Cheers for a Joy-Filled Summer!

August 26, 2020

 This summer was one of adaptation and change due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Rather than serving our normal summer camp groups of up to 40, we changed gears to a family-focused model that still allowed for connection, learning and fun at the Ranch.  Our smaller group sizes and strong safety measures provided a safe environment for children and families to escape the ever-present stress of the pandemic through the healing benefits that time in nature provides. One mother expressed her thanks saying “This day together was a salvation for our family! Being out with nature has restored our hope, in the midst of all this fear.”

In June, Camp Dreamcatcher returned, supported by the Carolyn Rice Bartlett Foundation, provided a wonderful nature break and reunion for the foster, and adopted children who have bonded at Candlelight Ranch over the past five years. A huge thank you to Master Naturalists Paula Richards and Phil Wade for volunteering, Kevin Hill for leading stargazing, MaDarius Tyler, the “King” a camper favorite, and Diana Pemberton for the fun natural dye, fabric dying session. Also thank you to Reveille Peak Ranch and the Texas Oven Company for making these camps a huge adventure!

Thanks to a grant from A Glimmer of Hope Austin, we facilitated a smaller day camp program in July and August.  Through this grant and support from NCL & YMSL volunteers, we were able to combat the plague of food insecurity often faced by our children and families by preparing and serving two nutritious snacks and lunch to all participants. Additionally, thanks to the the generosity of Houghton Miflin Harcourt, every child who visited the ranch this summer received a brand new, age appropriate book to take home. The books were a huge hit and we are thankful to help children and families continue learning at home.  Children and families joined us through the following partner organizations; Jeremiah Program, Central Texas Table of Grace, Central Texas Tennis Association, Foster Angels, Austin Angels, Kids in a New Groove and Todos Juntos.

Throughout the summer children and families participated in outdoor based activities including kayaking, low ropes teambuilding, archery, garden exploration, equine assisted learning, fishing, arts & crafts, swimming, and guided nature hikes learning about plants and animals of Central Texas. In addition, through Candlelight Ranch’s partnership with Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge campers participated in natural science lessons, exploring aquatic invertebrates using microscopes and through birding activities teaching the importance of native Texas bird species. As one camper reflected, “It’s been so long since I did science, I forgot how much I loved it!” Leading our summer activities were a diverse team of five Candlelight Ranch interns, one Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge intern and two staff who guided children and families through first time experiences, broadening their confidence and engagement in the outdoors.

The summer season has come to a successful conclusion, providing a day of healing and exploration in nature to 370 individuals, including 71 families. Thank you to all our volunteers, interns and supporters who made our joy-filled summer a success!