Save Our Zoo

My name is Nathan Sweeting  and together with my wife and two children; We Bought A Zoo! It's been an amazing journey, but now we are faced with the threat of losing our Zoo and our home, but hope is not lost and with your help we can Save Our Zoo! Please read our story and help us raise the money we need.

I have been working with crocodiles  for well over 20 years and have always been passionate about animals, education, & conservation and have developed a company around that passion.

https//:www.smoothwaterswildlife.com

In the summer of 2016 we made a bold decision to expand the company and buy and existing animal facility that had been tucked away and never shared with the world. Tragicly it's original founder had died of a heart attack nearly 2 years prior and the facilty had been left to wither away like some lost ruins in an Indiana Jones movie.

After a long hard road to find the man's surviving business partner, I negotiated a deal to buy the property, which quickly turned from a purchase to a long term "lease to own" agreement due to financial mess tied to the property that still lingered from the founders untimely death. I was undaunted in my persuit to achieve a lifelong goal to build a Zoo and Crocodile Park that can not only educate and engage the public, but to create something beautiful for our children & their future too.

In September of 2016 the contracts were signed and we began renovations and restoration of the property on October 1st. My wife knew I was working on something exciting and was excited herself at the thought of this becoming a reality.

For years I worked hard in the welding industry and always new all I had to do was create one opportunity, open one door, somewhere that would get me closer to my dream. The years passed and one day I made an opening myself and forced my foot in the door. I was interviewing for an entertainer/keeper position at an Animal Theme Park, and on my 2nd interview I mistook it for being hired. Workers were waist deep and an exhibit lake, full of Alligators & Crocodiles, building a new fenceline and dock and called out to the boss for an extra set of hands to help. I said, "I'm in" and walked right into the lake and got to work. It wasn't until years later that I found out from the Director that they actually weren't going to hire me that day, they didn't believe I could do the job, or fit on the team and he said, "... that day you proved us wrong, and you've continued to do so every day since." I took the job that day, and created my own opportunity. That moment and that conversation was a major turning point in life that leads to many more years of twists and turns, until finally having the most motivating moment of my life. The birth of our daughter! Finding out I was going to be a dad, and then watching her be born, ignited a fire in me that feels unstoppable. From that moment I dedicated everything to building a world for my family that would be better than anything I could've ever dreamed for myself.

So here we are, many years and 2 kids later and finally on the cusp of touching that dream. Contract signed, shovel in hand, I worked diligently everday for 15 hours a day, or more, from October 1st to well into Feb. 2017 before taking a day off to surprise, reveal, and move our family onto the property where we now live and love living in our own Jurassic Park of sorts.

The work didn't end there and neither did our struggle. We spent our entire life savings (over $65k and counting) to make this amazing Park what it is today and poured our own blood, sweat, & passion into this project. With the help of some family and friends with hammers and skills who were inspired by our dedication and fortitude, we have achieved what so many told me time and time again, I would never be able to accomplish. And yet, we have, and we will not fail.

In May of 2017 we opened our doors to the public with only a skeleton crew running the facilty which consists of my wife and myself. Our 5 year old daughter has claimed the position of lead Zookeeper and our 3 year old son claimed the title of Astronaut (he may be overqualified for a zoo), and both love to help in every way they can. Our daughter loves to rake the walkways, help me dig holes, and feed the animals. Every morning she and I open the park and walk the grounds so she can say good morning to all of them, her magical animal friends. My son, now 3, loves to help too but his favorite thing is playing hide and seek with one of the giant tortoises. They do this for hours it seems and it's adorable. These kids and us are growing up in a paradise we have created and everyday is an adventure.

And Now, our hard work,  our great family adventure, and growing business are in danger of coming to an end if we don't fight, and fight hard.

The looming Bank mortage still owed by the deceased man has come calling and, to our surprise, apparently hasn't been paid or kept current. Despite our lease and our payments to the landlord, which should have handled this, the bank has begun the foreclosure process and we may lose the property right out from under us.

As a silver lining, we have a great opportunity to negotiate with the bank and purchase the property by buying out the debt.

Herein lies the rub.  We have already spent every penny we had restoring this place to get the doors open. Getting a standard mortgage or even a hard money loan is not an option because in their eyes we have no collateral or sufficient income yet.

I refuse to let my family lose our home, or this amazing world we have created here for everyone to see.

We desperately need people and support to keep this dream alive. We need investors, we need donations, we need peoples passion that compliments our own to write a check that reflects it.

Unfortunately time is not on our side, but 100k isn't a huge number and should be enough to seal the deal.

Everyone knows someone that can help, or knows someone who knows someone. My hope is that we can rally people to stand in our corner and enough people will share this plea and campaign to get us off and running and shine a light from the other end of the tunnel.

Thank you

Donations

 See top
  • Joe Flynn 
    • $100 
    • 40 mos
  • Ron and Elizabeth Howard 
    • $5 
    • 40 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $200 
    • 41 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 42 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 43 mos
See all

Organizer

Nathan Sweeting 
Organizer
De Leon Springs, FL
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