Friends, community support family after barn fire
Amy Ats' 9-year-old daughter Morgan signed up for lessons about five months ago because she was struggling socially.
'She needed something to get away from some friends at school,' Ats said, adding Morgan bonded immediately with both the horses and the Finks.
The Ats family was devastated to hear about the blaze that destroyed the farm's 10,000-square-foot barn, killing 14 horses and three cats, and are helping the Finks' in whatever way they can.
Riding center customers have been visiting Finks at her home on the property, some every day. Ats said many are upset about the loss of the animals they've grown close to and they are looking to provide solace to the Finks, who said the horses were like family to them.
'Right now, it's really about keeping her company,' Ats said. 'Their life came crashing down last week.'
When a chore needs to be done, there are volunteers on hand ready to help, whether it's to put away the many donations the farm has received or to clean the stalls for resident mini stallion Puffy and the farm's mascot, Miss Colby, a pig who was rescued from the fire.
'We are overwhelmed by the good deeds of so many,' Elissa Finks said.
It is unclear whether or not the barn will be rebuilt, Ats said.
'We parents have asked flat out if she's going to rebuild,' Ats said, 'but she just doesn't know yet.'
In a prepared statement, Elissa Finks said insurance is not likely enough to cover a rebuild of the barn or the loss of 25 years' worth of equipment.
A fund has been established at TD Bank for the Finks.
The remaining eight horses have been sent to a friend of the Finks family, after the horses that died were buried together late last week.
Elissa Finks expressed her gratitude for the community support.
'My mother, Harriet, and I would like to extend our deepest gratitude for the outpouring of support everyone has shown us,' Finks said. 'I have no words to describe what we are feeling — our life as we have known it has come to a horrific and sudden halt,' she said.
Finks went on to say that the horses died of smoke inhalation.
'They all led full and happy lives, filled with purpose and good care, to the bitter end,' she said.
The eight remaining horses were examined by a vet and are in good health.
Ats said Finks has seen many cars slow down as they go by the property, and encourages people to stop and pay a visit.
'They welcome anybody to the property,' she said. 'They can just come by and say hi.'
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Kathy Remillard may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.