Thousands of online donors have answered an 11th-hour call to help save Little Ray’s Nature Centre from potentially going out of business and closing up shop after contributing nearly $150,000 to a GoFundMe campaign over the past five weeks.
The Nature Centre’s founder, Paul “Little Ray” Goulet, launched the campaign to help pay his mounting bills as the COVID-19 pandemic enters a fourth month.
|Little Ray's Nature Centre owner Paul 'Little Ray' Goulet is hoping to raise $350,000 to keep the exotic animal rescue centre open during the pandemic. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
Since mid-March when the provincial government imposed a state of emergency and ordered all non-essential businesses to close, Little Ray’s has suffered a 94 per cent drop in revenue.
The pandemic could not have happened at a worse time for the Nature Centre. Last year, they bought the old Home Hardware store in Sarsfield, which they have been renovating in order to house the more than 800 exotic animals they have in their care.
In 2018, Goulet established Little Ray’s Foundation For Animal Rescue and Education, or FARE, in anticipation of opening the Sarsfield location as a non-profit, but with the financial issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Goulet decided to launch the non-profit foundation in conjunction with the GoFundMe campaign.
One hundred per cent of the money raised will go towards the care and maintenance of the animals and the core costs associated with them. Those combined costs amount to just under $70,000 a month.
Goulet estimates the centre can generate roughly $20,000 a month now that the province has allowed them to operate under an established protocol that includes strict social distancing rules. But visitors only account for four per cent of the centre’s annual revenue. Before the pandemic their main source of revenue came from out-sourced education programs and museum exhibits which have been put on hold in-definitely due to the pandemic. That leaves a monthly shortfall of about $50,000.
Goulet is hoping that things will pick up in January, but to get there they have to raise a total of $350,000. Between the GoFundMe campaign at www.gofundme.com/f/largest-exotic-animal-rescue-in-Canada and the monthly donor campaign at donorbox.org/save-canadas-largest-exotic-animal-rescue they have raised close to half what they need.
“In my wildest dreams I never thought we would be begging for support,” says Goulet who is tremendously thankful for all of the help they have received so far.
“For me, regardless of what our future holds, to hear how we have impacted people’s lives... it’s been very special for my wife and I as we try to navigate a very difficult time,” says Goulet.
One young donor in particular has raised over $500 by selling bracelets for $1 each.
Caleigh, 9, from Orléans, heard about Little Ray’s situation and immediately started making loom bracelets and selling them for a minimum donation of one dollar.
“I heard that Little Ray’s may go out of business which breaks my heart, so I came with the idea to sell bracelets,” says Caleigh, for which everyone at the Little Ray’s Nature Centre is extremely grateful.
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