Fall at the Ranch

November 16, 2020

Fall at Candlelight Ranch has been a full season of giving and exploration while children and families visit the Ranch for Family Adventure Days through Project HEAL. Students participate in “Outdoor Explorers” and volunteers give selflessly of their time and talents to bring all who visit the Ranch closer to nature. We have been humbled by the response we have received from the community and its expression of need for a safe place to learn, explore and heal in nature. Despite the challenges the pandemic has brought, our programming has increased by over 150% and we have been able to continually serve our families safely by delivering programs that enrich family connectedness in nature!

Through Project HEAL, Family Adventure Days invite families of foster and adopted children, underserved youth, military and veteran families and families of individuals with special needs for a customized day of exploration at the Ranch. For many of our families, we have the joy of guiding them through fishing, kayaking, ziplines, equine assisted learning and archery for the very first time! Partners organizations, Hill Country Special Needs Alliance, Todos Juntos Learning Center, Austin Angles and Operation Ex-Fill have assisted with connecting families to Candlelight Ranch.  We are so thankful to partner with these organizations to make a greater impact in our community.

Candlelight Ranch’s Outdoor Explorers program returned in October, providing students of Round Rock ISD’s VISTA Life Skills class the opportunity to both tune in virtually and in person to learn new outdoor skills, connect with friends, and learn about the importance of nature! We are also excited to announce the expansion of this program to include a Ranch-based class serving adults with special needs who have graduated from school-based services. Each group of Explorers meets weekly either at the Ranch or at Round Rock West Park to learn about camping, mammals, birds, fishing, trees, and insects through experiential lessons. As one teacher reflected “All of us, teachers and students, look forward to this each week, this is our big chance to get outside”.

Everything we have been able to accomplish this fall, from serving families at the Ranch to reaching out to our local community, would not have been possible without the dedication of our passionate and talented volunteers! We would like to extend a special thank you to all our volunteers who work tirelessly to provide a wonderful experience to those we serve. Our exceptional zipline facilitators: Chris Robicheaux, Gary Caylor, John Walters, Leah Roust, Dan Nugent, Paula Richards, Don Barr, Tom Foster, Kelly Mater and LuAnn Gilmore who help our children and families soar to new heights! Our wonderful program volunteers Russ Miller, Kristen White, Anne Hudson, Pam Rodgers, Christian Isaac and Chris Poller who always provide such a positive, joyful experience for our families; and to Charles Ahrens our knowledgeable archery instructor who has enriched our archery program and connected so many families to the joy of the sport! We also could not do what we do without the help of organizations like the Hill Country Master Naturalists, led by CLR volunteer Paula Richards, who provide enriching and educational nature-based activities. Lago Vista Women’s Club, who have cooked delicious homemade meals for our military families. Young Men’s Service League – Four Points chapter, YMSL – Hill Country chapter and NCL- North Austin chapter who have dedicated many hours of valuable volunteer work to further our mission both past and present. Thank you all, the reach we have to our community extends as far as the many hands that make it all possible.