As a member of WOWI, the Women of WSPA Initiative, I had the honor of attending the second annual women’s weekend at Pyles Boys Camp this July.
Off in the Sequoias and away from our phones, society and the demands of everyday life, I was prepared to relax and appreciate nature, but I wasn’t ready for the emotional wealth of experience I experienced as a team, with my fellow colleagues who represent the oil and gas industry.
R. M. Pyles Boys Camp is a youth leadership and character development program. Since 1949, over 28,000 boys have participated in the summer program. California’s oil and gas industry has supported Pyles camp for nearly 30 years.
Last year, a select group of WSPA employees camped out at Plyes to visit the campers and witness the positive change in low-income, disadvantages boys that emerges at this wilderness camp.
This year, four of us visited the camp and our experience was as authentic as the rustic cabins we slept in. Over a campfire, we heard stories from staff members about the hard work and life skills they learned at camp and enthusiastically bring back year after year. Every staff member at Pyles either attended as young campers or were brought by a camper to positively impact the lives of young men.
For the weekend, we experienced camp like the 12-14 year old boys did, hiking, which included clearing brush and building bridges to make it to our destination, learning archery and sharing meals communally. One night team members joined the camp leaders at a sweat lodge, resting and connecting together. Inspired by the design of an authentic Indian Sweat Lodge, the experience began with a jump in the freezing mountain river, a sage cleanse entering the lodge, and then the steam from water soaked hot rocks. Through this experience, the mind, the soul, and thoughts were opened—an amazing way to end the day.
On our final morning, we prepared for one of the most emotional parts of the weekend, seeing the boys successfully return to camp after a weekend in the wilderness. We were blessed to stand in line to cheer and high-five their successes as they returned newly energized but exhausted, and forever changed as Pyles Camp Dared Boys to Become Men.
Shannon Fulmer is human resources manager at the Western States Petroleum Association.