• 5 Awesome Scenic Drives Around Bakersfield, CA

    When you've got a hankering to get behind the wheel, Bakersfield is a great place to be. Just pick a direction and you'll soon find yourself in a national forest, cruising through rugged ranchlands, or winding alongside a mountain waterway.

    Here are five scenic drives not to miss in the greater Bakersfield area. Travel advisory: some roads may have seasonal closures. Check before you go.

    1. Lake Isabella and Brush Creek

    The Drive: loop trip, 162 miles, around 4 hours 5 minutes

    The outbound route winds along the Kern River past numerous natural hot springs and Lake Isabella to the Brush Creek Campground, with a day use picnic area and a lovely creek.

    Lake Isabella
    (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

    When water levels permit (usually only late summer), strong swimmers can take a dip in one of the swimming holes along the rugged Brush Creek Trail. Watch out for poison oak, take care on the rough granite trail and swim at your own risk, of course.

    On the return, take Mountain Highway 99 which becomes the twisting, scenic M-50 and parallels South Creek, then Deer Creek.

    Click for the route to Lake Isabella and Brush Creek.

    2. Kern River County Park and Rancheria Road

    The Drive: 66 miles round trip, about 2 hours 18 minutes

    Rancheria Road
    (Photo: © Cooper Baker)

    This route includes several things to do along the way, depending on your interests. Hart Memorial Park offers two lakes, wildlife viewing, picnic areas with grills, hiking trails and playgrounds. Or visit the California Living Museum to see exhibits of native California animals, plants, fossils and artifacts.

    Then drive on to Lake Ming, a popular spot for fishing, sailing, swimming and waterskiing. It's a good place to enjoy a picnic and get an eyeful of SoCal's iconic golden hills and the Greenhorn Mountains. (Check the link above for special boating events and closures before you go.)

    Lake Ming
    Lake Ming (Photo: MzNobody)

    Extend your trip with a drive along Forest Rte 25S03/Rancheria Road, a paved road that passes over the Kern River and travels through orchards, rangeland and the starkly beautiful Greenhorn Mountains. (Rancheria Road turns to gravel after some miles. Check beforehand on possible road closures at 760.379.5646.)

    Click for driving directions to Rancheria Road.

    3. Vista del Lago Visitors Center at Pyramid Lake

    The Drive: 216 miles round trip, about 4 hours 50 minutes

    Pyramid Lake from Vista del Lago Visitors Center
    (Photo: CA Dept. of Water Resources)

    This route takes you through the Los Padres National Forest to an interpretive center overlooking Pyramid Lake, the deepest lake in the California Water Project system. See a complete, 3D model of California's massive State Water Project and a display illustrating the massive tools used to build it.

    If you return via I-5, don't miss Fort Tejon State Historic Park.

    Click for scenic driving directions to Vista del Lago Visitors Center.

    4. Colonel Allensworth State Park & Kern National Wildlife Refuge

    The Drive: 135 miles loop trip, about 3 hours

    Take the Central Valley Highway through some of the nation's most productive agricultural lands on this scenic tour to historic Colonel Allensworth State Park, honoring a former slave who became an officer in the Union Navy then moved west to settle in this area.

    On the way back, visit the Kern National Wildlife Refuge and follow the six-mile auto tour route on a gravel road to view a great nature show of wading birds, raptors and other wildlife. Open daily from sunrise to sunset, closed Wednesdays and Saturdays during hunting season from October to January.

    Kern National Wildlife Refuge
    (Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

    Click for directions to Colonel Allensworth State Park.

    5. Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway

    The Drive: 228 miles round trip, about 5 hours 5 minutes

    Tunnels through bedrock, swimming holes, waterfalls and views of the mighty Pacific?this scenic route offers up some of the most diverse landscapes you'll find in southern California. You'll travel through the Santa Ynez Range and pass by Wheeler Gorge and Piedra Blanca, white stones sculpted by nature. Then enjoy lunch in lovely Ojai.

    Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway
    (Photos: U.S. Forest Service)

    The road may be closed in winter, so check the Forest Service site before you go.

    Click for a route map of the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway.

    Note: these scenic routes have been collected from sources deemed reliable. However, remember to check road conditions in advance, make sure your vehicle is suitable for the roads recommended, and use common sense safety precautions along the way.

  • 6 Fall Color Day Trips Near Denver Not to Miss

    That extra chill in the morning air means fall colors will soon be peaking. Here are six of the best leaf-peeping drives you can do from Denver in an afternoon or a day. Don't delay: The best time to experience Mother Nature's autumn art show is September through mid-October.

    Before You Go

    Check your tire pressure. You lose some tire pressure (tires get slightly flatter) as you travel to higher altitudes, since the atmospheric pressure decreases (as in the expression "thin air"). Colder temperatures will also cause a slight loss in tire pressure.

    If you're just planning on a day trip, all you need to do is fill your tires to the full, proper PSI (pounds per square inch) before you leave and be sure they aren't underinflated. Although your tires will lose about two PSI if you travel from 5,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude, they'll regain this PSI upon descent. If your autumn adventure extends over several days, it's a good idea to have your tire pressure checked and set the morning after arriving at altitude and when you get back home.

    Check road conditions. Fall weather is unpredictable and roads can become impassable with little notice. Know before you go.

    1. Eldorado Canyon State Park and Clear Creek

    Photo: Eldorado Canyon State Park © As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images
    Photo: Eldorado Canyon State Park
    © As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images

    The Drive: 51-mile loop trip, around 90 minutes

    Considered one of 10 state parks not to miss by SmarterTravel.com, Eldorado Canyon State Park is easy to get to and fall leaves aren't the only allure here. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, picnicking, wildlife watching and fishing are all popular uses. It's also a great destination for birders, with recorded sightings of golden eagles, prairie falcons, wild turkeys, blue grouse and about 75 other species.

    Get there early and bring the $8 entrance fee. When parking reaches capacity, you may have to wait until another vehicle leaves to enter.

    Return via Golden and stop for a walk along the Clear Creek Trail, a paved path framed by colorful trees along a bubbling waterway.

    Photo: Clear Creek by Amy Aletheia Cahill/Flickr
    Photo: Clear Creek by Amy Aletheia Cahill/Flickr

    Click for the route to Eldorado Canyon State Park and Golden.

    2. Guanella Pass

    The Drive: 123-mile loop trip, 2 hours 45 minutes

    The 11-mile stretch of Guanella Pass Road between Georgetown and the Mount Bierstadt trailhead provides as-good-as-it-gets leaf peeping without leaving your car. Admire vivid reds, yellows and oranges and contrasting greens of aspens, willows and evergreens, along with plenty of vistas around every switchback. Don't miss the view of Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans from the parking lot at the top of the pass, which has an elevation of 11,600 feet.

    Photo: Guanella Pass by Paul Sattler
    Photo: Guanella Pass by Paul Sattler

    Other nice stops along the way are the Mount Bierstadt Trail, suitable for hikers and picnickers young and old, the quaint town of Bailey and Staunton State Park.

    Click for the route to Guanella Pass.

    3. Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway

    The Drive: 254-mile loop trip, 4 hours 40 minutes

    The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway goes from Granite to Buena Vista to Salida to Poncha Springs. Some of the best scenery is in the stretch between Granite and Buena Vista, where the fall foliage has Buffalo Peaks as a stunning backdrop.

    You'll parallel the Continental Divide at the foot of the Sawatch Range, with views of the highest concentration of 14ers in the country. You'll also follow a good stretch of the Arkansas River with its famed white water.

    Photo: Buffalo Peaks by Ryan Fonkert/Flickr
    Photo: Buffalo Peaks by Ryan Fonkert/Flickr

    Click for this portion of the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway.

    4. Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    The Drive: 49-mile round trip, 1 hour 15 minutes

    A short drive from west Denver will get you to this state park with miles of hiking trails, rocky peaks and aspen-filled meadows. Enjoy fishing ponds, picnic sites and the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, where visitors can see 100 miles of the Continental Divide.

    Photo: Aspens in Golden Gate Canyon State Park by Deb Shannan
    Photo: Aspens in Golden Gate Canyon State Park by Deb Shannan

    Don't miss the 3.6-mile Horseshoe Trail which meanders along a running stream past boulders, stands of aspen, meadows and mountain views.

    Click for the route to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

    5. Kenosha Pass

    The Drive: 126-mile round trip, 2 hours 30 minutes

    The Kenosha Pass Trail is hard to beat for autumn scenery. Walking just 3 miles on the east side of Highway 285 will lead you through dazzling stands of aspens to a 270-degree view of green and gold forests with 13ers and 14ers stacked up behind.

    Photo: Kenosha Pass Trail by Christy Correll/Flickr
    Photo: Kenosha Pass Trail by Christy Correll/Flickr

    Click for the route to Kenosha Pass.

    6. Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway

    The Drive: 149-mile loop trip, 3 hours 40 minutes

    Colorado's oldest scenic byway, the Peak to Peak offers some great tourism sites along with spectacular foliage. This drive takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park and offers up views of the Continental Divide. Look for mine tailings (scrap rock from Gold Rush mines that was dumped down the sides of mountains) along the road from Ward to Black Hawk. A short side trip just before you get to Black Hawk will take you to the lesser-known ghost town of Apex. Also worth a detour: the 1890s-era Goldminer Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located a few miles west of Nederland.

    Photo: Goldminer Hotel, Courtesy Elmer Holmes, reprinted from Inn and Around Nederland by Silvia Pettem
    Photo: Goldminer Hotel, Courtesy Elmer Holmes,
    reprinted from Inn and Around Nederland by Silvia Pettem

    Click for the route to the Peak to Peak Byway.

    Tire pressure checks are always free at Les Schwab Tires. Stop by before and after your high-altitude adventures.

  • Despite Paralysis, Man Stands up to Renew Wedding Vows

    George Myers hadn't stood upright since 1991, after his back broke in a logging accident. The injury left him paralyzed from the chest down and permanently confined to a wheelchair. Though it was a new way of life, he and his wife, Debbie, were determined to make the best of it together.

    For the couple's 45th anniversary, they decided to renew their vows. George wanted a way to stand beside his wife. Debbie did some research and identified a unique wheelchair that would enable George to stand for the ceremony and more.

    George and Debbie Myer with his new chairThanks to a generous grant from the Action Mobility Foundation, donations from Les Schwab Tire Centers and GoFundMe contributors, George and Debbie were able to obtain the special wheelchair. The couple stood together for the first time in decades as they renewed their vows. "She rode out on the chair with me," said George. "It was slick!"

    George says the chair has completely changed his life, restoring his ability to once again enjoy hunting with friends, teaching his grandchildren how to fish and tending to little handiwork projects around the home. "The other day, I went out and built a fence in it," he said of his chair. "I wouldn't be able to get around in anything else."

    George is a friend and important member of the community here in Southern Oregon. Les Schwab Tire Centers is honored to help the Myers have the ceremony they'd dreamed of, and to get George back to enjoying some life experiences he was missing. Here's to many more years together, George and Debbie!

  • Dinuba High Programs Prepare Students for College, Career

    At Dinuba High School, some students get a jump start on their career path on their first day.

    The high school has established three academies through the Linked Learning Program: one devoted to a medical pathway, engineering and construction management, which are designed to prepare students for college, career and life.

    Through the four-year programs, students gain real-world experience that allows them to explore, and prepare for potential career paths. In addition to the curriculum, the academies include mentorships, internships, job shadowing and volunteer work, all of which help students become top college candidates.

    "It really prepares them rigorously for whatever college they want to go to," said Manjeet Dail, the Dinuba Unified School District's college and career director. "They have the real-life experience that has prepared them."

    Dail said the career-specific programs help the students understand the value of the classwork. "Engineering students go into math class and may not understand why learning about angles is important, but through the academy, they are shown how their work in the classroom actually applies to their career."

    Dinuba High's academies are funded through community support and Les Schwab Tire Centers is honored to be a part of that effort. In our second year of partnership with Dinuba High School, the Dinuba Les Schwab store has helped raise more than $120,000 to go toward the academies.

    We look forward to continuing our support of this innovative school and the greater Dinuba-area community going forward. To learn more about the Dinuba High School Link Learning Academies, check out the school's official website.

  • Dream Comes True for Lancers’ Superfan

    East Union High School Senior Vinny Torrice has never missed a football game.

    "He's been the biggest fan of East Union since he was a freshman. Gone to every single game," Vic Torrice said of his son.

    Win or lose, rain or shine, home or away, Vinny has been supporting the Lancers football team and dreaming of the moment that he might join them on the gridiron.

    Vinny, who has Down syndrome, got his opportunity during the playoff game against Del Campo High School in 2016. Vinny ran a 27-yard touchdown through a sea of blockers to finish the game.

    Players from both teams met Vinny in the end zone to celebrate, and the Lancers' student section could be heard chanting, "Vinny!" throughout the stadium.

    "I had no clue. I'm still shaking," Vic Torrice told The Record. "I never dreamt of this for my son."

    "That kid means a lot to me," Lancers' wide receiver Jake Harries told The Record. "He's really like my brother. I absolutely love him to death. I'll never let anything happen to him."

    We at Les Schwab Tire Center are proud of Vinny, the East Union High School body, and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF State). We applaud the sportsmanship shown by both teams, and we'll continue to support those athletes, coaches, students and supporters who stand for something greater than winning and losing.

  • Enterprising Students Score Big With Les Schwab Parking Lot

    Location, location, location is the formula for success in real estate, and in Denver, it's paying off for North High School students. The hard-working group has been raising money for their school by parking cars for Denver Broncos fans in the Federal Boulevard Les Schwab parking lot since 2012.

    North High School is within walking distance of Mile High Stadium, where the Broncos play. Even better, the Les Schwab Tire Center on Federal Boulevard is just a block away from the stadium.

    Store Manager Ed Ferrell saw proximity and he saw opportunity. When he opened the store in 2012, he offered the parking lot to the students to sell parking spaces to fans attending Broncos games. The proceeds go toward North High School activities: drama, band, choir and more than 20 boys and girls sports teams. Altogether, the students' parking lot fundraisers have earned approximately $35,000 per year for four years.

    The students staff the parking lot in two shifts: one parks the cars and a second monitors the lot during the game. The lot sees plenty of use during the preseason and regular season home games every year, and sometimes more often than that. In 2015, the students reaped the benefits of two extra games of fundraising as the Broncos hosted playoff games. The Broncos won the Super Bowl championship, defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-10.

    North High students have funded an array of activities. The yearbook committee was able to subsidize the cost of the yearbooks so they were affordable to all students. After the baseball team won the city title for the first time in 16 years, team members used their funds to play in a summer league and maintain training. The drama group was able to purchase the rights to the popular musical, "Grease," which then sold out - an unprecedented event - and they earned back the money they'd invested.

    "They're very community oriented," said North High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Kevin Bendjy of his friends at the Federal Boulevard Les Schwab. "Since we began fundraising there, we've been able to provide new uniforms and equipment for nearly all of our sports teams. We were even able to launch our boys and girls lacrosse teams, which each have more than 30 student athletes participating."

    The store's generosity led to an unexpected new role for Ferrell, who was named Grand Marshal of the North High homecoming parade. The school is hoping to fund a scoreboard with future earnings, and when it's up, we'll be in the stands cheering on the team.

  • Featured Competitor: Hooper, Golfer, Bowler Mark Eberhardt

    For Mark Eberhardt, competing in the Special Olympics isn't just a fun way to fill downtime, it's a way of life. He spends the winter months fine-tuning his jumpshot, the spring and summer perfecting his golf swing, and the fall, chasing turkeys around the bowling alley.

    It's been Mark's annual routine for years: practice, compete, rinse and repeat.

    In 2015, he participated in the Rip City 3-on-3 tournament, Portland's premier amateur hoops event, for the eighth time, taking home a silver medal. "We had a pretty good team, but we came up short," said Mark. "Hopefully (we'll win) this year."

    Ascending to the podium was a definite highlight in Mark's competitive experience, but that experience goes far beyond just medals and trophies.

    "Mark has grown a lot since he began participating in Special Olympics," said his mom Leona Eberhardt. "He more readily accepts the losses with the wins. In the beginning, he would pout, but now he's better about it. He talks about teamwork. He shares the ball."

    Mark's Special Olympics journey, which began with a medal-winning performance in track and field in his first summer games, hasn't been one he's made alone. "Mark has a lifelong friend who started track and field with him many years ago, they both still participate," said Leona.

    She points out the importance of family support as well. "I make certain Mark gets to his practice and tournaments on time, almost all of which I'm able to stay and watch," she said. "His family supports him 100 percent; he knows that."

    This year's Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament is expecting roughly 2,000 players on almost 500 different teams, with competitive divisions spanning youth (boys and girls), high school (boys and girls), adult (men, women and co-ed teams), elite (men and women), the Special Olympics division and the Unified Sports division. It will be held in Portland's Rose Quarter on July 30 and 31.

    Anyone interested in volunteering or registering an athlete should visit the official tournament website. You can also "like" the Facebook event page, or follow @RipCity3on3 on Twitter and Instagram for more information.

    "When I watch Mark play, I look to see if he's playing as a team member," said Leona. "Special Olympics teaches the athletes to be proud of who they are, to believe in themselves and to be fearless in trying their best together."

    Les Schwab Tire Centers is proud to sponsor the Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament and athletes like Mark again this year.

  • Former Foster Child Pays it Forward with Luggage Project

    To Mike, the founder of Mikey's Luggage, every child deserves dignity, regardless of her or his situation. As someone who grew up in foster care, Mike said he always struggled with moving from home to home with his belongings — indeed, his entire life's possessions — clumsily stuffed into a couple of trash bags.

    "When other schoolmates see that there's a car with a county official stamp on it and back seat full of trash bags or boxes full of stuff, your peers know what's going on, and they figure out real quick that you're a foster child," Mike said.

    That was one of the most difficult experiences for Mike as a foster child. When he finally landed with the foster family that eventually adopted him, he promised to help other foster kids survive the transitional period. In 2013, he made good on his promise and started Mikey's Luggage, which helps to replace the garbage bags with brand new luggage that foster children can call their own. Garbage bags are meant for garbage, not for one's most-prized possessions.

    "If I could grant one wish for foster kids today, it would probably be to give them some dignity, and I think the first place we can start is through luggage," Mike said. "I think the dignity comes from the normalcy of suitcases, something that is traditionally used by everybody else."

    Mikey's Luggage works with Koinonia Family Services, who helps foster children in California and Nevada, to ensure that every suitcase donated goes directly to a foster child. Les Schwab Tire Centers is proud to support Mike's cause by designating its Sacramento-area locations as drop-off centers for area donations.

    Mike knows the little things can make a big difference for children living in foster care, and the way they collect and move their material lives matters.

    "That's kind of my rock, you can't touch it," he said, reflecting on the importance of his own bag as a child. "It's the one thing you can't take from me. That's why I started Mikey's Luggage."

    To contribute a new suitcase or duffle bag to a foster child, simply swing by one of the Sacramento-area Les Schwab stores and let the on-duty manager know it's for Mikey's Luggage.

  • Go-to Snack Is Also Favorite Donation

    Popcorn is a long-standing and popular tradition in our waiting rooms at Les Schwab Tire Centers, but more and more it's becoming a recognizable element of our community involvement, too.

    In Monroe, Wash., popcorn is the weekly treat at the Friday afternoon Popcorn Social at Chain Lake Elementary School thanks to the nearby Les Schwab store. The P.T.A. had previously been forced to charge students for the snack. Even at less than a dollar a bag, the cost was out of reach for some kids, so for the last three years the crew has sponsored the event with 15 cases of popcorn, making it free for everybody. The Monroe store also supplies popcorn for the town's National Night Out Against Crime, when citizens get together for an evening of community building with the Monroe Rotary Club and police and fire departments.

    The Kaysville, Utah, store is similarly involved in providing popcorn for worthwhile community events. The Les Schwab there supports the Davis County Sheriff's office when the officers host programs for local kids. Every month, officers invite underprivileged young people to their Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known by its acronym, D.A.R.E. And at Halloween, they host an event called "Trunk or Treat" where classic cars line the parking lot and children wear their costumes to trick-or-treat in a safe environment. Popcorn supplied by Les Schwab powers the kids through both events.

    Les Schwab donations of popcorn and related supplies allow high school students a chance to practice valuable job skills and raise money for their activities. The Riverdale, Utah, store, for example, donates the popcorn maker, bags and popcorn to nearby Bonneville High School for the football and basketball seasons. Students who run the concession booth sell bottles of water and bags of popcorn for $1 each and get to keep the proceeds to spend on activities. For the past two years in southwest Washington, 10 stores have partnered to sponsor 22 local high schools with popcorn, oil and seasonings for lunchtime and game day booths. (The concessions are so popular that the schools have bought their own machines.) Feedback from the athletic directors is overwhelmingly positive.

    This kind of sponsorship gives the students a chance to practice the kind of life skills we know will stand them in good stead: hard work, responsibility and community involvement.

    At a city council meeting last March, Mayor Leonard Kelley of Stanwood, Wash., recognized the local Les Schwab for outstanding community service. He noted the company sponsors numerous community events, but he singled out as his favorite a story about the team donating its popcorn machine for the town's summer Movies in the Park series.

    "Moms with kids — who weren't customers — were coming in [to Les Schwab] to thank them for the popcorn," Kelley said.

    Kids enjoying popcorn at a Les Schwab Tire Center.

    So popcorn is more than our signature snack: It's one of the many ways we do more than take care of tires, brakes and alignment. We are members of the community who see a need and step up to meet it.

  • Grit and Focus Power Jesuit Defensive End

    Being a high school athlete isn't always easy. Juggling practice and games, schoolwork, family, friends and everything else takes focus; Jesuit High School senior defensive end David Bridges was more than up for the challenge this year.

    Seniors help deliver victory

    Including David, Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Oregon had 37 seniors on the football team roster, each of whom was determined not to repeat last year's 42-41 loss to Tigard High School in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A football championship quarterfinals. Training hard in the summer and during the season, on the field and in the weight room, helped the Jesuit Crusaders win the sixth state football championship in the school's history.

    Balancing school, sports and family

    On top of three AP classes, varsity sports and making plenty of time for his family, David has worked hard to make sure everything in his life gets the attention it deserves. When asked how he juggles it all, he said, "I wouldn't say I have a secret, but I try to manage my time as much as I can. I definitely don't get the recommended amount of sleep every night. I guess my secret is that whatever I am doing, I give my full attention to it. If I'm at football, I'm not trying to think about my homework or my test tomorrow. If I'm doing homework, I'm not checking Instagram or watching TV."

    That ability to focus served David and the rest of his team well all season: They entered the championship game against third seed West Linn with an undefeated 14-0 record. Nevertheless, late in the fourth quarter they were trailing 14-13. But a 2-yard touchdown with 1:13 left put them over the top, 21-14.

    Victory is always sweet, but doubly so when it's hard earned. David and the Crusaders did their school proud.

    Les Schwab Tire Centers is a proud sponsor of the Oregon School Activities Association.

  • Hard Work and Teamwork, on the Field and Off

    Felix Songolo, sophomore captain of the varsity boys' soccer team at De La Salle North Catholic High School (shown here sporting his Knights jersey), has been playing soccer since he was five. The game runs in his family: His father, mother, older brother, younger twin brothers, and even his youngest brother, now five years old himself, all play. Felix says his first memory from childhood is of watching his older brother play soccer when their family still lived in Africa.

    Felix and his family moved to the U.S. in 2005, fleeing conflict in their home country of Zambia. Throughout his time in a refugee camp and afterward in adjusting to life in America, Felix found a sense of community in playing soccer. Now, after overcoming difficult times, he refuses to let anything stand in his way. Even with a busy practice schedule, he plans to maintain his 4.0 GPA, graduate as the class valedictorian and go on to play college soccer.

    "My parents sacrificed to move to America, and because of that, I don't take the opportunity to get an education and play soccer for granted," said Felix. "If my desire for success is greater than my fear of failure, then I will succeed."

    Felix credits soccer with helping him deal with challenges because it's a team sport.

    "I started school in the first grade, and it was tough because I did not have many friends other than my family," Felix said. "Playing soccer during recess gave me a voice with the other kids and helped me create friendships and a deeper love for the game."

    As an intern at Oregon Health & Science University through the Corporate Work Study Program, Felix also gains experience, friendships and preparation for his dream of becoming a neurologist. He credits his parents as the force that helps him perform to the best of his abilities, as he says, "continuing to push me through thick and thin, placing their lives on hold for me and my siblings."

    We admire Felix for his hard work and teamwork, two values we can get behind.

  • In an Uncommon Game, Lessons to Last a Lifetime

    Not many American high schools boast a rugby team. According to USA Rugby, about 30,000 U.S. high schoolers play the sport. But its lack of popularity didn't stop the Great Oak High School seniors of Temecula, Calif., from starting their own team.

    Rugby's lessons in sportsmanship are at its core. While highly competitive and physical, the game also requires players from opposing teams to look out for one another. As a symbol of this mutual dedication, rugby players have a ritual of sharing a meal together after a match.

    "Rugby has a certain expectation of sportsmanship, which is above most experiences that kids and parents have at the high school level," said Anna Booth, mother of one of the Great Oak's rugby players. "After each game, the hosting team feeds the guests. It doesn't matter what happens on the field. Afterward, you are in a fellowship with the other side. The culture is really incredible."

    Sportsmanship has long been a cornerstone of rugby. Throughout 19th century England, in those schools and institutions where the game's rules were slowly formalized, rugby was seen as a way of instilling values like unselfishness, courage, teamwork and self-control in the young men who played it. The game's virtues were even exalted in movies, like "Invictus" (2009), starring Matt Damon.

    Knowing the values and sense of camaraderie that rugby imparts, our Temecula Les Schwab store jumped at the chance to sponsor the Great Oaks club for next season. The sponsorship includes providing 30 practice and game balls, which this year's team will pass on to those who want to play next year. Teamwork and integrity are part of Les Schwab's core values, and we look forward to watching this team continue to grow!

  • Big Wheels Plus Little Kids Equal Lots of Fun

    For the past eight years, children of all ages in Southwest Washington have had a good reason to look forward to the third weekend in May, because that's when - rain or shine - they get to go to Dozer Day.

    Dozer Day is an annual, weekend-long fundraising event where the rides are heavy construction equipment. Kids get the real-world construction experience by hopping in the cab - with a professional operator at their sides - and drive bulldozers, excavators and other machines. About 20,000 guests attend Dozer Day every year.

    Les Schwab Tire Centers has been a proud sponsor of the event for several years. The organization behind Dozer Day, the Nutter Family Foundation, shares Les Schwab's values: giving children opportunities to grow and develop their talents, and the importance of community.

    "Whenever we need anything, Les Schwab is there," said Renee Nutter, the event organizer of the Nutter Family Foundation. "Like us, their basic attitude is, ‘We're going to knock it out of the park for them.'"

    Les Schwab's signature contribution is the Tire Crawl, a large sandbox filled sand in which several giant tires — the kind Les Schwab sells for tractors, earth movers and log loaders - are stacked up 5-feet high to give kids a place to climb while they wait their turn to drive one of the big trucks.

    "The kids have a blast, and it gives me a good feeling to watch them," said Brien Rose, manager of the Woodland store. "Plus I get to hear their parents' Les Schwab stories, whether it's about just enjoying the free popcorn in the store or appreciating the donations and fundraisers we contribute to."

    Les Schwab also hosted the pre-event Friday for disadvantaged or disabled children. This year, several hundred kids came from the Evergreen School District to explore the Tire Crawl and had their yellow construction helmets decorated with a Les Schwab sticker.

    Like Les Schwab, the community does its part to make the weekend special for the kids. Members of the Southwest Washington Contractors Association volunteer as operators. Teens, ages 14 to 18, recruited from the key clubs and honor societies in local high schools, make up the other half of volunteers. They do everything from escorting the younger kids to and from the equipment to checking in with guests to make sure they're having a good time.

    The Nutter Family Foundation teams up with individuals and local businesses that also share a passion for fostering kids' growth. For example, members of Portland YouthBuilders volunteer at the event. The nonprofit organization helps provide education, vocational training and leadership development service to low-income youth, is also a recipient of the foundation's grants.

    Renee's goal when she started Dozer Day was to raise $1 million in 10 years, and according to Nutter, it looks like she'll exceed that goal a year early, but the kids will always be her primary focus.

    "I remember in the first year, a little boy was crying his eyes out, so I checked in with his parents to see if he'd been hurt or if someone was picking on him," Renee said. "‘No,' his parents told me. ‘He's just mad because we have to leave.'"

    Lucky for us, Dozer Day will be back next May, with another opportunity to put children in the driver's seat of heavy construction equipment, get to pitch in to help their neighbors and to have fun.

  • Center for Hearing Loss Helps Youth Gain Language Skills, More

    For families like the Longshores, who have two children with hearing impairments, enlisting the right help can be a real challenge.

    "Our second child, Brooklyn, was born with hearing loss that progressively worsened to the point that she was deaf by age 1," said Ashley Longshore. "We desperately wanted to get her sufficient support to allow her (auditory) verbal skills to catch up to other kids her age without hearing loss."

    The family began researching auditory-verbal development schools, which led them to the Children's Choice for Hearing and Talking Center (CCHAT) in Sacramento, Calif. The school focuses on speech and language development for hearing-impaired youth up to third grade in a one-on-one format. The school's early intervention services and educational programs provide invaluable support for children and families throughout Northern California, regardless of socioeconomic status.

    Brooklyn, who is now 6 years old, has made the most of the center.

    "We could never have imagined that Brooklyn's speech and auditory-verbal skills would have progressed so quickly," Ashley said. "Brooklyn loves school, is very proud of her cochlear implants and her ability to communicate with them, and is loving life like any other 5-year-old."

    Our Sacramento-area Les Schwab team is proud to support the CCHAT Center and the families who depend on its services. "Mitch Harrison and his team — everyone at Les Schwab — have been so kind to help CCHAT out with multiple events, attending programs and fundraisers and allowing CCHAT to decorate their tire tree at Christmastime," said Ashley.

    To learn more about the CCHAT Center, or to volunteer, visit the school's official website. To follow along with the school's latest news, be sure to like their Facebook page.

  • Coach Takes Teams to LSI - Twice

    For Marshall Cho, traveling the world is just another way to train young basketball players how to shoot. The Lake Oswego High School coach began his career in 2004 in Central Harlem as a middle school teacher and coach at the Future Leaders Institute Charter School. Then he traveled to South Africa to coach in Mozambique for three years. Cho got his first Les Schwab Invitational experience during his tenure at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, when DeMatha took the 2010 LSI title. Once in Oregon, Cho and his Lake Oswego team scored a spot in the 2015 Les Schwab Invitational.

    Driving the Court

    During the LSI, Oregon teams have the opportunity to play against top-level competition from around the country.

    "We had to get through very tough games against Westview and Jesuit to get to the final," Cho recalled. "In both games, we were down at times and I remember how hard it is for an out-of-town squad to play at the LSI with all the fans backing the Oregon teams."

    Cho and his team applied themselves well in 2015 in order to beat Southridge in their first-round matchup; the team had eliminated Lake Oswego in the state playoffs last year and returned with many of its main players.

    Though Lake Oswego lost to DeMatha Catholic in the second round, Cho welcomed the challenge of playing four games in four nights.

    'Whether We Win or Lose'

    "Coach (Mike) Jones and the DeMatha staff are like family to me and have had a big influence on my coaching philosophy," said Cho. "I think daily about the lessons I learned there as my coaching staff and I lay down the foundations of the Lake Oswego High School program. The Les Schwab Invitational gives us the opportunity to drive home the lesson of focusing on the next play whether we win or lose, because there is no time to celebrate or sulk."

    Les Schwab Tire Centers thank all the players and coaches who made the 2015 LSI worth watching!

  • Community Joins Forces to Help Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue

    Les Schwab Tire Centers is honored to be a part of the Portland community's response that transformed a senseless crime into a moment of gratitude.

    During a winter snowstorm, members of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's Station 66, in Beaverton, went out to help a woman who had given birth in her home. When they returned to the station, someone had slashed the tires of five personal vehicles in the parking lot.

    To help the firefighters raise money for the repairs, two community members set up GoFundMe pages. When Les Schwab learned from its media partner, 99.5 FM The Wolf, the first responders were the victims of vandalism, there was no doubt that the company wanted to jump in and support the effort!

    Les Schwab believes in supporting organizations and activities that help those in need. Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue does that every day.

    "This contribution is a small token of our appreciation for all they do," said Joe Rector, Les Schwab Portland area manager. "Our first responders are there for us when we need them most, and we were happy to be able to return the favor!"

    Between the money raised through the GoFundMe pages and the support from Portland-area Les Schwab stores, all tires have been replaced and tow fees have been covered to make this situation right.

    "We have been overwhelmed and humbled by all of the support we have gotten from the community," Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Cassandra Ulven told The Oregonian.

    If you're interested in reading more about how this situation became a rallying point for our community, check out these stories on FOX 12 and The Oregonian.