BELTON — After looking for farm acreage with his daughter earlier this year, Spc. Christopher Mott was sad he didn’t get to spend Saturday with her at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area Ranch.

Despite being stationed overseas with the 36th Engineer Brigade, Mott was able to watch Ariana Jones via video chat as the 9-year-old gathered chicken eggs for breakfast and learned what it’s like to be a cowgirl.

“It’s a good distraction for her with him being gone,” said her mom, Heather Jones.

Ariana was among about 15 military children in first through fifth grades, who participated in one of the Edge Program’s many extracurricular activities.

Edge stands for Experience, Develop, Grow and Excel and started in 2009, said Della K. Kidd, a partnership specialist for Child, Youth and School Services.

“This is one of the most popular camps that we offer,” she said. “This is an activity that most parents either don’t know how to get or this is something they want to do so their children can interact with other kids their age. I don’t think any of these kids met each other until this morning and they seem to be getting along great.”

When Jones told Ariana she was going to spend the day on the ranch, her daughter was so excited she ran out of her bedroom screaming.

“When I first saw it I thought it was a llama,” said Ariana, as she held a one-month-old goat for the first time “He likes to chew on my hat when I pick him up sometimes.”

Jones said it was a blessing to have her husband be a part of the activities and said for $25, it was well worth the cost.

“It’s amazing,” Jones said. “She loves country life and living in the city you don’t normally have that, so to having the capability to have that an opening the ranch up is a good experience for them to interact with animals.”

Jones said Ariana wants to own her own farm and be a veterinarian when she grows up.

“(At BLORA Ranch), she gets to have hands-on experience with what it actually takes to maintain (animals),” Jones said. “They kind of show you exactly what it’s like to be a cowgirl or cowboy.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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