The land waited for them. A rugged former family ranch in far northwestern Travis County tumbled down a creased hillside through weedy pastures, steep ravines, bounteous springs, a collapsed cave and trails that led to a protected cove on Lake Travis.

How it became Candlelight Ranch, which today provides outdoor experiences for at-risk youth as well as children with disabilities and their families, involved some initial serendipity, a persistent dream inspired by childhood summer camps, pooled labor and cash from hundreds of donors, volunteers and staff members, as well as gallons of sweat from the co-founders and their friends and family.

It started this way: In 1999, Austinite Don Barr sold some commercial property in San Antonio. For tax purposes, he needed to make a nearly simultaneous purchase of another property.

“My wife, Jeri, made a suggestion that I look out at the lake,” he recalls. “The very next day, I was looking through the Statesman and saw a photo of this property that was just back on the market. I went to take a look at it and was pretty impressed. The price tag was over twice what I had to invest, so I called my brother, Randy, to see if he was interested. Maybe we could make it into a family retreat.”

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