Ethan Champion-Smith’s surgeries are never ending.

“It’s a lot for him to have to deal with,” said his mom, Mary, of Temple. “He’s going to have surgeries until he’s an adult. Last year, he had six surgeries on his face.”

Ethan, 10, was born with a cleft lip and palate, resulting in severe speech delay and hearing and learning disabilities. He also has neurological issues, seizures and Klinefelter syndrome, which means he has an extra X chromosome.

Despite the daily struggles he faces, Ethan finds ways to enjoy the outdoors, hiking with his family, teasing his sister, Julianna, 6, and flying kites.

Variety Peaceable Kingdom Retreat, which caters to children with special needs, hosted its first event open to the public Saturday at its 120-acre retreat.

About 800 people attended “Kites for Kids,” which also featured hiking, arcade games, air hockey and theater in the woods, said Ericka Mitchell, development coordinator. The organization hopes to hold more public events in the future.

“It’s a very nice environment,” Mary Champion-Smith said. “You find peace. It’s a way to escape your daily life and anything you might be going through.”

Sgt. Bobbie Hallahan, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, moved to Fort Hood from Germany about a week ago. Her son, Alexander, 5, enjoyed flying a kite for the first time and frowned whenever it took a nose-dive into the ground.

“It won’t get more speed,” said Alexander, adding he likes the whooshing sound his triangular kite makes against the wind. “I wonder when it’s going to get higher. I want it to get higher.”

Champion-Smith brought Ethan to the retreat twice before when it was open to children with special needs and said it’s great other people get to experience the amenities and family-friendly atmosphere it offers.

“We love Peaceable Kingdom,” she said. “(Ethan) gets to be a kid.”

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

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.