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Wray Wranch seeks to help disadvantaged children

PERU Jay and Carrie Wray have a vision. Their vision is to provide a setting where children can interact with animals to help them get through trying times in their lives. The Wrays have established the Wray Wranch at their 30-acre homestead on Patent Road where horses, goats, chickens and rabbits are a handful of the animals that can be seen. The idea behind creating a mini-animal kingdom is to offer a venue for animal-facilitated therapy. The concept, which involves strengthening a human-animal bond to improve a patients physical and emotional health, was one first learned of through a bible conference and horse ranch the Wrays visited in 2003. It was an idea we thought would be something we wanted to pursue, said Jay. Not long after they attended the conference, the Wrays purchased the land on Patent Road where they established their farm. The process started small, with a few miniature horses. Next, the Wrays received some chickens and a sheep from a neighbor who was moving out of state and wanted the animals to go to a good home. I was thinking to myself, What are we going to do with these, Jay said, laughing. It was at that point I thought that kids like small animals, so we should work on having small animals. Eventually, the Wrays received even more animals from people who simply approached them asking if they were interested in providing a home for various animals. While some were unwanted because of disabilities they had, the Wrays thought they would be perfect for their ranch and their mission. We have a horse we were given that has only one eye, a chicken without feet and donkeys that lost their ears from frostbite. Weve even got two Belgian draft horses, one of which has a bad hip, said Jay. The animals have all been through a lot, which is something kids may be able to relate to. The Wrays would like to see their ranch create a symbiotic relationship in which children with special needs and disabilities learn from and interact with the animals that are special in their own right, said Jay. That relationship can help strengthen a childs self-esteem, and even the simple act of petting or brushing an animal, for example, can do wonders, they said. Animals dont judge. They will love you know matter what, said Carrie. Animals are simply very good at helping healing, added Jay. Their love is unconditional love, just as God gives. Their faith is a big part of what they do, said Jay. The mission behind the ranch is motivated by their faith in God, though Jay said his family doesnt push the religion envelope with those who visit. He simply wants people to know his familys passion and they are willing to talk to others about it if theyre interested. The whole reason we do this is God. We want to share the gospel with these children and we want Him to get all the attention. Its not about us, Jay said. Were not here because we want to beat people over the head with God, but we are here because we want to show them the love of God. Were here to help children with disabilities and illnesses, but we want people to know everyone is welcome, he added. Those who pass by the Wray homestead wouldnt likely be able to tell it apart from any other country home. There is no sign on the front lawn directing people to the animals, no ticket booth charging admission. So far, the only people who have visited the ranch are ones who have heard of it by word of mouth, or who have seen a small, homemade tri-fold brochure about the ranch that the Wrays give to those they meet. Eventually, the Wrays said they would like to build beyond the simple barn and corrals they currently have, in order to make room for more animals. That way, they could eventually provide horseback riding demonstrations and day-camps. Children from the Fresh Air Fund, said Jay, could have a place to visit during their time away from the city, and campfires could be held to bring people together. Wed basically just do what were doing now, just on a slightly larger scale, said Jay. People just become inspired and it really makes them happy. And, thats all we want. Whether the ranch grows from its current state or not, the Wrays said they are happy just to be able to help those who visit them and take away something from the experience. The help of their family, friends and neighbors who have supported them, including their church the Independent Baptist Church in Keeseville has helped strengthen the foundation on which their farm stands. It has been really neat to see how it all fell together in ways we couldnt have foreseen, said Carrie. Its just blossomed before our eyes. We couldnt do it without them, Jay added. Businesses like Champlain Valley Speciality in Keeseville, and Aubuchon Hardware and Robert W. Butts Logging Company in Peru have been among those who have contributed in some form, he said, further driving the Wrays to give back. We see ourselves as missionaries, said Jay. Weve been helped so much by a lot of people, but we realize its a two-way street and we want to help as many people as possible. For more information about the Wray Wranch, including making an appointment to visit or how to make a donation to assist with expenses, call the Wrays at 643-0320 or send an e-mail to cjeiwray@juno.com.

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