5th Street Bar & Grill to host donkey rescue fundraiser

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
T&D Donkey Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitating at-risk, neglected, abandoned and abused donkeys in the four-state area.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Deanna Kohley had been involved in rescuing horses for years before she rehabilitated her first donkey in 2013.

“My husband and I, we were on vacation when we were asked to rescue two donkeys,” Kohley says. “Everybody had rescued the horses, but left the two donkeys behind, and they were starved.” 

Although Kohley was unfortunately only able to save one of those first two donkeys, it got her started on a much larger effort to help at-risk, neglected, abandoned and abused donkeys in the four-state area: T&D Donkey Rescue. 

“We just kind of fell in love with the long ears and we kind of never looked back,” Kohley says. 

In 2016, T&D Donkey Rescue became certified as a 501c3 nonprofit. Currently, the Liberal, Missouri-based organization houses about 90 animals, Kohley says. 

“Our goal is to stick more to the donkey side, but we do have like 30 horses,” she says. 

“We provide each with medical attention to address any immediate physical needs, ongoing veterinary care, and farrier care,” T&D’s Facebook page notes. “If a donkey cannot be rehabilitated, physically or psychologically, they will live at the rescue as long as they are comfortably able.” 

While the focus is on rehabilitation rather than adoption, select donkeys are made available for adoption under contract to the right home. 

“By providing educational opportunities that increase awareness of the horrific conditions that many donkeys endure, as well as the specific needs of donkeys, we strive to reduce future cruelties through this awareness,” T&D says on its Facebook page. 

People from all across the country have come to Liberal for tours of T&D’s donkey rescue facility, Kohley says, which the nonprofit offers for free, although donations are accepted and appointments are required. T&D also has a gelding fund to assist area residents with gelding their animals. 

All of this, however, costs money — to the tune of about $125,000 annually to take care of the 90 or so animals T&D currently houses. In the past, the nonprofit has had significantly more animals to support, with 172 at the start of 2020, for example. The more donkeys and horses T&D takes responsibility for, the more it costs. 

“So we have adopted most of them out, but with COVID, funding is significantly lower, so again, we cannot help more in the community,” Kohley says. 

T&D does not currently have a grant writer, she says, and because many grants are highly competitive and difficult to qualify for, the nonprofit survives solely on donations and adoption fees. 

It also could not function without the help of it volunteers — two of whom have recently been instrumental in arranging a fundraiser to support T&D. Kohley says that volunteers Angie Hadley and Tracy Harris were the driving force in planning a fundraiser event for this Saturday, April 24, at 5th Street Bar & Grill in Pittsburg. 

The event will feature a 50-50 raffle and silent auction, with bidding starting at 5 p.m. Saturday and closing at 9:30 p.m., which is also when the drawing for the raffle will be. There is a paint-and-sip planned as part of the fundraiser as well, but the 40 seats available have already been reserved, although Kohley said it’s possible that someone will cancel or not show up, in which case an extra seat may become available. 

Although T&D Donkey Rescue relies on community support to continue its mission of rehabilitating at-risk, neglected, abandoned and abused donkeys, the nonprofit also tries to make that community support a two-way street, Kohley says. 

“We try to give back where we can,” she says. “For Christmas we donated, I don’t know, 1,500 blankets to people in need in the community. We took on like 500 Head Start kids, we took on all the seniors in Liberal, we took on a bunch of nursing homes, so we try to also, you know, change lives in the community as well.”