Imagine being a small child again. If you’re hungry, cry. Mom will feed you. 

Diaper needs to be changed? Just cry, dad will come help. 

Children learn at an early age to make an outcry when they have needs.

Now imagine an absent father, or parents too far under the influence of drugs or alcohol to hear.

That’s how Ashley Phillips, development associate for Hill Country Youth Ranch, describes the traumas face by many of the children the nonprofit’s three locations serve. 

“As a child, you learn that when you have a need, you can trust that when you cry, that need will be met,” she said. “Now imagine a 5-year-old little girl, waking up in the middle of the night with an earache, just wanting someone to soothe her.” 

But that little girl isn’t hypothetical. She is very much a real, living and breathing child.

And because of the people at Hill Country Youth Ranch, she’s a child who not only received treatment for her ear, but soothing words from a kind soul who brushed her hair until she fell back asleep. 

That wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of donors and volunteers, like those working, running or sponsoring runners in today’s Headwaters of the Frio Marathon/ Half Marathon/10K. 

Kicking off with a packet pick-up and breakfast at 6:30 a.m. at the Big Springs Ranch for Children in Leakey, 10664 U.S. Highway 83 North, this event is a major fundraiser that benefits both locations. 

It’s a tough course, one meant to represent the trials faced by children who have survived tribulations far beyond what most of us can imagine. 

As of Friday night, the race had raised more than $90,000 — an impressive number to be sure, albeit one short of the nonprofit’s goal of reaching $150,000. 

But it’s not too late to help. Would-be donors can visit to make a donation.

The funds will go directly toward helping children who have lived through horrible trauma and supporting the ranch’s mission of getting them back on the path toward being happy, successful people. 

That’s a goal that, through their efforts -— and with the generous support of donors — Hill Country Youth Ranch staffers have seen achieved time and again. 

“This money goes into our children’s fund — it’s a general fund that supports a wide variety of needs,” Phillips said. “When I think back over my blessed life, with my parents who are still together and I never had a need or wanted for anything ... It’s really the smallest things that mean the most.”   

For more information on how you can help, visit

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