featurer.m. pyles boys camp
More than 70 years ago, an oil executive named Robert Pyles took a backpacking trip in the California wilderness and began to think about all the boys who would grow up without their fathers who had died in WWII. He knew that without that guiding hand, many might go down the wrong path. That was the beginning of the R. M. Pyles Boys Camp and its summer program for at-risk teenage boys in Kern County and the surrounding region.
“We have a simple, basic program that tries to find kids who are in situations where the potential to make bad decisions is all around them – where there’s traditionally been high levels of violence or high incarceration rates,” says Executive Director Adam Bell. “We want to find boys who aren’t in trouble yet, but without some intervention could wind up a gang member or involved in the justice system.”
Each year, the organization brings some 350 adolescents aged 12-14, chosen by community partners, to the Sequoias for a two-week camping program that’s completely free. There, they learn outdoor skills and self-reliance. They’re joined by 150 or so returning campers who’ve earned the right to “level up” from their experience in prior years. Those returning youth eventually make up almost the entire cadre of camp counselors as well.
“They want to give back,” Bell says. “They earn some money but also qualify for college scholarships, which goes along with part of our mission which is to get our kids into careers or graduate school.”
Some campers become so proficient and enthusiastic that they organize hikes from the camp to the slopes of Mt. Whitney and back, a 170-mile round trip involving the highest peak in California. Often, Bell says, Pyles campers will encounter other hikers trying to make it up the peak – and pass them easily.
Chevron’s partnership with the organization goes back to 1951 (although Robert Pyles himself worked for Chevron’s predecessor, Standard Oil, for several years in the early 1900s at the beginning of his career in the industry).
“Chevron is an ongoing contributor to our success,” adds Bell. “They provide us monetary contributions and local executives serve on our board.” The current board president is Jeff Wilson from Chevron’s El Segundo Refinery, who has been part of the board for 30 years.
Chevron is also the major sponsor of the Camp’s annual fundraising barbecue, and volunteers staff food lines and raffles for the 3,000 people who attend each year.
“The barbecue would not be possible without the support Chevron gives us,” said Bell. “Not only that, it helps draw other sponsors because when they see the name Chevron they know they can trust the event.”
Published: November 2021