Build a Barn Fund
Our volunteer Veterinarian did this for us last year. I wouldn't let him do the GoFundMe then, because, pride. I'm posting it now, here, because pride is overrated. And we still need that barn. Especially now, to hold our health events for chronically ill children.
“This unique mission needs a shelter, specifically a barn. The Traywick family needs a place for their growing herd of donkeys who share their life-changing milk with children like my grandson. This milk is my grandson’s medicine, and he is not the only child who depends on these donkeys for relief. Even if you choose not to support this barn-building fundraiser, read about these people who re-established their lives to save their daughter and have gone on to support hundreds of other families with children trapped in medical nightmares. Read about them in case you know someone who needs their help and pray for them to continue their work.
I met the Traywicks after seeing a short special-interest story on our local news about an energetic young mother of two who makes soaps, creams, and all kinds of pure and natural products from donkey milk. Saundra was describing the items she makes and sells, but the last bit about how she found herself surrounded by donkeys and willing to milk them is what changed my heart forever. She shared that her daughter had been fighting a debilitating illness with no known treatment for years, an illness called Autoimmune Encephalitis (also called PANS or PANDAS) [link]. After frantically pursuing any hope of a treatment, the family learned about the potential of simply drinking the milk of a donkey to temper the symptoms of the illness. You can read the long version with goose-bump moments, tears, and Praise-the-Lords here [link to website video], but the milk of the lowly donkey became their answer to prayer as their daughter’s symptoms virtually vanished when she had access to the milk. The next challenge for them was getting access to donkey milk since there are only 3 donkey dairies in the United States and zero within a day’s drive. Saundra and her husband, Walt, were faced with the difficult and improbable decision to uproot their home and careers (interior designer and building contractor), buy land and start adding donkeys to their family. They did exactly that, which is how we happened to see Saundra on the news telling everyone in Oklahoma about the products she had learned to make with the surplus donkey milk.
My wife was already texting our daughter about the milk before that news segment had concluded; the story hit close to home for us. Our grandson also has PANS and at that moment hope had re-awakened for our family too. I contacted the Traywicks the next day about getting milk. Saundra surprised me by letting me know that our first jar of milk was free, thanks to the soap sales and donors who help cover the cost for those in need. That afternoon I surprised her with a set of professional skills she urgently needed. One of the donkeys had been seriously injured just before I arrived to get the milk, so I offered to help. Through some very complicated design of fate, a Traywick donkey had a veterinarian when she needed one and I had hope in a Mason jar of milk that afternoon. Saundra and I became friends quickly.
I am supporting this “barn-raising” because this little family works this herd on their own, all day, every day as a labor of love. They gave up “the finer things” so they could have the best – a child who is thriving and the peace in their hearts that they are sharing her milk with others who may benefit. I admire their conviction to act and the strength and grace they show to others. Their mission is to have milk for those who need it and nurture the parents who struggle intensely and the need is growing every day. To sustain this mission, the Traywicks desperately need a shelter and milking parlor for this gentle and good-natured herd of American Mammoth donkeys. They hand-milk in the wide open, regardless of weather. Foals enter this world in open pastures without protection (if the Traywicks happen to miss that moment on their hourly watches!). They are doing the best they can with what they have, but they all need this shelter to sustain a working dairy and manage breeding and foaling as they grow.
What will your gifts be buying?
Phase I will include a 48 X 70ft. metal barn with 10ft overhang on both sides, similar to this one, where donkey life can be moved under a shelter when the weather is extreme. The barn will include an indoor and outdoor milking parlor (both with wash stalls), a room for milk processing (with sinks, a refrigerator and freezer), space for stalls, and an unfinished multi-purpose room for an estimated $162,400.
Phase II will finish out 2 foaling stalls, 3 stalls with pen runs for the jacks, stocks in a veterinary care area a storage area, and ADA designed restroom for event visitors with an estimated cost of $32,000.
Phase III will add feed storage, veterinary care supplies and storage, and finish-out the multi-use area for event meeting space, volunteer activities, student interns or even curious guests who would like a glimpse of the donkey farm someday! The estimate for this phase is $20,250.
The floor plan will resemble this. If you’d like to see the list of items for each phase, see “Specifics” below.
Who am I? I am a proud grandfather and a veterinarian who has come to know these donkeys quite well. I help the Traywicks when I can and always leave with pride for what these two genuinely kind people have been able to accomplish. Saundra, Walt and their sweet girls patiently share all they can and all they have with visitors. They work together as a mighty team to lovingly care for their donkey family, to make sure that milk will be available for those depending on it, and to tell others about the healing properties of donkey’s milk. They host Volunteer Days at the Donkey farm that bring out parents and their children who are facing health challenges, friends and neighbors, 4-H and FFA members with projects underway, and curious new visitors wanting to learn more about donkey milk. The Traywicks just established their non-profit organization to help others affected by difficult health issues in other ways too. They are hosting a Health Fair they call “Hee Haw for Health” in the fall to connect specialized practitioners and researchers with parents who are dealing with the health struggles their children are facing.
This barn will provide Walt and Saundra with a basic essential that is desperately needed. The facility will allow them to become even more productive in meeting the needs of their ever-growing requests for help from parents and grandparents like me. Please help me, help them. Let’s build a barn!
Thank you for considering this worthy cause,
By the way, if you are a fan of animal shenanigans, go to Saundra’s Instagram @dulcededonke to experience real life at the donkey dairy, Dulce de Donke (and chickens, guineas, kittens...). Spend some time getting to know Daphne, Belle, Blackberry, Snow White, Kramer and all of the other magnificent Traywick donkeys. You might even get a glimpse of a recent foal birth she was able to capture, brings a smile every time I watch!
The figures above include estimated costs for clearing trees and chipping, leveling, gravel, concrete, metal barn structure, well and septic system, plumbing, electrical, heat and air, framing and drywall for milk processing room and multipurpose room, three large doors and stall sectioning. Other estimated costs for various areas included:
Milk processing area: Commercial refrigerator and freezer, cabinets and sinks, etc. to meet health and safety standards and process efficiently
Milking parlor: 2-double portable milking machines, tie rails, sink and drains.
Veterinary care area: Stocks, cabinets, basic supplies and equipment
Stalls and runs: Gates and fencing
Items not included in the estimate that I would love to see included if funds become available:
Tornado safe room (above ground) – tornadoes are going to happen in Oklahoma, we need a way to save the milk on hand!
3 large fans
Wider aisle way (would increase the overall dimensions of the structure)
What is the plan if we don’t reach the goal?
We will consider building a pole barn instead of the stronger and more durable metal structure and decrease the size to get what we are able to afford. The shelter is needed urgently, so we will adapt the plan to get the barn started quickly.
Alternate option 2 pictured.