Meet Carlos & His Family

November 30, 2023

Meet Carlos, a joy-filled young man who is always up for a new adventure and whose infectious smile will brighten anyone’s day! We had the honor of first meeting Carlos six years ago when he and his family visited the Ranch through a school field trip. Since then, they have continued to visit the Ranch each season to participate in our Family Day Program. Carlos was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States with his mother. As a young child, he fell ill with an undiagnosable condition and slowly lost the ability to speak and walk. But Carlos’ fearless spirit never diminished.

Carlos craves adventure, and when he flies on the ziplines, he feels free. As his personal aid and dear friend, Yareli, reflects, “Candlelight Ranch is his joyful place. He is a whole different person when he is at the Ranch, just smiling the whole time because he gets to be around people and have so much fun. He always knows when it’s time again to return to Candlelight Ranch. He looks out the window, and I know he is thinking of ziplining. He loves that thrill of flying. Carlos only gets to zipline when we go to the Ranch, he can’t do that at other places. Watching him get to zipline is amazing. He is so thankful for it”. Yareli shares that he and his family love coming out to the Ranch together because he gets to participate in activities with his family that aren’t usually possible. “Usually, when we go on an outing, it’s just so hard. We need to check to see if there are ramps. Is the place we are going accessible? Is it able to accommodate his needs? But at Candlelight Ranch, we never have to worry about that.”

Carlos’ family of 13 joins him for each Family Day event, encircling him with love, respect, and a positive attitude that explodes with joy and caring for each other. All gather to ensure Carlos has his best day ever. Together, they help transfer him from the wheelchair to the zipline, guide a hand during a craft activity, or engage with him and each other in the joy of the day. Carlos’ family and friends are a beautiful example of what it means to treat everyone with love and respect.

Through Family Day events, we witness the power of nature to bring families closer together and create moments of joy and connection. At first glance, a day at the Ranch might be racing down the ziplines, making a bullseye on the archery course, or taking a peaceful hike through nature. But upon a closer look, you’ll find a chance to deepen connections and an opportunity for a person, of any background or ability, to be included and respected. Carlos’ ear-to-ear grin at the end of the zipline says it all. Though non-verbal, he communicates his joy at getting to do his favorite thing in the whole world! Empowered by renewed confidence and joyful memories, Carlos and his family (and many other families like theirs) can jump back into everyday life after a day at the Ranch, knowing there is a welcoming space to return to where they can experience joy, while feeling safe and accepted.

Our Family Day Program breaks down barriers and promotes inclusivity in the outdoors by offering adaptive outdoor recreation and nature education. Carlos and many others in our community deserve the opportunity to increase their quality of life by receiving the benefits of time in nature. By ensuring a safe place for anyone to learn, explore, and heal, we foster a greater acceptance of our whole community by providing opportunities for families like Carlos’ family to connect and bond. Our community thrives when we ensure the health and happiness of all its members. At Candlelight Ranch, we promise to continue to provide a community of support for families of all abilities, empowering them to thrive and live their best lives. You can support Carlos and families needing safe and accessible outdoor experiences by making a meaningful year-end gift today.