Atlanta’s Camp Best Friends provides safe haven, summer fun for children

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — A summer camp launched during a dark time in Atlanta history more than four decades ago is still providing a safe haven and fun activities for kids years later.

Kids at Camp Best Friends at the Dunbar Recreation Center are spending their summer days playing sports and getting STEM training, and kids like Javon Ridley are learning music technology using some high-tech equipment at the center. “They gave me all the industry-updated tools to get into the field of music and work with different artists,” he said.

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Taylor Brown, 10, is good in math, but she’s also an aspiring rap artist who enjoys everything the camp has to offer. “It’s fun. “They teach us a lot of stuff so when we go back to school, we can have that in our knowledge,” she said. “I just want to thank Camp Best Friends for helping me with my music and helping me with all my careers.”

This year’s theme is ‘Around the World.’ “We’re exploring different continents every week for seven weeks,” said Andrea Barnett, the program director for Camp Best Friends. “We actually had the virtual camp in 2020, and then a hybrid program last summer, so we’re not back in effect.”

Mayor Andre Dickens came to explore the program, and it brought back memories. “I attended Camp Best Friends on the West side, in Southwest Atlanta,” he said, recalling how his daughter also participated in the camp. “I played a lot of baseball, that was my sport, that was my thing, baseball, kickball, and in the afternoons, we got to swim.”

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Former Mayor Maynard Jackson started the camp in 1981 during a tragic time in Atlanta history, when at least 28 children and young adults were killed during what’s known as the Atlanta Child Murders. Jackson created this camp as safe haven, turning tragedy into a bright future for thousands of kids.

“He was the mayor when I was born, and so here I am now, a few generations later, and now I’m the mayor of this city, and we’re keeping the legacy going,” Dickens said.

“It is definitely everything to me, like I am so honored to just be in this position upholding the legacy,” said Barnett.

The legacy lives on, as these kids enjoy their summer days and create new memories.

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For information on Camp Best Friends, click here.

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