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ROOTED: Sanctuary a haven for animals, an escape for humans

Brenda Bronfman's love of animals keeps Wishing Well Sanctuary going

The Wishing Well Sanctuary is a haven not only for animals but for people, too.

Slated as a place of peace for all beings, the property at 2710 10th Line in Bradford was acquired by founder Brenda Bronfman so she could build a sanctuary for farmed animals. Part of her mandate has been to promote emotional well-being for people, primarily youth and their families, as well as those affected by trauma, addiction, and other difficulties, by providing courses, seminars, and workshops.

A peace pole is planted and stands tall in the centre of the sanctuary that reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in several languages including French, Sanskrit, and Hebrew.

Bronfman is primarily a dog lover, and their affection is evidently reciprocated as her two pups happily trot behind her while she strolls across the property. However, she recognizes there are many other animals that need help, but they have far fewer spokespersons than dogs and cats. For instance, her turkey, Hector, was a stray bird wandering around a neighbourhood in Aurora when she received the call from two confused residents. She managed to rescue him and bring him back to the sanctuary, notably just before Thanksgiving.

Bronfman says, “Hector is an amazing ambassador for birds, especially turkeys, because he’s got such a character, such a personality, that people see this animal in a different light. Suddenly, they’re not just food; they’re individuals like us.”

Jinx, Bronfman’s first goat, is now an elderly animal and came into her possession from a cruelty investigation case. At first, he was introverted but has come to show affection and plays with his fellow goats. Other animals around the sanctuary include potbelly pigs, geese, alpacas, sheep, chickens, cows, and a beautiful, majestic peacock named Blue. Blue acquired his name not because of his colour, but because he loves blueberries.

Bronfman’s first animals, nine calves and five sheep, came in October 2011. A Montreal native, she knew nothing about farming or animal care.

“I had a lot of learning to do,” Bronfman says, “but it was the most exciting moment because now I had a sanctuary.”

While the dream has become a reality, she hopes for more community support. Donations and corporate sponsorships have been far and few between, which raises a challenge in spending for the sanctuary. Even an increase in volunteers would be beneficial, according to Bronfman.

Despite it being a huge undertaking, she keeps going because she has made a pledge to love and care for the animals she’s taken in.

Wishing Well Sanctuary offers more than just a typical single-day visit, Bronfman explains: “People can visit once a week for three months to do intensive therapy, if necessary, and bring their family, similar to how corporations set up team-building retreats.”

If one were to visit the Wishing Well Sanctuary social media pages, they would see events, small vendor markets, and even yoga with animals. Even more unique is an overnight stay at the sanctuary’s Cozy Country Loft for a reasonable fee.

Bronfman is still looking to expand her programs within the sanctuary, with hopes to include bigger and better mental health programs implementing art, music, and horticulture. She has dealt with anxiety and depression and, having that experience, aims to prevent others from suffering.

“That’s my goal,” Bronfman explains. “I just really want to help people so they can feel connected within, with others, with animals, and with the universe. In turn we can help each other and, ultimately, help the whole planet.”