Growth & Gratitude

March 7, 2024

It has been my honor and privilege to serve as Candlelight Ranch’s Executive Director for the past seven years. The Ranch is truly a special place because of our people—those we serve and those who serve. Last year alone, we provided 1,600+ families, caregivers, and children uninterrupted time to learn, explore, and heal in nature’s embrace. We also forged close bonds among our 100+ volunteers, who, for many, feel like family.

I so appreciate those who give their time, talent, and treasure to our mission. Our volunteers help children zipline, shoot archery, paint horses, mentor, learn, and lead. They bring their cars to the Chili Cook-Off & Car Show and raise their paddles at Light a Path. Our incredible staff continue to inspire me with their passion, tenacity, and grit for our mission. Our master naturalists and staff foster personal growth and a connection to nature for all who visit the Ranch while preserving the natural beauty that makes this place special. Half of our staff are former interns, and I feel a unique bond with my fellow zip line graduates from my first training in 2010. Many of us have stuck around.

Together, we successfully navigated the pandemic by creating Project Heal which allowed individual families to spend a day at the Ranch and receive much-needed, safe fun. During my tenure, we expanded Military Family Days, created Outdoors Explorers, and grew our Children in Nature program to spark a lifelong love of nature.

The Ranch has achieved financial sustainability thanks to individuals and foundations who support our immediate requirements and longer-term endowments. We’ve dedicated money to infrastructure improvements—our air-conditioned Hideway structure is the latest addition—to deepen how we can serve populations with special needs. We increased our staff size to allow cross-training and succession planning. The Ranch has hit its stride.

Candlelight Ranch’s Board of Directors and Advisory Council are committed to keeping the Ranch accessible and secure. I’m excited and forever grateful that our founders, Don and Randy Barr, recently donated the property to the Candlelight Ranch Foundation, which will permanently protect this magical 40 acres for future generations of Central Texans. Thank you for your vision!

Working with the Candlelight family has been the biggest blessing of my professional career and one I will never forget. I carry with me tremendous gratitude and the voices of countless children exclaiming, “This is the best day ever.”

My last day at the Ranch will be March 31st. The Board is in the final steps of identifying my successor, and I look forward to passing the torch to them later this spring. I am confident that Candlelight Ranch will continue to thrive, and I look forward to seeing the beauty the future holds.

Please keep in touch, and I’ll do the same.

Jenn Hartner
[email protected]