The Sammamish Animal Sanctuary (SAS) is a place where formerly homeless or neglected animals that need a forever home can be cared for. As a nonprofit organization, the sanctuary has been providing shelter and necessities for a variety of animals including horses, goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and llamas.
But after a fire tore through a barn on its property, the sanctuary found itself in need of assistance, and many Sammamish residents stepped up to donate money for a replacement.
Diane Gockel, a 59-year-old former high school teacher, established the animal sanctuary to share her love of animals, and for people to experience their loving and forgiving nature.
During the night of Feb. 19, Gockel and her husband Don were awakened by a knock on the door from an Eastside Fire and Rescue firefighter, who alerted them to a huge fire that was burning down their barn. Amelia, an 8-month-old blind calf that Gockel rescued last summer, lived inside. Gockel immediately ran to the barn and was relieved to see Amelia walking safely around the pasture with other cows.
“She was clearly confused, and I think she was pretty happy to see me that night,” Gockel said.
Quickly, more fire trucks arrived and firefighters started to put out the flames.
“We were still a bit shocked as we stood and watched the last of Amelia’s barn burn to the ground,” Gockel said.
The next day, Gockel started to plan the rebuilding of the barn. In the past, Gockel had always maintained that donations would not go to structures — only to the care and feed of the rescued animals — but this was a special circumstance. So she decided to make a special request to the sanctuary’s Facebook followers, and asked for donations for a fund to rebuild Amelia’s barn.
The response went beyond her expectations. Twenty-four hours after she posted the fundraising appeal on Facebook, Gockel had already received more than $10,000. Within hours, the post had 80-plus shares on Facebook.
“I literally just sat back and watched the SAS community send their donations, love, and support. I couldn’t believe it,” Gockel said.
In the end, the fundraiser raised around $13,000, and had more than 200 donors. Many people also left notes expressing their support for the sanctuary and love for Amelia, the calf.
One of the notes from a fan named Gail Levy read: “Your farm is a very special place where everyone is welcomed. No admission fees. My grandchildren love coming there to feed and get close to all their furry friends. This is a very special place to visit where we always share fun times.”
Gockel was able to order materials for the new barn quickly, and construction began right away. Just a few weeks later, Amelia and a few goats moved into a new barn.
Gockel was amazed by how much this community values the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary.
“It is so easy to be down on people when you are in the animal rescue business but for every bad apple there seem to be 1,000 people who want to make things right and good,” she said.