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Animals hold their own Relay for Life

June 20, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

On the Village Green this Fourth of July will be a variety of animals from The Barn Yard traveling petting zoo. Their main mission will be to raise funds for the American Cancer Society while providing a fun experience for families.

"We offered our services to the city of Canfield free of charge," said Christine Coler. "All we are asking for is a donation to help in the fight against cancer."

She said the story on how the petting zoo is coming to this year's Fourth of July celebration actually goes back to when the traveling zoo was first formed. It started with her mother, Doreen Leach, who formed the business in the early 1980s.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Six-year-old Robby Coler has some personal favorites in his parents' Barn Yard Traveling Petting Zoo. Some of the family's 200 animals will be making their way to the Canfield Fourth of July celebration where they will help raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Doreen worked for a nursing home as a hair dresser in the 1980s. She often talked about the animals she was raising on her Canfield property and would occasionally bring in hatching peeps to show her clients at the nursing home.

"The city of Youngstown heard about my mom and asked her to bring some animals to the City Fest," Christine said. "After that, the petting zoo was formed and just continued to grow."

The petting zoo went well with the pony rides that her father, James Best Sr., had. Many in the area may recall seeing the pony rides every year at the Canfield Fair.

The petting zoo continued to grow, and Doreen found her passion in life by taking the animals around the Mahoning Valley and beyond. She grew the petting zoo and saw her dream succeed just before getting a cancer diagnosis. Doreen lost her fight in 2003, leaving the family to decide what to do with the petting zoo that was now at 200 animals.

Things happened pretty quickly from that point, Christine said. She and her husband, Dwight, moved fast to purchase the 15-acre farm in Berlin Township. The animals were all moved from the Western Reserve location and set up in pens that offered plenty of room to graze, run and play. The couple also took on the commitment to keep the petting zoo going and they have succeeded in making it an experience for families to enjoy.

Dwight said it has become a routine to take care of 200 animals every day.

"It takes at least two hours to feed and care for them in the morning, and another hour to close up at night," he said.

Christine said she is pleased with how things turned out, but now she wanted to give back in memory of her mom.

"I offered to take the petting zoo to a Relay for Life event, but they don't want animals around people who have just had chemotherapy," she said. "So I had an idea to hold our own event."

That is when she approached the city of Canfield with the idea of having the fundraiser.

"It wasn't just for my mom, but for other family members and neighbors who are presently battling cancer," Christine said. "It's for all of them."

She is hoping people will stop by and donate. The petting zoo won't be hard to miss. The couple have purchased a canvas tent in the shape of a red barn. It allows people to walk through and see all the animals in a cooler, shaded area. The barn will be set up on the Village Green during the Fourth of July celebration.

"It will be our four-legged Relay for Life," Christine said.



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