Ellie Laks, the founder of The Gentle Barn, holds a chicken with her husband, Jay Weiner, the co-founder of The Gentle Barn, at the sanctuary. Courtesy of Anna Robreson

Gentle Barn turns 20 with star-studded celebration

The Gentle Barn has been rescuing, rehabilitating and providing sanctuary to animals and children for 20 years, and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in September with an intimate evening at the barn. 

The celebration will be an evening under the stars, hosted by comedian Whitney Cummings and complete with some time to visit with Gentle Barn founders, Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner, along with the animals, according to event organizers.

“It’s a big accomplishment for me that started as little kid’s fantasy,” Laks said. “It was a dream I have had since I was 7. I told my parents when I grew up I was going to have a place to show the world how important animals are.” 

Laks refused to give up on her dream to heal not only the animals that are struggling, but people alike.

“We both kind of grew up in The Gentle Barn,” Weiner added. “All of our staff, board of directors and volunteers have worked so hard over the years to get us to where we are. It’s a real milestone. We’ve seen so much — both hard times and good times, scary rescues and cute and fun ones — that created a full life experience for me.” 

The evening is also expected to include a plant-based culinary experience with Nic Adler and a celebratory program with celebrity entertainment as well as a special awards ceremony.  

“We wanted something very unique that would stand out from other agencies, yet we wanted it to feel elegant,” Laks said. “Not only will people have a wonderful time with the animals and stars, but the satisfaction of supporting people and the animals.” 

The barn is expected to be decorated with twinkle lights on the hills, canyons and trees, as well as a red carpet, while still “surrounded by the animals that made this possible, so we’re reminded why we’re celebrating 20 years and why it’s such a victory,” Laks said. 

Though both Laks and Weiner said they are overjoyed with the impact that have been able to make so far, they still have dreams of continuing to expand The Gentle Barn’s reach. 

“I never realized what it would feel like to give back in the way that we have and really be able to affect change,” Weiner said. “Ellie and I didn’t think we’d see the change in the care and kindness to animals and support in community. We’re blown away by the support. It gives us hope.” 

They’ve already opened two additional locations, one in Tennessee and another in Missouri, but an East Coast location is what they see coming next.

“If we bring something to a community that doesn’t have it, that’s where we want to go,” Weiner said, “in an effort to rescue more animals, teach more people and heal more children.” 

The 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled 5 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, at The Gentle Barn, located at 15825 Sierra Highway, and tickets for the event are $350. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit gentlebarncelebrate.org.

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