2022 Impact Story: A Walk With Isa

December 6, 2022

A cable bridge stretches across a limestone canyon, painted in muted greens of cedar and oak trees. Beneath the bridge, an expansive 80-foot drop reveals a small creek trickling along the canyon floor. A fish circles in a pool of water, while a bird glides swiftly under your feet. The view is breathtaking, and you are terrified. Safely harnessed on the line above, your heart pounds and you put one foot on the wobbly silver cable. Tightly grasping the line you take a deep breath, then take your first step. Cheers of encouragement echo on the canyon walls as you find a new confidence. You think to yourself, “I can do this,” and after what feels like an eternity you step onto the platform of the other side. Looking out to where you were and where you are, you think to yourself, “I can do anything.

This is Isa’s experience of walking Carolyn’s Canyon Crawl at Candlelight Ranch. She shared, “I’m scared to death, but everyone is cheering for me and supporting me afterwards. I feel such a sense of success and empowerment! I can do this! It’s very empowering and helped me overcome my fears. I can do anything since I made it across the Canyon Crawl.” Today she is finding her faith in herself and accomplishing her goals. High school graduation and college acceptance are no longer wishes or dreams.

Isa is a long-time participant of Candlelight Ranch’s Camp Dreamcatcher (CD). This yearly camp is designed for youth who have experienced trauma and reside in foster care or have been adopted. This is a family reunion for our campers, as they return each year to escape the struggles of home and reconnect outdoors. This camp has become a home away from home for these youth. They face significant challenges in their daily lives as they grapple with financial instability, family trauma, and a lack of an engaged support system. Often our campers are left to raise themselves and cope, not only with growing pains of teen life, but the daunting challenges they face on their own. Isa said that “Candlelight Ranch is like family, always supportive and encouraging us to reach our dreams. In fact, Candlelight Ranch believes in us even when our families don’t.

Isa is an exceptional young woman who is bright, caring, and fierce. She has lived a life in and out of different homes, with a parent struggling with addiction and the added weight of her own depression. She never believed it would be possible to graduate from high school, much less go to college. During the pandemic with no support to lean on, she dropped out of school and just focused on surviving each day. Leaving the house, along with the pressures of school, felt impossible. Eventually, Isa found comfort and inspiration from her peers at CD and realized that although her circumstances seemed impossible, she was capable of rising above them. “Seeing people who haven’t had a perfect life, that have been through the same things I’ve been through, be successful and create a good life for themselves is possible. I have learned to believe in myself. Getting to keep connecting with people I have grown up with and the counselors connecting with us on a personal level makes us feel special, like they really care about us. We form close bonds and keep in touch and support one another.

On that cable bridge above that vast canyon, faced with the seemingly unattainable goal of reaching the other side, Isa learned she was capable. She took one step at a time and, with the support of those who care for her, made it across that canyon. In the same way, she has taken those hesitant but confident steps and walked across the stage. “Camp Dreamcatcher and all of the staff help me understand that I can still control my goals no matter what’s going on in my life, no matter all the chaos in my life they believe in me and help me believe in myself. I never thought I would graduate high school and now I’ve been accepted to Blinn Junior College.” Candlelight Ranch could not be prouder of this exceptional young woman.

Isa’s story reminds us that time spent outdoors brings so much more than fresh air and fun. It provides an opportunity for everyone despite their circumstances, backgrounds, and abilities to challenge themselves in a supportive environment. That heart-pounding, overwhelming sense of accomplishment our campers feel while they kayak, hike, navigate the ropes course, and even make an archery bullseye, gives them the opportunity to practice achieving goals they never thought possible. At Candlelight Ranch they are challenged to broaden their horizons and their perspectives of themselves. For our campers, nature gives the gift of an opportunity to succeed, and through that success they realize that they are capable of anything.