Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children is a program of Variety, The Children’s Charity of Texas, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower children with special needs, said Ericka Mitchell, the agency’s program coordinator.
In 2013, more than 4,000 children visited the retreat, Mitchell said.
Special needs children include those with “chronic illness, developmental delays and physical challenges,” Mitchell said, as well as “serious medical conditions such as cancer, autism, diabetes, blindness, deafness, missing limbs, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, neurological disorders or asthma.”
Activities at the retreat include hiking, archery, arts and crafts, animal interactions, theater, sports and games.
The outdoor education program targets students at 15 Texas public school districts with an “adaptive outdoor science curriculum and interactive learning activities through school field trips at the retreat’s nature preserve,” Mitchell said. Lessons include the study of archaeology, geology, conservation and others.
Nearly 3,500 students benefit from the programs every year.
Weekend retreats are held during the school year, allowing hospitals, churches and other groups to utilize the retreat, and the summer camp program hosts week-long camps specific to the child’s diagnosis.
Much of the retreat features adaptive equipment to allow children who use wheelchairs or have various impairments to participate in all activities.
“Peaceable Kingdom has been a United Way affiliate member for more than 10 years. It partners with both the United Way of Greater Fort Hood and United Way of Central Texas,” Mitchell said.
The allocations from United Way support the Outdoor Education Program at Peaceable Kingdom, through support of program operations and supplies.
“We receive about $20,000 from the United Way of Greater Fort Hood each year, and although it is a small percentage of our annual budget, the funds are imperative to providing educational and therapeutic programs to local students with special needs,” said Leslie Gilmore, executive director. “The community support and visibility we gain through United Way is an essential part of our organization.”