This 'Queer Eye' hero spreads joy by inviting kids with disabilities to her animal rescue farm

On the latest season of Netflix's "Queer Eye" — which debuted Dec. 31, 2021 — the Fab Five take Texas by storm with their beloved brand of self-love and care. One hero they help inspire is Jamie Wallace-Griner and her animal rescue, Safe in Austin. The nonprofit raises rescued, disadvantaged animals to interact with kids who have disabilities in a safe, loving and — above all — judgment-free zone. Wallace-Griner came up with the idea for Safe in Austin after she saw how her son Jackson — who has autism — connected with their family dog Angel.

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"I had nerves about sharing my heart, all my babies and the kids, but people have just been incredibly kind and supportive," Wallace-Griner told TODAY Pets of the response to her episode titled “Snow White of Central Texas.”
"I love the fact that people are saying we’re inspiring them because what could be better than spreading more kindness, really?”ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN/NETFLIX / ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN/NETFLIX

“Most importantly, we’ve just been able to share what we do here, and it’s really not anything spectacular," she said. "It’s just offering unconditional kindness. I love the fact that people are saying we’re inspiring them, because what could be better than spreading more kindness, really?”

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With around 185 animals on her farm, Wallace-Griner almost didn't do the show because she worried that reaching the large audience of "Queer Eye" would also increase scrutiny of her family and the work they do.

“People can be so quick to make their own judgments,” she said. “When we get it from people that don’t know about anything that we do for the kids, it’s just an extra layer of sensitivity because you’re talking about a life that I work so hard to help with children or animals.”

Wallace-Griner — who cried, weeped and sobbed on camera during the episode — may have cemented herself in "Queer Eye" history as the most emotional hero ever to be featured on the rebooted reality series that debuted in 2018.

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"I'm a 'big feeling' person," she said. "I always quote Glennon Doyle " — the author and founder of the Momastery blog — "on this because she is my shero. How she talks about being 'a feeling person in a messy world.' I do feel ... a lot."

But she says that the episode left some viewers concerned about her mental health.

"We had an event on Sunday where we let people come out and see the barn and hear about our mission," she said. "There were a ton of people here from 'Queer Eye,' obviously. I spoke to every one of the hundreds of people that were here, telling them, 'I'm fine! Don't panic! Nobody worry.'

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She added, "I'm just a crier."

Since the show's taping, Wallace-Griner said she has mostly kept in touch with Bobby Berk , Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness . (Tan France is busy being a dad to his newborn and Karamo Brown just isn't an animal person.)"Antoni is the most precious person ever," she said. "He is just the sweetest, snuggly guy, and he was so touched by all the animals."
"(Antoni) is just the sweetest, snuggly guy, and he was so touched by all the animals."ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN/NETFLIX / ILANA PANICH-LINSMAN/NETFLIX
Above all, she is happy that "Queer Eye" not only put a spotlight on autism but also gave Safe in Austin a platform to hopefully help more people in the future. The nonprofit's Instagram alone has attracted more than 60,000 followers since the new season came out.

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"So much of it is just about representation," she said. "We're so big about looking with your heart and not just with your eyes, and if everybody could learn to do that a little bit, it would sort of change the world in a dramatic way."

And it's not just about autism, Wallace-Griner added. "We help everyone from kids being bullied and having some anxiety to the most horrific abuse."

"The animals offer that hope and healing to everyone regardless of where they're at — regardless of what their special needs are or their trauma or where they've been or what they do," she said. "It's always just unconditional, deep and sincere. That changes everyone."

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