CRIPPLE CREEK — A call to action is taking place in the Cripple Creek community. The small town is home to more than a dozen feral donkeys that freely roam the area. A group of volunteers takes care of the herd in their free time, but they're in need of more helping hands for the summer season.
For about five months out of the year, the herd of donkeys can be seen roaming around Cripple Creek. The other months out of the year, they're taken to a pasture, where they have food and shelter for the colder seasons.
However, from May to October, local volunteers with the Two Mile High Club say taking care of the donkeys is a full-time job and they need more help. Currently, the organization has only four full-time volunteers.
"Our donkeys are the city's ambassadors. They are wild animals, but we do everything we can to take care of this herd. We feed donkeys that are unable to keep up with the herd, and we have to medicate them and provide veterinary care," said Curt Sorenson, the non-profit's president.
Sorenson said the difficult part is getting volunteers to do the everyday work that needs to be done, knowing many people have full-time jobs or don't live locally.
"We're always on call, and I can't think of a time where we're not having to be available. Someone has to be available all the time," said Sorenson.
Ellen Moore, another volunteer, who also works at the Heritage Center in town, says the donkeys are one of the most asked about attractions when people visit.
"I would say 50% of the people that come in say, 'Where are the Cripple Creek donkeys?' The donkeys are gentle, they're approachable, and a lot of people don't know they're here until they get here."
Moore also mentioned there's an immediate need for more volunteers during the summer season.
"We can never lock the door and walk away from the evening. We are a 365 day, 24/7 nonprofit responsibility," said Moore. "But our volunteer base has dropped off significantly, and we can attribute some of that to last year with the pandemic. Now, we are struggling with those daily responsibilities and being able to have enough people to take care of the donkeys."
The Two Mile High Club was founded in 1931 when the donkeys were turned loose after a decline in mining. The animals have been freely roaming Cripple Creek during the summers since then.
Currently, there are 13 donkeys to take care of.
"None of us are teenagers, so we'd dearly love to get some of the young folks involved," said Sorenson. "The more people know about the donkeys, the more people know about their need, and the better off we'll be."
The non-profit, which is celebrating 90 years of volunteering, relies on fund-raising events to raise money and take care of the donkeys, however, fundraisers were put on pause during the pandemic.
The next event is taking place on the 4th of July weekend, where the donkeys will be in three different parts of town. Volunteers will also be keeping an eye on them, to make sure the community is feeding the animals proper food.
Volunteers for the organization say it costs about $25,000 every year to take care of the donkeys. The organization is able to make these efforts happen thanks to volunteer help and local fundraising.
Volunteers also say they're using newer technology to keep track of the donkeys. Within the upcoming weeks, visitors or residents will be able to go to businesses or a museum and see exactly where the donkeys are located.
For more information about the organization click here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.