Several Northeast Florida businesses and nonprofits remain closed because of Hurricane Matthew. One nonprofit, Catty Shack Ranch, a big-cat sanctuary, had its welcome tent destroyed by the hurricane.
It served as an information center where guests would come in, congregate and watch videos before taking tours through the ranch. It also served as their gift shop.
Most of the animals enjoyed the change of weather the hurricane brought. Adoption coordinator Kurt Lessenthien said some of the tigers were even trying to splash him as he walked around the ranch.
But despite the playfulness of the animals, the tent’s condition reminded Lessenthien of the seriousness of the situation.
“I came out here and I saw the sides all in, the tent actually down,” he said. “I stopped when I came through the gate and really I wanted to cry. It was a huge, huge loss.”
Executive Director Curt LoGiudice witnessed the destruction of the welcome tent. “The winds were so tough and moving it from side to side that the stakes would come right out of the ground of course because of the wetness already,” he said.
But Lessenthien said Catty Shack Ranch won’t give up on its mission. In fact, the nonprofit wants to turn the bad luck around by building a new, more permanent welcome center to replace the tent.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to try to raise $15,000 toward that goal. So far they have raised about $5,500.
News Intern Andre Roman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @adromanify