Facility brightens lives of underprivileged girls

The Treehouse Center gives hope and love to struggling youth


photo or infographic by Heather Jackson

CLOSING ACT. The Treehouse Center Community Outreach/Event Coordinator Dhelynn McClellan gives a speech about The Treehouse Center and the girls they house. The founders opened up the facility to help young girls after they are removed from unimaginable situations.

Young girls in the community live feeling lost, abandoned, unloved, forgotten. They walk through life on a path many cannot imagine. They feel alone and hope has been lost for longer than people will ever know, but there is hope. There is a place for them, a place of warmth, comfort and love. There is a place where there are people who can bring light they lost or never had into their lives. 

The Treehouse Center (TTHC) was founded in 2009 to house foster girls ages five to fourteen that have been severely neglected or suffered from abuse. The organization houses up to 25 girls at a time and is doing all they can to impact the community.  

“Our CEO actually came out of retirement twice to make this dream of helping children a reality,” Dhelynn McClellan The Treehouse Center Community Outreach and Event Coordinator said. “Our founders have huge hearts for kids and wanted another home or these children to be able to go that would remove them from their tumultuous situations and provide them with comfort, therapy, a warm bed, hot meals and surround them with people they can trust to care for them.” 

On Feb. 7, they had a beauty pageant for the residents, and it was put on by the Caring Queens foundation and was headed up by Celia Smith. The foster girls had the opportunity to experience all of the glam and activities that come with being a pageant girl. 

“I was thrilled when the wheels started spinning on making this idea come to life between Celia and I,” McClellan said. “It sounded like a lot of work, however, if we could really do this and pull it off, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for these young girls.”

Several of the girls were nervous about the pageant, and one of the girls’ Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children (CASA) emailed McClellan stating her girl did not want to participate. 

“After that, I made sure to constantly bring up the pageant around the girls and talk about how exciting it was going to be, that all of the people were coming just for them and ultimately to not be nervous because no matter what it was all about the girls having fun,” McClellan said. “That was going to be their day, their time to shine, and there was no pressure at all.”

Those running the pageant made sure everything was in place to make the girls comfortable and enjoy themselves the day of the pageant. 

“Celia was really good at preparing the girls before the event as well,” McClellan said. “She made sure to let them know this was a special pageant and there would not be just one winner and that everyone will get a crown.”

Various volunteers made the event possible. Adults and students helped the girls throughout the day with hair, makeup and guiding them through the program.

“I will say that even though this was so new and different for the girls, they are definitely on their best behavior and cooperated very well throughout the whole process of hair, makeup, outfit changes and stage performance,” McClellan said. “It was probably about 50 people or more who came together on the day of this event to contribute in some way, shape or form for the pageant’s ultimate success.”

NEW STYLE. Katie Hepler does the hair for one of the pageant participants. (photo or infographic by Heather Jackson)

Girls in the Caring Queens foundation were some of the volunteers running the event. 

“I like giving back to my community and being able to make all new friends and make a difference,” Cannon Elementary fourth grader Aubrey Noska said. 

The girls each received a crown and sash to commemorate their day in the life of a pageant queen. 

“After the event, all the girls talked about was the pageant, and a few of the girls were so enchanted by the whole experience that they stated they want to start doing pageants regularly and become pageant queens when they grow up,” McClellan said. “I’m looking forward to making this an annual thing for our young ladies because it was just such a huge success. It really meant everything to them.”

 The girls follow a strict schedule in their day to day life in the foster home. They have a routine from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. One part of their routine is participating in individual as well as group therapy several times a week. 

“We redirect negative behaviors they have instilled as defense mechanisms and instead help them figure out healthy coping mechanisms that work for them and use positive reinforcement and rewards to sustain those positive changes in behavior patterns,” McClellan said. “They receive lots of love and attention here with us, and that’s ultimately what every kid needs regardless of their home situation or where they come from.”

McClellan did not know much about foster kids and the foster care system when she began working for The Treehouse Center.

GIVING BACK. A makeup volunteer helps the girls get ready for their pageant performances. (photo or infographic by Heather Jackson)

“What I found out was there are really kids, young kids, here in our own community who have been through more by the age of eight than most of us ever will in our entire lives,” McClellan said. “I found there are kids who are physically and sexually abused on a daily basis. I found out there are kids who don’t have families, kids who don’t have homes, kids who are starving and kids who just want to be loved, and it broke by heart.”

This job showed a whole different side of society to McClellan. 

“Of course, we all know these things exist out in the world, but we never really think about it, much less think about the fact that these kids are everywhere,” McClellan said. “It is much more common than you think.”

Girls arrive at the door of The Treehouse Center, and only sometimes they come with shoes and a garbage bag of personal items. 

“Some days, my job is really hard and heavy, and some days, I read a really awful case file on a girl and I cry,” McClellan said.

While there are very difficult times and hardships, not all of the experiences are negative. 

“The rainbow through all of this is that we get to take that ugly and turn it into a success story,” McClellan said. “But, I’m so happy to say there have been so many days of laughter, graduatinos, events, kids progressing, adoptions and children getting back to a sage home that really make everything so worth it.”

She started her career at The Treehouse Center as a simple file organizer, but now she does so much more to spread awareness and give these girls a better life.  

“People just simply don’t know, and they need to know that these kids exist, and they live here in our country going to Conroe ISD Schools,” McClellan said. “There is so much more we can do to help, all of us. TTHC changed my life because I get to wake up everyday and realize that things aren’t so bad. There are so many out there, even kids, who have it so much worse than we do, and that’s the bigger picture. I get to help make the world a better place by doing what I can for these girls every single day, and that’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling in itself.”