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

Kids at Camp Best Friends at the Dunbar Recreation Center in southwest Atlanta 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.

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“They gave me all the industry-updated tools to get into the field of music and work with different artists,” he said.

Ten-year-old Taylor Brown is good at math, but she’s also an aspiring rap artist who said she 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 for the camp is ‘Around the World.’

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

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Mayor Andre Dickens came to explore the program. For him, the visit brought back memories.

“I attended Camp Best Friends on the west side, in Southwest Atlanta,” he said. “I played a lot of baseball, that was my sport, that was my thing, baseball, kickball, and in the afternoons, we got to swim.”

Dickens also mentioned that his daughter participated in the camp.

Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson started the camp in 1981 during a tragic time in Atlanta history. At that point, at least 28 children and young adults were killed during what has become known as the Atlanta Child Murders. Jackson created the camp as a safe haven for children, turning the tragedy surrounding the city 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.

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.