Introducing elderly people in nursing homes to miniature donkeys free of charge is what Kory Tracey spends a good chunk of his time doing.

The Winchester man has converted one of his miniature donkeys that his grandkids use for 4-H into a therapy donkey to make people smile.

“When we go to the different facilities, it brightens up the resident’s day. We love doing it, and that’s the satisfaction we get,” Kory said. “Being able to see people smile, brighten their day, and it’s very fun and we love it.”

Kory and his family take the mini donkeys to places like nursing homes.

He said even though donkeys aren’t usually therapy animals, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be.

“It’s just something different,” Kory said. “Why not have donkeys? Some of the residents in the nursing homes have never been exposed to them. Even if they were, they miss it.”

Other than being therapy animals, Kory’s donkeys also compete in 4-H competitions. He takes the donkeys there because he likes to share them with people who might not be around donkeys and other animals.

Of all of the donkeys, there was one that stood out. He stood on the gate of his pen in order for people to notice him.

Kevin was an attention hog—or in this case, an attention donkey.

“He’s actually one of the ones we’re going to start using,” Kory said over Kevin’s braying. “A Rottweiler attacked him about four years ago, and I thought it would spook him, and it didn’t.”

Kevin’s talkative nature also comes with a cuddly side. All day, Kevin stuck his head out of the pen to persuade children and adults come up to pet him.

Kory’s wife, Nikki, said the donkeys bring everyone enjoyment.

“It’s not just the kids that like them. It’s the adults too,” Nikki said. “From the itty-bitty ones to the seniors.”

Amy Aviles, from Walkerton, works with a group called DSI in Columbus that helps care for mentally challenged adults and children.

“We just brought 10 of our guys out today to see if they could touch the animals, have a good time and integrate them into the community,” she said.

Their faces lit up as Kevin and the other donkeys came up to see them.

“I think it is something that is really therapeutic,” Amy said. “I think they have that sense where they know they have to be gentle with them, and it brings out a soft side that sometimes we don’t see with people that have some behavior problems.”

After being petted and admired for the majority of the day, the donkeys had to gear up for the costume contest.

One of these donkeys was Archie. He was paired with Kory’s daughter’s stepdaughters Haley and Chelsea Hicks. They dressed up as Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh.”

Chelsea, who was Tigger, said she enjoys being involved with the donkeys.

“It’s pretty fun,” she said. “They’re very gentle and nice, and I love them.”

Megan Melton is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the biggest sow. This Ball State University immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.