A fundraising campaign and victory in an online contest have breathed new life into a Change Islands pony sanctuary.

Now, the construction project that the money is funding is raising hope for the future of the endangered Newfoundland Pony breed.

"Last year it was just doom and gloom, and this year it's looking bright," said Netta LeDrew, with the Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary.

The animals at the sanctuary are well loved, but have been sleeping in shabby, leaking structures.

LeDrew is pleased to see the first steps being taken for a new tackroom, office, and 14 stalls, each of them almost double the size of what the ponies sleep in now.

"No leaky roof, good stalls, no water in the stalls — it's going to be comfort. Big change," she said.

"It's like a man moving from a cave, to a really nice home."

'It's everybody's barn'

On the heels of months of fundraising, the successful campaign was topped off by winning $90,000 in an online Aviva Community Fund contest based on votes.

"It's everybody's barn, in that sense," said volunteer Carolyn Parsons. "Because everybody who voted, and who donated, they own a little piece of this. They helped the Newfoundland pony, because we need that awareness."


Construction is underway on a new tackroom, office, and 14 stalls at the sanctuary. Each of the new stalls will be almost double the size of what the ponies sleep in now. (CBC News)

Parsons believes that the sanctuary on Change Islands can have a positive impact on the breed across the province.

"This is the Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary," she said. "We'll have them here, we'll start the awareness from here, and then people can build upon this."

The breed has been struggling to survive. Numbers plummeted from about 12,000 in the 1970s to just a few hundred ponies today.

The sanctuary's breeding program has been on hold for years because there was not adequate stable space for foals. With the new barn, there are plans to reestablish breeding by 2016.

"If we all get together and we breed [the ponies] and bring back these numbers, it will look some good," said LeDrew. "The Newfoundland pony is our heritage animal. It built Newfoundland, as far as I'm concerned. They built the roads, they worked the fields, they hauled the firewood."

A big party is in store to commemorate the project. The sanctuary will christen its new stable with a public celebration on Sept. 6.