Chad Eagleton said he has always enjoyed caring for animals. On this particular day dogs play outside, fish swim in tanks spread across the house and Eagleton sits in his den where 29 Budgerigar …
Chad Eagleton said he has always enjoyed caring for animals. On this particular day dogs play outside, fish swim in tanks spread across the house and Eagleton sits in his den where 29 Budgerigar Parakeets dart back and forth in a homemade atrium that has been installed in the corner of the room.
Roughly two years ago Chad and his wife Ivy Eagleton purchased two parakeets from the local Ace Hardware, he said over the gentle, consistent chirping of the birds. The parakeets turned out to be male and female “and then the family grew from there.”
Then, in August of 2021, Chad’s father committed suicide. Chad began going to therapy and eventually he said it changed his outlook on suicide. Previously he had considered it a selfish act.
“I know, the fears involved in that and stuff, and unfortunately, you know [for] my dad, his mental health just got the best of him,” Chad said. “And it ended up taking his life.”
As Chad continued going to therapy he began having conversations with his therapist about what prevents Wyoming residents from seeking mental health care.
His therapist told him that they need more people in the field, and said, “We need brains to lead people out of whatever place they’re in and into a better place.”
The conversation stuck in his mind and Chad began to brainstorm how he could help lead people to the mental health care profession. He tossed around ideas to create an incentive for people to seek care such as paying for groceries or funding a scholarship. He landed on the The Eagle’s Nest Budgerigar Project, which is named in honor of Chad’s father (his home was designated The Eagle’s Nest on Google Maps.)
“He loved birds … loved all wildlife, he loved being outdoors and he loved freedom,” Chad said.
The project will offer a private grant in the name of Chad’s father Gregory Joe Eagleton to accepted applicants for mental health care education using funds generated by the Eagletons from raising and adopting out parakeets. The program is not a registered nonprofit but it is a not-for-profit organization.
“We’re offering grants to people, to potentially your sons or your daughters, for them to get into mental health care,” Chad said. “Because they’re gonna save people’s lives, they might save your son or your daughter’s life, or they may save your parent’s life.”
The ENGP has not yet awarded grants, as the project is in its infancy and it has not yet accumulated grant money. Funds will be generated from parakeet adoptions where people can adopt the birds on a pay-what-you-can model and all proceeds will go to funding the private grants. Chad said that in the interest of transparency they will also publish the donations monthly so that people can see where the money is going.
Currently four parakeets are pending adoption, Chad and Ivy said with a smile, and while the idea is for the birds to fund grants one has been gifted by Chad and Ivy to a friend’s 9-year-old daughter who has “a traumatic background.” Ivy said the idea was to give the girl something to connect with and care for. In a matter of days she was holding the bird in her hands, which is uncommon in a short amount of time.
“Maybe the bird needed her, maybe she needed the bird,” Chad said.
Raising and caring for the birds has also been a big help to Chad, who has a peripheral nerve disease. He likens the pain to when Bruce Willis walked on glass in “Die Hard.”
“He’s not just sitting around the house being depressed because he’s in pain and can’t work or do anything,” Ivy said. “It gives him something that he can tool around the house and take care of them and talk to them and interact while I’m gone at work all day.”
Chad said that caring for the birds also helps with his nerve pain because it gives him something to focus on rather than his pain.
“If I’m nurturing something else I’m also nurturing myself,” he said.
Now, Chad is in the atrium trying to get the birds to come say hello. He talks sweetly to them like you would a child and individually points out specific birds — he’s able to tell them apart just by coloring, marking and personality. Some of the birds he’ll never sell, he said as he points at the two original birds who “are matched” and another parakeet that can’t fly, which Chad and Ivy got as a rescue through a friend.
Within six months, when the weather is perfect to transport them, the birds will move to a larger and more accessible location at Back Alley Boutique which is also owned by the Eagleton’s.
Those seeking help financing their mental health care education can send a letter to 223 North Bent Street. Other inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All I want to do is make the world a better place … all I want to do is make my local community a better place,” Chad said.