Written By Cece Owens
Tennesseans love Peyton Manning. That’s a given. But did you know that you can cuddle with and feed Peyton Manning — the turkey, not the human — in Knoxville any Saturday that you want? Rick Springfield, the rooster, lives next door to Peyton and he also loves to snuggle with people. Peyton and Rick are just two of the fortunate residents living at the Gentle Barn Tennessee.
If birds are not your petting preference, you may also like to meet Dudley the cow, who lost a foot when he was a baby and now wears a prosthetic leg. Another lovable creature living at the Gentle Barn Tennessee is Lillie the pig, who was lethargic and unable to move when rescued from the back of a truck full of pigs. Perhaps you are an avid animal lover who is looking to contribute your time to a cause. If that’s the case, you may be a perfect candidate to become a Gentle Barn volunteer.
In Knoxville since June 2015, the Gentle Barn Tennessee rehabilitates abused farm animals and connects their stories of healing and survival with the personal experiences of at-risk and special-needs children who have suffered physical, mental or emotional trauma. These animals have had negative experiences in life, but their willingness to trust humans again allows them to live out their lives in the care and comfort of a loving environment. It’s precisely the animals’ willingness to trust humans again that helps children who have undergone abuse understand that healing is possible.
While the current West Knoxville location is excellent, they have outgrown it. For that reason, they will soon launch a capital campaign to raise funds. “We love our current location but are eager to find our forever home to grow roots and continue the life-changing work in our community for abused animals, at-risk youth and disabled people,” said Knoxville native Becky Mink, advisory council chairperson for the Gentle Barn Tennessee.
The Gentle Barn Tennessee, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, operates from donations. The organization hosts groups of children on weekdays and the public is welcome on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A donation of $20 per adult and $10 per child for admission also includes lunch. For tickets and additional information, please visit GentleBarn.org/Tennessee.