The Annual Pyles Boys Camp BBQ has been a Bakersfield staple for decades, and not just because of the delicious tri-trip and brisket, but for its impact.
“It’s an experience that’s hard to explain. It’s like magic almost,” is how 16-year-old Emiliano Gamez described his first time going on the Pyles Boys Camp trip back in 2019. He said the camp helped him connect with himself spiritually. He said his mom saw a shift in him when he came back:
“I learned to be more grateful to the stuff around us, because not everyone has the opportunity to go to a camp like this,” Emiliano said.
The multi-year camp for boys, since its genesis 70 years ago, is more than just an excursion, according to Pyles Boys Camp BBQ chairman Alan White.
“The vision was to take underprivileged boys who were starting to get in trouble, or had tough family lives, or were in gang families [and give them] a chance to go to the mountains for two weeks at no cost to their family. [They’d] learn teamwork, trust in one another, work together, [and have] a structured set of chores to do every day. [They’d do] fun stuff like ropes and horseback riding.”
Each of the four years is meant to build their confidence and leadership skills as they become young men,” according to White.
Once they leave the wilderness, boys from all walks of life take part in mentoring programs and have a chance to receive $25,00 scholarships for college or even vocational education. Campers have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, judges and engineers.
“So it gives them a path from start to finish: from being camper to being whatever they want to be,” White said.
While Pyles Boys Camp was unable to hold their camping trip in the Kern River Valley, last year because of the pandemic, and the accompanying BBQ fundraiser, both are back. About 2000 community members attended the BBQ Saturday afternoon.
The organization’s goal for 2022 is to serve 450 boys in southern California, including Kern County, according to White. Yearly, the BBQ aims to raise about $125,000 dollars. That money comes from sponsors, raffles, and a tri-tip dinner at $15 dollars a plate.
“This is one of our most important fundraisers of the year, so to be able to back now and to have the camp again, and to have this BBQ, we’re all so thrilled,” White said.