By JOSIE BODE
As hay prices soar across Indiana, one local charity is turning to the Putnam County community and asking for help to survive the winter.
Hope's Way Inc., a recreation center for special needs children, will have a Christmas Hay Parade from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 at the Putnam County Fair Grounds to gather hay bales and accept cash to feed their stock through the winter.
The family friendly event will feature horseback riding and a treasure chest drawing with gift certificates from local merchants. The fee to enter the drawing is one bale of hay, or $5.
Drought conditions this year yielded a low supply of hay, raising Putnam County hay prices from $2 to $3 a bale in 2006 to anywhere from $8 to $13 per bail this year.
Elizabeth Shafer, Hope's Way CEO, says that the family will not be able to feed the recreation center's 90 animals without help.
Shafer estimates the operation needs at least 1,500 bails of hay to make it through the winter. That amounts to around $13,500, compared to less than $4,000 last year.
"Even if we only pay $8-9, we can't make that purchase without taking out a loan on our house," Shafer said.
The Shafer family dedicated their 26-acre estate to start Hope's Way in 2002. The facility offers horse and pony rides, a model Old West Town, free picnics, clowns and other hands on activities designed for special needs children and their families.
Shafer says that several farmers in the community have reached out to help, but the recreation center is still in dire straights.
"It really takes all of us to pull together to get through something like this," she said.