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Olivia meets Ellie Laks
Founder of The Gentle Barn

Olivia meets Ellie Laks | Kidspiration

Do you have a pet at home or maybe a favorite animal in your neighborhood? What if your house or apartment was home to over 170 animals, including cows, horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, llamas, emus, cats, dogs, and birds?

Ellie Laks and her family have a six-acre farm in California where they take care of abused or injured animals, including cows Sage and Oliver, Hero the horse, and several turkeys who will never become Thanksgiving dinner!

She started The Gentle Barn in 1999, so she could care for the animals herself. The Gentle Barn moved to Santa Clarita, California, in 2003 and where she, her husband Jay, and their three children live. They now have a second Gentle Barn, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Gentle Barn staff also works with many inner-city, at-risk, and special needs children each year. Being able to touch and interact with animals can help children who have been abused or have special needs. Buddha, their first rescued cow, is often used for therapy sessions with quadriplegic children — the kids learn that big animals can be very gentle!

“Whether animal or human,” Ms. Laks says, “at The Gentle Barn anyone can leave their painful pasts behind and enjoy being alive.”

Olivia interviews Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn, at The Gentle Barn, Santa Clarita, California.



Olivia:
Hey I’m Olivia and today we’re talking with Ellie Laks. Ellie is the founder of The Gentle Barn. A home for animals who have been rescued from abusive environments. We’re here at the California ranch where I’m hoping to make some animal friends. Let’s go and find Ellie.

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Olivia:
Hi Ellie, I’m Olivia, nice to meet you.

Ellie:
Hi. Nice to meet you.

Olivia:
So honored to meet you. Thank you for having me again.

Ellie:
Yeah thanks for being here.

Olivia:
Can you just tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Ellie:
Sure. So I’m the founder of The Gentle Barn Foundation and The Gentle Barn does two things. We take in animals that nobody else wants, rehabilitate them and give them sanctuary for the rest of their lives. And then when they’re ready they help us heal people with the same stories of abuse and neglect.

Olivia:
So the animals here are they all friends? So they get along with each other?

Ellie:
Yeah. Farm animals are actually really peaceful. We have horses, cows, pigs, sheeps, goats, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, llamas, dogs, cats, donkeys, parrots and an emu. And farm animals are really, really friendly with each other. They’re very gentle. So they do coexist quite nicely.

Olivia:
Have you named all of them?

Ellie:
Oh, of course.

Olivia:
Can you tell us some big supporters that you have?

Ellie:
We have so many celebrities. Ellen DeGeneres has been a big part. Living in Los Angeles we have a lot of celebrities that come out and support us. My dream when I was little was ‘okay God, I’m going to do this work but you have to pay the bills’. So just everyone that comes to visit, everyone that shares The Gentle Barn’s experience, everyone that posts pictures or supports us on social media. All of those people are just participating in enabling us to do this work.

[Music]
This is Jasmine. We rescued her when she was a tiny chick. And so she was too young to live in the barnyard so she lived in the house for five months. And she slept in bed with me. And whenever I would drive around she would sit on my shoulder in the car. And she would sit in our laps and watch television.

Olivia:
Wow.

Ellie:
You know it’s amazing because people debate on whether chickens are smart. A lot of times people won’t want to eat cows or pigs but chicken will be the last part of their diet but having her in the house for five months and seeing first-hand the intelligence… she’s exactly like a dog. She played she would find something on the floor and pick it up and I would want to take it from her and she would run around the house away from me trying to not let me have it.

[music]

Do you want to go see a giant pig?

Olivia:
Yes. Oh my God.

Ellie:
Hi. Do you want to come over?

Olivia:
Come on. Hi Zeus. Good Morning. Good morning, honey. This is Zeus.

Olivia:
Hi Zeus.

Ellie:
Pigs are really active when they’re young and then when they hit about three years old they kind of sleep all the time. He’s what I call a professional napper. He just sleeps all the time. I’m really, really glad that you’re here and showing an interest in animals because the truth is that we don’t have a lot of time. What’s happening to the planet and the environment and the oceans and the forests and the animals and to our own health it’s all just getting worse and worse. It’s just so important that we somehow cultivate the next generation of people to really want to preserve and love the planet and to connect with it.

We live in a world where farm animals aren’t allowed in our neighborhoods. And so if we don’t know them then it’s hard to care about them. So that’s one of the reasons we want a Gentle Barn in every state because we’re trying to make those connections of people meeting turkeys and knowing that they love to cuddle and holding chickens and knowing that they’re smart. And hugging cows and knowing that they’re so affectionate. And meeting little piggies and knowing how wonderful they are and then hopefully with those connections we’ll create people that care about animals more.

—-

Olivia:
What can kids do to help animals?

Ellie:
If there’s an animal that you know is hungry or homeless in your neighborhood give him some food. If you find an animal that’s stuck in the street or in a dangerous situation call a grownup or an organization to come and help them. Of course loving your own animal makes such a difference. You want to make the animals in your surroundings happy, right? And if your family is looking for a pet to love, adopt one instead of buy one. All of those things really, really help the situation.

Olivia:
So who would you most like to meet in the world if you had the opportunity?

Ellie:
A person? [laughs]

Olivia:
Yes.

Ellie:
Honestly one of my biggest heroes is Jane Goodall. She’s always in Africa and other countries helping the world be more aware of primates. And because of her research and her studies she’s not only helped preserve primates in the jungle but she’s also helped more awareness of doing medical research on primates as well.

Olivia:
What would you say to kids like me who want to do something like you do or be that really successful person? What would you say to them?

Ellie:
What I would say is that there’s a song inside every one of us that we’ve come here to sing. There is a gift inside of us that we’ve come here to share with the world. And often times when we’re younger we know exactly who we are and why we’ve come here but through life circumstances we tend to get lost or doubt ourselves. And so what I would say to children is look deep inside you and know exactly who you are and what you’ve come here to share with the world and never give up. Never take no for an answer. It took me 30 years to start The Gentle Barn and overcome many, many obstacles but I never ever gave up and now I get to live my dream every single day.

Olivia:
Thank you and it was so nice meeting you. Olivia again.

Ellie:
Thank you. Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me.

—-

Olivia:
After meeting with Ellie I was truly astonished. She’s a wonderful person with a huge heart. I hope I get to volunteer at The Gentle Barn one day. See you next time.