and how you can help make magic happen visit the website: www.gentlebarn.org
To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, The Gentle Barn is hosting a Gala on September 28th at the Santa Clarita location. Join Ellie, Jay, and all your favorite animals for a night of elegance under the stars. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased on the website: www.gentlebarn.org
Photo by annarobresondesign.com
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