Spring Updates from the Ranch

March 28, 2024

Spring at Candlelight Ranch has overflown with the beauty of bluebonnets and the joy of children and families connecting with nature and loved ones! Many local organizations joined for days filled with adventure and learning, finding opportunities to create happy memories, make new friends, and breathe clean air while escaping daily life stressors.

Spring Break Camps kicked off our season for a fun-filled week of outdoor exploration while partnering with foster and military youth-serving organizations; Austin Angels, Foster Village, and the U.S. Army MWR Child & Youth Services (CYS). For many children, Spring Break is a long-awaited week filled with vacation and freedom, but for our nation’s youth in foster care, this week can often be a reminder of how their lives are radically different from their peers. Spring Break Camps at the Ranch provided normality amongst the many uncertainties youth in foster care face due to financial barriers, CPS policies, or lack of resources, and instead the chance to make positive memories and return to school with stories of adventure and excitement. At Candlelight Ranch, we wanted to ensure that every child could put down their burdens upon entry to our gates and simply have a fun, exciting, “best day ever”! Campers learned how to shoot archery, practiced making chocolate truffles with Holli Beckwith, owner of My Chocolate Kitchen, ziplined, climbed the rock wall, bonded with our horse & donkey, and most importantly, built positive memories with peers, mentors, bio-parents, and guardians. As one camper reflected, “I’ve been coming out here for 8 years, and it never gets old; I love it every time”.

The garden captured the attention of many! Parents, guardians, and campers delighted in expanding their taste horizons. An exciting partnership with Nobility in Action ensured campers learned “garden to table” recipes, making healthy eating fun and accessible to their own kitchen at home. Edible art activities and learning about where our food comes from engaged all who participated in the wonder and pride of growing your own food. Many parents were surprised by their children’s willingness to try new vegetables and how excited they were to take some home to cook with dinner! Spring Break camps concluded with a Family Day for the families of Austin Sunshine Camps and River City Youth. Allowing families of these organizations to meet each other before their summer camps take place later this year.

The weeks following Spring Break Camps saw even more fun under the Texas sun with an overnight camp with the Texas School of the Blind and Visually Impaired and a day of joy for the children of Austin Smiles – The Austin Plastic Surgery Foundation for their annual Camp Amigo. This camp is offered each spring to their patients from Dell Children’s Medical Center and Texas Children’s Hospital giving young people born with cleft lip/palate a chance to be themselves, make friends, and have a great time with peers going through similar challenges. Students from Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired learned how to adapt their classroom learnings to real life and gained skills to enhance their confident participation in outdoor activities. Students learned to shoot archery with adaptive sound devices called “beep boxes,” built tents & slept under the stars, explored the garden through sensory engagement, and engaged with peers through a collaborative drumming circle led by music therapist Suzy Turner, owner of Soulshine Rhythm Experience. We are exceptionally grateful to the Bowen Family Foundation who has granted funding toward all Music Therapy sessions in 2024! We are so excited to create joy and music in nature through this partnership!

Spring at Candlelight Ranch has been an incredible start to this year’s programming! We look forward to continuing a fully booked spring season with many partnering youth-serving organizations and schools. Ensuring that any child or caregiver needing healing respite has access to a safe, welcoming space within the beauty of nature.