There is a place right outside of Austin on the north shore of Lake Travis where spirits fly, minds strengthen, and hope blooms. Candlelight Ranch is a nonprofit gifting children of all abilities adventure and healing through nature.
Candlelight Ranch Experience
Wild but cultivated landscaping creates space for wildflowers to softly chase the cliffs overlooking a sparkling Lake Travis. At first glance, you can’t tell you’re surrounded by bustling camp features. At second glance, you see the ranch is packed with a camouflaged treasure trove of experience.
Wheelchair-accessible zip lines poke through the canopy of trees where children fly over a cavern of intertwining trails, and springs hoisting kayaking children.
Trod farther down the gravel road to find Reese’s Treehouse nestled in 100-year-old Texas oak trees. Honoring the light and spirit of someone taken too soon, the treehouse’s nooks and crannies cater to a child’s campout experience.
Across the trail sits a water feature carved from nature’s rock. Campers pull buckets and create dams, while learning about water cycles and the rainwater collection system.
You may hear a horse neigh or donkey bray, or notice a splash of color as children are guided in touch and trust through paint experiences with their favorite four-legged friend. Your eyes might wonder to the rainbow bouquet of food plucked from the innovative food forest, creating a true farm-to-table experience for campers.
However, much like the children served, each feature remains true to its nature. At Candlelight Ranch, children and families are met where they are, and never asked to change–only grow. The Candlelight Ranch difference is about letting a child’s intrinsic light shine through the cracks of trauma.
History of Candlelight Ranch
If these 41 acres of land could talk, they would probably share a story of legacy and symbiotic healing. This seed of impact was first planted by the Barr family nearly 20 years ago.
Founders and brothers, Don and Randy Barr, along with Don’s wife Jeri Barr, dreamed of using their family land to create a magical space for all children to heal. With this intention, each program was molded to accommodate children of all physical and mental abilities, while removing financial barriers for the children and families served.
Honoring Jeri Barr
Instrumental in crafting the first board of directors, Jeri Barr served as president for five years before breast cancer took her life. But cancer could never be a contender in preventing her timeless impact on others. Commemorated by “Jeri’s Serenity Springs,” her calming presence can still be felt by families in grief at this quiet place of reflection on the ranch.
While the Barr brothers recently reduced their daily ranch involvement thanks to a thriving staff and flourishing board of directors, they both remain an integral part of Candlelight Ranch’s mission. You can still find Randy Barr quietly landscaping acres of land in the background, or Don Barr coordinating executive details in the backdrop of a meeting.
Children and Families of Candlelight Ranch
The story of Candlelight Ranch continues to evolve. Serving over 40 community nonprofits through the Children in Nature program, Candlelight Ranch staff choreograph single- or multi-day experiences tailored to the needs of the group.
Camp Dreamcatcher is held once a year as an overnight camp designed for foster families to learn, play, heal, and bond together. Monthly Military Days and quarterly Family Days offer families a chance to partake in experiential nature programming free of charge.
These events all allow families to reconnect with nature and each other, while creating a community of families that share an empathetic connection by circumstance.
When asked about the transformative capacity found at Candlelight Ranch, Executive Director Jenn Hartner knowingly smiled:
“I’ve seen Candlelight Ranch touch and change the lives of thousands of children and families over the years. From flying down our zip lines to catching a fish, releasing monarch butterflies to petting our horses, or just hanging out under the stars. The transformations that happen at the ranch are simply magical. I’ve witnessed friendships form. I’ve seen healing between families, deep connections and bonds simply by even just being outdoors.”Jenn Hartner, Candlelight Ranch Executive Director
Light the Path Fundraiser
All great ideas begin with a seed. The Candlelight Ranch difference can be felt across the Austin community as its mission continues to spread like wild flowers.
The annual Light a Path fundraiser will take place on Oct. 23, 2019. Patrons will cheers to 20 years, while raising money to continue changing lives through nature, adventure, and community.
The event will be held at Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs with an array of tasty bites, libations, and sweets from dozens of Austin iconic eateries, including:
- Austin Cake Ball
- Barley Swine
- Blue Corn Harvest
- Flying Pig Provision Company
- Greenhouse Craft Foods
- Jack Allen’s Kitchen
- Odd Duck
- Quality Seafood
- Salt Traders
- Sour Duck
- Tapas and More
- Dripping Springs Distillery
- Republic Whiskey
- Tito’s Homemade Vodka
- Z Tequila
Visit Candlelight Ranch’s website for event details, volunteer opportunities, and family days.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you experienced Candlelight Ranch?