Providing Atlanta youth with safe, happy summers since 1981: Camp Best Friends

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Forty years ago, in the summer of 1979, Atlanta was gripped with fear over what would become known as the ‘Atlanta missing and murdered children’ case. For the next two years, at least 28 children, adolescents and adults were murdered.

Born from that dark time was a wonderful city asset that remains active today, Camp Best Friends, managed by the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation. Camp Best Friends launched in 1981 as the Super Summer program, a fun and low-cost place for children to spend their summer days in a safe and productive environment. Early funding for the camp came from some of Atlanta’s prominent businesses and foundations, as well as through a public fundraising campaign. The Community Foundation was at the center of what, at the time, was a unique public-private partnership.

In 1988, the city set up an endowment fund with the Community Foundation to hold and manage assets that help fund the camp in partnership with annual city funding. The original investments to the fund totaled approximately $375,000. Through the Community Foundation’s financial diligence and management, the endowment has continued to grow. Since its inception the fund has paid out $1.1 million to help support annual camp operations, and today the corpus of the fund totals $2.1 million, as a lasting legacy to our city’s children.

Today, thousands of children continue to enjoy summer camp at 25 sites across the city for as little as $35 per week. Campers enjoy a range of sports and recreation activities that include climbing Atlanta’s only public recreation center rock wall at the M.L.K., Jr. Rec Center and also participating in more modern pursuits like computer coding.

As the expenses necessary to fund a well-run camp continue to grow over time, city funding has to make up the difference. If you would like to lend your support to Camp Best Friends through your fund, contact your philanthropic officer to learn more about how you can contribute to the fund we hold at the Community Foundation.

This story was originally published in The Giving Life.