Published: 06:00, 20 February 2021
A birds of prey centre is desperate for donations as staff battle hardships caused by lockdown.
Soaring High, based at Dillywood Garden Centre in Strood, is facing the possibility of not being able to re-open.
Gary Roots founded the attraction in 2017 after his wife passed away.
It usually closes between November and March, but because they lost so much trade last year, there isn't enough funds in the kitty.
The 60-year-old said: "I have been involved in falconry for over 30 years, I worked nights so I could fly birds during the day.
"But then my wife got ill and I was her carer for two years, but after she died I didn't know what to do with myself.
"A friend and I got talking about some land available at Dillywood and I went and spoke to the manager.
"I knew I wanted to do something with birds of prey and it seemed like an ideal opportunity."
The site has 14 different types of birds and normally has flying displays on a daily basis.
Gary added: "I've always wanted to make a family-friendly centre so everyone can experience the birds up close and personal.
"We give personal experiences to everyone young and old.
"Because of lockdown, we obviously haven't had visitors and because of that we have had no money coming in.
"I'm hoping to raise £1,000, it would really help us."
The donations would help Gary and volunteers buy bird food and cleaning products and pay for rent and maintenance work.
Sylvia How has visited the centre since it opened.
The 17-year-old from Chatham said: "I used to visit at least three or four times a week.
"I loved it so much and did as much as I could there, when I turned 16 Gary offered me work as a volunteer.
"I have Asperger's, so I have really bad social anxiety, Soaring High has helped me with my confidence so much.
"My volunteer work helps me talk to people and use the phones.
"Birds are my life, I have my own barn owl, kestrel and hawk, I'm at the centre seven days a week.
"I don't know what I'd do if it closed."
If Soaring High was unable to raise the funds, Sylvia believes the birds would have to be sold.
She said: "We'd be devastated, my life would go completely down hill."
The centre is home to 20 birds including, peregrine falcons, hawks, barn owls, kestrels and even a new, rare black barn owl chick.
Sylvia's mum, Gina, 58, said: "Gary saw Sylvia's passion and since becoming a volunteer it has become her whole life.
"Gary has become a very close friend of ours, we just want to help in every way we can to make sure the centre can keep going."
The business is usually closed over the winter months, but because of the impact of lockdown, Gary was only able to stay open for a couple of weeks last summer.
The lack of footfall has left the centre desperate for donations. If you are able to help you can donate to their GoFundMe page here.
It costs Gary £600 a month to run the centre and so far they've already raised £420 of their target.
To find out more about Soaring High Display Centre visit their Facebook page here.