Camp here is different - and we know you and your child will love it. Here, kids learn that their differences do not define them. They also learn that Christ is more than a Sunday School lesson; He is active and real and able.

Our Mission

 
 
Present Christ to His special kids through a consistent and positive environment that produces healing, education, and growth.”
 
 

As boys and girls grow, the challenges they face can be very difficult. Add the extra pressures faced by kids with learning differences, and life can soon feel overwhelming.

Charis Hills offers kids with special learning needs an opportunity to come to a place of acceptance. We help them see, sometimes for the first time, that God created them exactly the way they are, and that He has a plan and purpose for their life. Many campers find support and encouragement here they have never before experienced. They learn that success is something they too can achieve with hard work.

The Charis Hills community is as inclusive as it is transformative. Here they meet others—both peers and counselors—who share similar experiences and are finding success. And while our program is designed for children with learning differences, their siblings and friends are also welcome. All campers have the opportunity to learn and participate in new activities in an environment that is physically and socially safe.

At Charis Hills, we embrace our mission to teach children about Christ. We believe that if a child can understand who Christ is, that understanding can change his or her life. We also believe that many daily problems can be overcome through an understanding of the Bible, and that understanding can guide a successful life.

  • We will present God as loving and just, and Christ as the Son of God.
  • We will model Christian values and character.
  • We will celebrate and share our faith with others but in a relaxed, no-pressure manner.
  • We will emphasize a Christian message that is Biblical, positive and affirming, yet non-denominational.

Parents who do not want their children exposed to Biblical teachings or Christ should not send their children to Charis Hills. Children who are not from Christian homes may still attend, and they will not be treated differently than other children. We are committed to treating all children in a fair and balanced manner.

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Founders Rand and Colleen Southard saw a need for the camp that became Charis Hills. Their vision was to create an opportunity for children with special learning needs to have a place of their own to hear the word of God in ways they could understand and live. Together they have worked tirelessly to realize their vision and make a difference in children’s lives. 

 
 
We intended from the beginning to give these young people successful experiences to increase their self confidence, to give them opportunities to improve their social skills, and to help them understand that God has blessed each of us with certain gifts, but gave none of us all gifts. Our job in this life is to use what He gave us for His glory. Life should not be about what we can do, but what He can do through us.
— Rand Southard
 
 

As a child, president Rand Southard attended a camp for children with physical disabilities. That experience defined his life’s work. For the last 40 years, Rand has worked at and led camps for children with a variety of differences, from muscular dystrophy, blindness, deafness, and diabetes to emotional disturbances and learning differences. He has brought his experience teaching special education in public schools and at the Texas School for the Deaf, as well as his service as an executive director for foster care and residential treatment centers, to his leadership at Charis Hills. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from UT-Austin and a master’s degree in education administration from Texas State University. He has been married to Colleen for 40 years and has two daughters and five grandchildren. 

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I love the Lord and am amazed at the things the He teaches me; especially through children. It is great to be outdoors and see how He reveals Himself in His creation.
— Colleen Southard
 
 
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Having spent the last 32 years working with Rand in camping, Colleen loves getting to know the campers and their families. She finds joy in making things together with them in Arts & Crafts and singing around the campfire. Colleen grew up in Cow Town (Fort Worth), where she received her bachelor’s degree in education from Texas Christian University. She is also a speech and language pathologist and also holds a master’s degree in deaf education from Texas Woman’s University.
 

 

Full-Time Staff


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Liz Austin
Camp Registrar

Often the first point of contact with kids at camp, Liz Austin wears many hats in her role. She enrolls campers, oversees marketing efforts, and works tirelessly to keep everyone on staff organized.

Liz and her husband Phil grew up in San Antonio but have lived in north Texas for many years raising her family, which includes five grown children (whom she homeschooled) and 12 grandchildren. Liz loves the Lord, her family and Charis Hills campers. When she isn’t at camp or with her family, she is very involved in her church as well as spends time painting, sewing and crafting. Questions about the registration process or how you too can help us spread the word about camp? Liz is here to help you.


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Molly Southard
Equine Program Director

Molly directs the therapeutic riding program and all things related to animals and camper programs. When camp is not in session, she focuses on keeping the horses ready for campers to ride and oversees fundraising for the therapeutic riding program and other aspects of Charis Hills.   

Molly grew up in camping and attended camp every summer before becoming a camp counselor during college. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation Administration. She is the busy mother of three boys.


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Cara Krueger
Program Director

Born and raised in Cuero, Texas, Cara has been going to camp since she was nine years old. She joined the Charis Hills team in 2012 and quickly found her calling in camp. After her graduation with a degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences from Texas A&M University, she joined the Charis Hills staff full-time in 2016.  She finds the greatest reward in training the counselors and seeing their lives impacted through the experience and campers--just like hers was. She also treasures seeing the lifelong friends that camp creates.

Camp Summer Staff

 

It takes a special person to be a counselor for our campers—your kids. That’s why we don’t just hire anyone to work at Charis Hills. Counselors have to be energetic, enthusiastic, patient and fun. They have to love an active outdoor schedule, working with different age groups, and collaborating with other counselors. They must take pride in helping children grow and develop personally, spiritually, and physically.

Our counselors each contribute their own special talents to camp—swimming, gardening, archery, music, or dancing, for instance—and use that talent to help your camper succeed. With a desire to teach kids and the energy and attention to detail to make a busy camp schedule work, our counselors are some of the most dedicated and creative people on the planet. Their collective goal is to help your camper have a successful camp experience.

Who are our counselors?

The majority of our counselors are college-age students. Many are studying in the teaching, recreation, or psychology fields and have a desire to gain experience working with children with special needs. A few counselors are certified teachers who are seeking additional knowledge or experience to advance their careers.

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All of our counselors share these goals for your child while he or she is at camp:

  • Witness the love of Jesus Christ, through the staff and their actions
  • Develop confidence in their abilities
  • Meet other campers with similar issues
  • Be safe
  • Have a positive, successful camp experience
  • Have FUN!

What types of checks are conducted on counselors?

All the staff working directly with our campers undergo or have complete extensive training prior to camp. None of our volunteers work directly with the children. Charis Hills conducts a criminal history check, a sexual offender registry check, driving record check and a drug test on every counselor, employee and volunteer.

 
 
 
 

Leadership Staff
Jordan Kingsley
Caleb Murphy
Hope Olson

 

Infirmary Staff
Lyndsay Webb
Julia Daniels
Joshua Murphy

Maintenance & Grounds
Mike Kennedy

Kitchen Manager
Janice Kennedy

Kitchen Staff
Brenda Berrios
Gina McDaniel

 

 

Accreditations, Licenses and Memberships

American Camp Association - Accredited since 2007

Texas Department of State Health Services - Licensed as a Summer Camp.
Charis Hills meets all criteria and standards set forward by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Christian Camp and Conference Association - Member

C.A.M.P (Camps Associated for Mutual Progress) - Member