The kids who spend their days contained behind a razor wire fence at a South Bexar County juvenile lock up have an amazing nature therapy center next door, a place that got a makeover on Saturday thanks to some caring volunteers.
It‘s called the Salado Wilderness Area, a private-access paradise where troubled kids can heal.
The volunteer work day was a joint venture between the San Antonio River Foundation, Partners for Youth, and the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department.
Together, the 40 or so spirited workers trimmed trees and moved brush so that the pathways around the parcel will offer safe passage for the youngsters who use the resource for equine therapy.
Youth leaders say they know from experience that youngsters from troubled backgrounds respond enthusiastically to four-hoofed therapy.
Theresa Nguyen, who has been to the refuge before, came with a group of friends from the University of the Incarnate Word.
“It was actually fun. Last time we just picked up trash, but this time we actually moved heavy branches,” Nguyen said. “She found a bone and I picked up a frog and it was so cute.”
Will Dooley said that he found out about the opportunity at his Humana job site.
“We didn't see a lot of wild animals or critters like that but you could certainly see the signs of them,” Dooley said.
Guadalupe Campos also recruited co-workers to join her efforts.
“My co-workers and I, we are in the Marine Corps, and we like to do volunteer opportunities whenever we find them, and we actually found this through a Facebook event invite,” she said.
Their mission: Clean up and clear out the trails so that kids on horses can have a safe and fun experience.
“We're new in the area and you can meet some people and, you know, maybe meet somebody that could be a friend for a long time,” volunteer Gerald Carter said.
Stuart Johnson, with the River Foundation said
“What's really beautiful about these environments that are near creeks and run along creeks is that there's probably a 100- or 200-foot drop in elevation from the trail head to the creek itself, so you get to experience different ecosystems within that,” said Stuart Johnson with the San Antonio River Foundation.
Johnson added that the cooperation between agencies is a recipe for success.
“It's fantastic. And part of that is having the partnerships between public and private entities and non-profits,” Johnson said. “We at the San Antonio River Foundation are happy to be an integral part of that.”
The volunteers agree that the effort is worthwhile.
“So if you get out here and you're not used to digging holes or picking things up with your hands, don't be averse to it. Be open-minded about it and just do what you can,” Campos said.
The next work day is scheduled for Saturday, March 8.
Equipment, water, and snacks are provided. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Children 14 to 18 must have parental permission to participate and must have on-site adult supervision. Volunteers are required to sign a liability release form.
For more information, visit the official San Antonio River Foundation website here.