LEANDER, Texas — ‘Tis the season for eating turkeys. But what about cuddling turkeys?

That’s exactly what toddlers Harper Wulms and Jay Salazar got to do Saturday afternoon at Safe in Austin, a nonprofit that brings children and animals together who have special needs.

“Priscilla is our cuddle turkey. She is a female turkey that we rescued because she has a deformity on one of her talons,” said Jamie Griner, founder of Safe in Austin.

Wulms and Salazar each have a limb difference, born with a deformity to their hands.

“One of the really special things is that she [Priscilla] will sit in the laps and love and meet kids that also have lucky hands,” said Griner. “We invite children out who share the same kind of stories to touch and love and heal alongside the animals.”

The concept of the nonprofit started six years ago. Griner’s son has autism.

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“We were just instantly inspired by what happens when you put animals and children together, but especially extra-needs animals and children,” Griner said.

Wulms’ mother, Celine, said Harper asks all the time to go to the animal sanctuary, where pigs, dogs and horses run free.

“For the kids, it's just amazing. They can just be themselves,” Celine said. “I think it helps her really with her confidence to see other people that are different but also animals.”

Salazar’s mother, Taylor, said it makes her happy to see him comfortable with the animals.

“We didn't know if he'd have hands at all, and he ended up having two hands, but all of his fingers were joined together,” Taylor said.

She said they’ve been coming to the sanctuary for the past two years and don’t plan on stopping.

“It makes having a difference more acceptable and more inviting,” Taylor said.

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