Gentle Barn founder is hero to animals

The Gentle Barn co-founder Ellie Laks

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Starting the Gentle Barn was Ellie Laks’ dreams since she was seven years old.

Laks said she felt like animals were very healing and nurturing to her as she faced the challenges of growing up. She majored in special education and psychology, and with her special love of animals and children, The Gentle Barn was a perfect way of putting all her talents and passions into one.

“The idea of the Gentle Barn, ” Laks says, “is not only to rescue animals that nobody else wants, but to bring in people that are suffering and feeling lonely, unseen, unheard, bring them in to heal with the animals.”

Jay Weiner, Lak’s husband, nominated her for a WATE 6 On Your Side Hero Award. He said when he met his wife he was coming off of a rough divorce and working in corporate America.

Nominate a WATE 6 On Your Side Hero

“She definitely is a hero to me,” said Weiner. “I didn’t have a lot of meaning for the purpose in my life, so when I met her and came into the Gentle Barn it changed my life completely.”

The Gentle Barn works with children from the inner city, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes and schools to teach them that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and are deserving of the same rights, respects and freedom. Laks says she feels it is imperative to teach children kindness, compassion and empathy for all living things.

“I know what the people feel like when they coming in as part of our program, because I really feel like I got to benefit from it too,” said Weiner.

Lak gave a tour of the property, introducing each animaly by name and shared their stories of survival.

The Gentle Barn co-founder Ellie Laks
The Gentle Barn co-founder Ellie Laks

“She was never allowed to keep any of her babies, ” Laks said introducing Maybelle the cow. “When they got ready to retire her from being a milk cow, they found us, and we were able to take her home instead of her going to slaughter.”

The Gentle Barn is also home to Dudley the famous cow with the prosthetic foot. People from all over the world come to see him. He’s even been featured in People magazine.

Laks hopes to have more volunteers to help care for animals at the Gentle Barn. Since it’s a non-profit, donations are accepted. People can sponsor an animal through monthly donations. For more information, visit

More online: How to nominate a WATE 6 On Your Side Hero

As a mark of our appreciation, heroes will receive a gift packet from our sponsors, Ted Russell Ford, Old Mill Lodging and Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants. The gift package will include a two nights lodging in Sevier County from Old Mill Lodging, a gift card to the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants and Sevier County area attraction tickets.

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