TWO TEXAS FAMILIES, KINDRED IN SPIRIT
Robert A. Ayres, who also goes by Bob, says the history of his father’s spiritual development was also part of their inspiration for the Echo Valley 2020 memorial gift.
“Laity Lodge was such an important part of my mom’s and dad’s spiritual formation,” he recalls. “Back in the ’70s, I can remember my parents coming back from retreats with speakers like Henri Nouwen. Those years were formative for the ministry my dad was going to have the rest of his life ….”
In 1988, the Ayres family did some long-range planning about their own philanthropic efforts, and they drew on the lessons they’d learned from the Butt family and the Frio River Canyon. Bob says that while his family knew a number of families in South Texas who were engaged philanthropically, they paid special attention to a family “already using a Hill Country ranch for some purpose that was really value- and mission-driven—set up to really be of service to other people.
“At [the Foundation Camps], we were able to see the opportunities being afforded to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. Out of those experiences, two things emerged for us … we wanted to do some kind of programming for kids who might not otherwise get on a Hill Country ranch, and we pursued the idea of building a retreat center.”
Later, Bob says, when they launched the El Ranchito program, they rang up “David Rogers to find out exactly what an operating foundation was and how it worked. So the advice has gone everywhere from the visionary and the inspirational to the practical and pragmatic.”