Ellie Lacks: Turning Trauma
Into Indelible Love

Ellie connects children and animals who need each other most.

Ellie's Gentle Barn... a dream come true

The Gentle Barn started in California in 1999 as a refuge for abused and neglected animals: those who were too old, sick, lame, or otherwise unadoptable. It has since grown to three states across the country, thanks to its founder, Ellie Lacks.

Ellie explains the origins of her organization as deeply rooted in experience: “I had a lot of pain and suffering as a kid, and animals always made me feel loved and wanted. I had a first hand experience with how restorative animals can be.” Just four years ago, Ellie published a heartwarming account of her journey titled My Gentle Barn.

Ellie’s organization is in a unique position to not only nurture animals, but also to help inspire and educate children who are in need of compassion: “It’s really amazing to see the transformation that both the animals and children go through. Suddenly everyone is inspired and more open about their experiences. People leave the Gentle Barn smiling and feeling whole.”

From half-acre to three farms

The quest to create a full-fledged sanctuary didn’t happen overnight. In fact, Ellie faced a lot of inner and financial turmoil that threatened to erase her hard work. Yet she never lost faith: “Through all the sadness and pain, we have to find a way forward. That isn’t always easy. The only way to change the world is through education and legislation.”

So how did things start, exactly? Ellie’s dream as a young child to create this safe space for animals was no easy task. What’s more, the logistical challenges were immense and at times, overwhelming: “I didn’t know how to go about it; I didn’t have the money or land to make it happen. But 19 years ago I discovered a petting zoo filled with animals that needed my help. And then one day I looked back into my half-acre backyard and realized I was living my dream.” Since then, Ellie’s determination has pushed her to expand to three states.

Don't worry about "how"

She also says her husband was a powerful driving force: “Jay has a marketing and business background; we were able to buy up more land for these animals in different locations; he helped make my dream bigger and more impactful than I could have hoped for.”

Ellie’s advice are words of hope for anyone with a big heart and a passion for doing the right thing: “stay focused on what makes you feel alive. Don’t worry so much about the ‘how.’ The way to your dream will come to you; so will ‘how.’”

Ellie, the animal lover she is, would like to pass along the Pandas deck, since pandas are just so cute.