Springing into Action

April 12, 2023

A sea of fragrant bluebonnets and clear blue skies has set the stage for connecting children of all abilities along with their families to nature this Spring. Fully booked at the Ranch with non-profit partners, teambuilding retreats, and community programming, our staff and volunteers have been working diligently to ensure that our children and families are provided with a safe space to recuperate from the stressors of daily life. Spring break camps, ranch groups, and our programs have brought joy and growth to the lives of 400 Central Texans this season!

Our week of Spring Break camps began with Austin Smiles of the Austin Plastic Surgery Foundation’s “Camp Amigo”. Austin Smiles is a local non-profit whose mission is to provide sustainable surgical and post-surgical care to children born with cleft lip and cleft palate both in Central Texas and Latin America. Camp Amigo provides a camp experience that gives young people born with cleft lip/palate the chance for participants to be themselves, make friends, and have a great time with fellow cleft lip/palate patients. Campers enjoyed making new friends, creating flower arrangements, brushing our horse and donkey, and learning about our unique Central Texas environment through engaging nature curriculum.

Continuing our Spring Break camps, Austin Angels joined in the fun with a meaningful day of teambuilding for their mentors and mentees. This facet of the organization acts as a mentorship program for teens timing out of the foster care system, matching young people who have recently timed out to those preparing for the intimidating step to provide a nurturing support system helping guide them through the path of early adulthood. Following this great day of bonding and growth for the mentors/ mentees, the families of Austin Angels joined in the activities of the Ranch and found respite and renewal in the clean spring air. Families made lasting memories together by shooting archery, learning about Central Texas plants and animals, exploring our trails, and challenging themselves on our high and low ropes courses.

Wrapping up our week many new families of our program Camp Dreamcatcher joined in the Spring Break fun, for many this was their first visit to Candlelight Ranch, and we are very excited to welcome them into the Candlelight Ranch Dreamcatcher family!

In addition to our Spring Break camps, we will serve Operation Ex-Fil Inc, Imagine A Way, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, The KARES Foundation, CC4C, Child and Protective Services, and children of families served through the Texas Military Department this Spring. We also continue to provide weekly opportunities for adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to connect with nature through our Outdoor Explorers program.  To round out Spring, we will host our quarterly Family Day on April 30th.

Our programming this Spring would not be possible without the incredible support of our individual volunteers and partnering volunteer organizations who guide the children and families of the Ranch through educational activities that both heal and help find meaning in everyday life. Nobility in Action, a local Austin, volunteer-based non-profit has partnered with Candlelight Ranch for the past year to deliver wholistic programming teaching healthy eating and lifestyle choices through experiential workshops, including cooking classes.  Nobility in Action held lessons during our Spring Break camps and will continue to provide cooking classes at the Ranch throughout the year. Their classes are tailored for children, designed to be fun and engaging and are always a huge success with both child and parent loving their all-vegetarian meals! Even our most hesitant campers brighten at the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and expand their pallets. Nobility In Action’s mission is to empower children with the knowledge and tools they need to maximize their full potential. They do this by offering free, interactive workshops that tap into scientific research and proven practical tools to help enhance memory, maximize brain power, tap into the powerful subconscious mind, and set effective goals.

Another incredibly valuable volunteer partnership that helps support the cornerstone of our mission, helping children and families learn about nature, is the Texas Master Naturalists of the Highland Lakes Chapter. This wonderful volunteer organization provides individuals of environmental expertise who have been specially trained to deliver curriculum on Central Texas flora and fauna and who have a joyful passion for teaching children about nature. Our Master Naturalist volunteers lead archery, teach the value of water conservation, illustrate the fascinating lives of native animals, present wildlife touch tables, and help children learn about responsible fishing practices, along with so many more fascinating and fun lessons!

In addition to the incredible support shown from our volunteer partner organizations, we cannot go without mention of the individual volunteers who make our day to day at the Ranch possible! Each volunteer plays an essential role whether they are cooking lunch, welcoming families at registration, leading archery, facilitating ziplines or belaying on the high ropes course. Our program volunteers help make the children and families experience impactful! A very special thank you to Bob Crow who led archery and helped facilitate ziplines all six days of Spring Break camps! We would also like to welcome our most recent zipline facilitators: Dan and Denise Sellers and Laura and Hunter Arend. The volunteers were verified to assist with zipline operations during our Spring training. We cannot run our high ropes course without the trained expertise of our volunteer team. Thank you to all our high ropes facilitators who make the squeals of joy and big smiles happen for so many children and families that come to the Ranch.

Spring at the Ranch has brought a bounty of new growth, not only to the landscape of the Ranch but to the children who walk its trails. We are excited and thankful that this full Spring season has set our year off to a wonderful start and look forward to serving many more children and families out at the Ranch and in our local community this year.