Summer Success!

August 26, 2022

Summer at Candlelight Ranch was a hot one, however it did not stop the joy, exploration, and learning  for over 765 individuals, and 61 families.  We are delighted to  return to a pre-pandemic pace with many non-profit partners joining us for summer camps.  Throughout the summer, campers jumped feet first into adventure! Many zipped over our canyon, connected with our horse Comet and donkey, Astro, climbed the rock wall, learned new skills, like archery, and the importance of water conservation and recycling!  Though receding Lake Travis water levels brought a halt to our waterfront programming, this did not stop our campers from enjoying the outdoors and brought new opportunities for expanding our conservation and nature education programs. Expanded curriculum on water conservation, recycling, native insects, and birds immersed our campers in the Central Texas ecosystem and brought awareness of the strength and fragility of our environment.  Additionally, nature-based crafting was expanded to explore camper creativity, including activities like flower arranging, fairy and gnome gardens, and crafting with recycled materials.  These new activities permitted campers to beat the heat, spending more time in the shade during this summer’s record temps. Our campers walked away with not only an appreciation of nature but a newfound confidence in themselves. As one camper reflected after their experience on the high ropes course “I learned that if I am confident and I can be able to try new things.”

Camp Glimmer, sponsored by Glimmer|Austin, returned for its twelfth consecutive year as an essential facet of our summer programming, giving an opportunity for at-risk youth and their families to learn, explore, and heal in nature.  Camp groups comprised of  children and families of local Austin based non-profits: SAFE, Hello Just, I-ACT, Todos Juntos, African American Youth Harvest, River City Youth, Change One, St. Louise House, Central Texas Tennis Association, Integral Care, and Austin Angels. Our youth and families drew valuable, deeply personal life lessons from their experiences, and for most this was their first experience truly immersed in nature. As one camper shared at the end of the day, “People are more cruel to themselves than nature is.” Another camper reflected, “I feel like nature helps us adapt.”  We greatly thank Glimmer|Austin for their sponsorship of Camp Glimmer.  Through our partnership, Camp Glimmer campers received a two-day immersive camp experience, and were provided with a healthy, filling lunch, snacks, camp shirt, and reusable water bottle.

In addition to our Camp Glimmer groups, many other partners visited the ranch this summer including Round Rock Adaptive through the Clay Madsen Recreation Center, Ortega Elementary School, Parades Middle School, and Leander ISD.  We also were honored to host the children and families of Candlelight Ranch through our monthly Military Family Days and our June Family Day serving families of loved ones with special needs, foster families, and youth at-risk.  Families relaxed, spent meaningful time together, and created lasting positive memories.  One mother shared her experience after participating in Military Family Day explaining, “This family day gave us a chance to really be together as a family and forget the stressors of our daily lives.  Our kids loved it, we loved it, and when my husband turned to me and thanked me for signing us up-it said it all. Wonderfully awesome day!”

In June, Camp Dreamcatcher returned for its seventh year serving children and teens who have experienced trauma. Many of our campers return each year with strong familial connections formed to each other and to Candlelight Ranch. Camp Dreamcatcher is, at its core, a family and a source of normalcy and consistency for our campers. Camp is a getaway to just be kids unburdened and free to enjoy the simplest joys in life, like sitting around a campfire with friends or swimming in the lake. Most children who participated are original campers from Dreamcatcher’s first year in 2014 and are children whom our staff has had the honor of watching grow through the years. This year we saw the succession of our younger campers advance to the teen camp and many of our teens have now graduated from the program. Though our teens are growing into young adults and move on to new beginnings, the connections they have built with each other and with Candlelight Ranch remain. Our graduates take with them the lessons they have learned at camp, the support of their CLR family and the friendships they have forged as they overcome challenges and begin their adult lives. As we congratulate our graduating teens and welcome a new generation of campers, we know this is not goodbye, as our campers will forever have a home and haven within the gates of Candlelight Ranch.

We look forward to a busy and cooler Fall season getting children and their families outside exploring nature; while learning not only about the wonders of our environment but helping them uncover the potential found in each child and family who visits the Ranch.