In 1981, my twin brother and I had the opportunity to attend Pyles Boys Camp. It would be our first venture out of East Los Angeles on our own. We were immediately separated and placed in different groups. We knew how to survive the streets of East LA, but this was an entirely new world to us. I made it through the 2 weeks and returned home. I knew I wouldn’t be asked to return, but I just couldn’t get the mountains, the experience, the atmosphere out of my mind. We had never before been exposed to this other world, and I spent the next few years pondering the opportunity I had wasted and trying to apply what I had learned to my home life and in school.
A few summers later, in 1985, following a visit from Ranger, I was asked to return to Pyles Camp. This was my chance to make the most of it…something I had neglected to do as a camper. As I boarded the van, my mother shouted, “Don’t let him cause too much havoc” and… “Havoc” was born. For the past few years I had tried to utilize the lessons that my counselor, Badger, had taken so much care to help us learn, which I had squandered during my time there. I was determined make him proud this time. As an Art major, I was asked to fill the position of Arts and Crafts Specialist. I lead my activity dutifully, but I couldn’t stay away from the archery range. I just couldn’t stop dreaming about archery…the only activity I had truly enjoyed while at camp and the lessons bestowed upon us by the Archery Specialist at that time, a certified Olympic archer, the one and only, Bigfoot.
I spent so much time watching and listening that, soon, Bigfoot pulled me aside and offered to train me further. I jumped at the chance. His training was difficult and intense, but I was not going to waste another opportunity. Toward the latter part of that first summer, I was co-teaching Archery while others took over Arts and Crafts. By summers end, Bigfoot announced his retirement and the fact that I would be taking over the Archery program. A small, scrawny, shy but gritty kid, born and raised in East LA, was going to be the Archery Specialist for Pyles Boys Camp! It was one of the proudest moments of my life to that point, but I knew I had some “big shoes” to fill. In an effort to make everyone proud, I fulfilled that position to the best of my abilities for the next 13 years.
During that time, thanks to the care and guidance of amazing people, like Badger, Bigfoot, Sarge, Bravo, “Uncle” Chet Frazier, Smokey, Rocky, Cedar, and, especially, Nana, I came to appreciate everything Pyles camp had given me… the opportunity to grow while learning to guide others, the experience of touching lives for the better, the chance to create an everlasting experience for other young boys, the drive to continue my education and graduate college with honors, the scholarship program without which my family could not have afforded my college education otherwise, the courage to lead by example and with respect, the pride of knowing I had made a difference somehow, the bond of an undying brotherhood, the never-ending unconditional love of a second family. I also realized that it was now my turn to give back for all the blessing bestowed upon me.
I have spent the past 34 years working with Los Angeles Unified School district as an aide, a substitute, and as an elementary school teacher. I have reached many milestones, faced many adversities and tragedies, and accomplished many dreams in my life. Tasks which would never have been possible without the teachings, guidance, faith, encouragement, support and work ethic instilled during my time with Pyles Boys Camp. I have recently fulfilled a longtime dream of becoming a nationally certified USA Archery Instructor and gladly and proudly provide my services to Pyles Camp, once again, as their official Archery trainer… another achievement made possible through the help of the Pyles family (with special thanks for the trust, belief, and encouragement of Sean “Beaver” McNulty, Adam “Stripes” Bell, and Dale “Bamm-Bamm” Decker).
While at Pyles Camp, I had the pleasure of connecting with many other young men, several who were also growing up in East LA. We bonded immediately and a special brotherhood of love and trust was born. Recently, several of my fellow Pyles family alumni joined forces to form the association known as Pyles Alumni Committee Members (PACM), of which I was given the honor of representing as their vice-president. We began with the goal of ensuring more minority children would be given the opportunity to attend Pyles Camp. As the brain-child of current Board Member, Eddie “Wolf” Ramos, PACM has since grown in membership, including not just alumni but also family and friends of Pyles Camp. Many PACM members are reconnecting with camp not just through fundraising, but also acting as selectors, trainers, mentors, in senior staff positions, and in advisory and consultation roles working directly with current camp leadership.
PACM’s goal has gone above and beyond our dreams as we are now able to reach out to more young men throughout all the regions serviced by Pyles Boys Camp. We banded together due to our belief in the spirit of Pyles Boys Camp and we exist in order to fulfill our promise to Mr. Robert M. Pyles, to Bob “Smokey” McAdams, and to our beloved Rose “Nana” Urbina, and their families…the promise of “Keeping a Dream Alive.”