Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, July 10 newspaper on Page A1.

Victoria Goss has long dedicated her life to saving abandoned and abused horses, but she recently received help from an unexpected group of fellow animal lovers.

Goss is the owner and founder of Last Chance Corral, located on Old Route 33 near Athens. Her nonprofit is funded entirely by donations and helps care for mistreated or unwanted horses, especially foals. It has grown to become one of the largest neo-natal equine facilities in the nation, with more than 150 horses crossing through her barn doors every year.

It’s been a difficult year for Goss, following the destruction last summer of the facility’s main barn when a tree smashed through the roof in a storm. The barn was later rebuilt with the help of Oak Bridge Timber Framing, an Amish-staffed company, and reopened earlier this year.

More recently, Last Chance Corral has received funding help from another out-of-town group of supporters. A collection of “furries” — individuals with a passion for dressing up in costumes as anthropomorphized animals — from around the region have raised more than $40,000 for the nonprofit this year.

The connection between Last Chance Corral and the furry community dates back to 2016. Rebecca Chamberlain, Goss’s sister who handles administrative duties at the nonprofit, visited a furry convention that year in Columbus. As it would turn out, Last Chance Corral was selected by convention-goers to be a featured animal rescue for the following year’s event. Chamberlain returned for the 2017 convention and the event raised $10,000 for the facility.

“I must say, we were a bit apprehensive about being involved in a ‘furry’ event, but keeping an open mind we agreed to attend,” Chamberlain recalled. “I’m so glad we did … these fur-suit folks went over the top with their efforts to raise funds for us.”

A few years later, a separate member of the furry community reached out to Last Chance Corral to gauge interest in another fundraiser. This effort involved furries with Artworktee.com, a website that allows artists to create merchandise of their work.

The idea was to create a calendar featuring members of the furry community, with sales proceeds to benefit Last Chance Corral. The earlier experience of fundraising with furries encouraged Goss and Chamberlain to do so again.

Furries later came to Last Chance Corral to visit with horses and film promotional materials for the calendar.

“When they got here we were a bit surprised at the number of fursuits they brought,” Chamberlain said, “and although they were having a blast they were also focused, polite and professional and the foals didn’t mind one bit, several of them were quite curious.”

Neil Wacaster, of ArtworkTee.com, credited a collaborator who goes by the name “Telephone” within the furry community as the inspiration for this fundraiser. Telephone cares for horses at her own home, and connected with Last Chance Corral’s mission to save abandoned and abused foals.

“We were blown away by the amount of support,” Wacaster wrote in an email. “Our ambitious goal was to raise $30,000 for the fundraiser, and we ended up raising over $60,000. The furry community really rallied around the project, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their generosity. I hope that it can help Last Chance Corral save a lot of foals.”

Wacaster said the website has conducted other fundraisers toward animal rescues, children’s health charities and LGBT organizations. This calendar project took about six months to complete and features the work of more than two dozen collaborators. It is still available for sale online at igg.me/at/furrycalendar.

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