Kites fly at the Variety's Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children in Killeen at the 5th Annual Kites for Kids event.

Just two years ago, when Kites for Kids was in its third year, the was a solid turnout of 200 people in attendance. Last year, that number grew to about 800.

On Saturday, just 45 minutes into the four hour event, some 600 people had arrived at Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom Retreat in south Killeen to take advantage of the charity’s open house.

Variety’s Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children is an organization with the goal of empowering children with special needs. During the school year and in the summer, the organization opens up its land to help children through field trips and summer camps. Kites for Kids is valuable, because it offers others who might not know much about it the opportunity to become familiar with what Variety does.

“It’s evolved a huge amount over the years,” said Laura Nickel, a program director with Variety. “We end up reaching out to future volunteers and donors this way.”

Kites for Kids expands the public’s knowledge about Variety through including people who wouldn’t typically become involved. Families that have special needs children will bring siblings and cousins to join in the fun.

Shirelle Givens came with her two children and her nephew. She’s brought her family to the event for a few years now, and is not only drawn in by the opportunity to fly a kite, but for her kids to enjoy the movie night and face painting too.

“I think it’s a great way for the community to get together, espcially over spring break,” she said as she helped her 3-year-old daughter Arianna unwind a kite.

Nickel thinks that organizations in Killeen do a “really good job” taking care of families with special-needs children. She’s not sure that Killeen residents are always aware of their options though.

“I’m not sure people know how to utilize them,” she said.

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