By Annie Wilson
It was a cloudy afternoon and fortunately rain did not dampen the festivities on Saturday at Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom retreat for Children. The retreat opened their gates to the public with their second annual Kites for Kids Day. Over 400 visitors showed up for the event, ranging from the very young to grandparents.
Families enjoyed an afternoon of kite flying, kite crafts, kite art and contests along with other activities that the retreat normally offers. Dinosaur dig, movie theatres in the woods, the miniature golf course, a mini climb wall, an Indian camp ground, a historic log cabin and many other activities.”
Peaceable Kingdom is a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower children with special needs. Throughout the year they serve children with special needs such as physical limitations, developmental delays and with emotional challenges.
During the year, Peaceable Kingdom has three main programs. September through May, a school field trip program in which main stream students and students with special education needs attend field trips at the retreat to do educational and recreational activities. During the summer there is a summer camp program and that encourages children with chronic illness to participate in one of 10 week long diagnosis specific camps during that time. The facilities are also opened on the weekends to area businesses, churches and clubs for weekend retreats.
“We typically work with school groups or a hospital groups that come out and enjoy the retreat,” Ericka Mitchell, Development Coordinator at Peaceable Kingdom, said. “Kites for Kids Day was an opportunity for individuals and families to come out that might not be associated with some of the other groups and this gives them a chance to see what the retreat is all about.”
Julie Reynolds of Kempner brought her granddaughter, Tessa King, to Kites for Kids Day.
“This is the first time I have ever been to Peaceable Kingdom. It’s a beautiful place and there are lots of activities. We have been going ever since we got here,” Reynolds said.
Josh Ross and his daughter Taryn were enjoying a father/daughter day.
“Mom’s at work today, so we decided we come out here and try to fly a kite,” Ross said.
Lloret McNeill, a 5th grade teacher, brought her two daughters Lola and Zoey to the event.
“My little one has never been exposed to kites before so I wanted her to be out and have some fun and to be able to run around,” McNeill said. “We’ve never been out here to Peaceable Kingdom before, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. We also came out here to support them and see what they are all about and what they do for the kids. I think it’s awesome; it’s great environment for kids.”
In her motorized chair, Nancie Etzel, a volunteer at the retreat, can relate to a lot of the children that visit. Etzel has Ehlers Danlos and Arthrogryposis.
“Peaceable Kingdom was built for people of all abilities, but especially kids with disabilities. Being a disabled adult, it gives me a lot of joy to come out and help the kids be kids,” Etzel said. “When I was a kid, there was nothing like this. It was, let’s segregate the children with disabilities into a separate building. Here, you’re a kid and it doesn’t matter what type of ability level you have, you’re a kid, let’s go do kid stuff.”
The kite contest supported three different winning categories.
Hector Delgado won highest flying kite with his homemade kite; Luis Roman won longest flying kite with his SpongeBob kite and Carlton Hugley won best kite with his eagle kite.
Deanna Bussell of Darling Designs was at the event to provide face painting for the visitors.
“We are so pleased with how it turned out. This has been a great opportunity for good family time. Being outside and enjoying the weather and doing some things that they don’t get to do very often,” Mitchell said. “That has been really great and we just appreciate the community’s support for this event and for the programs that happen here all year long.”
For more information about Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children, visit their website at www.varietytexas.org or call 254-554-5555.