Hey there, Phoenix Phamily! We’re at that point of the year where the summer is coming to a close, schools are back in session and, unfortunately, COVID-19 is still with us.

So let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve been up to and where we’re going for the rest of 2021.

First things first: We regrettably had to cut summer camp short this year.

After discovering one positive test result for COVID-19 at our facility—and considering the number of staff and kids needing to quarantine as a result—we had to make the tough decision to shut down camp and send everyone home.

The camp facilities director, our nurse and our Board of Directors all agreed to immediately quarantine our campers and arrange to get them home. With the Delta variant surging in our communities—particularly in East and West Oakland, where most of our campers live—we felt it was best to err on the safer side.

However, that’s not where the story ends.

Despite our camp coming to an end so soon, we hold firm to the time we were able to share as a community for the five days in which we were gifted.

Believe it or not, our campers were still able to make wonderful memories during the short time we got to spend with each other this summer.

Here are some of the memories that will stay with us for a while…

On Day One, the campers got to experience the tunnel of love.

For those not familiar with this Camp Phoenix tradition, picture you’re a middle school teenager who’s been on a long bus ride with other loud, excited middle school teenagers from Oakland and you’re in the middle of nowhere.

As soon as you pull up to the campsite, you see all this lush, green nature…it either makes you want to frolic in the grass or you want to go straight to your bunk to take a nap (depending on your previous experiences with the great outdoors). Either way, you’re met with a big surprise the moment you step off the bus.

You hear some familiar hip hop music over the loudspeakers and you see all these people standing in front of you wearing Camp Phoenix shirts and capes and cheering you on. It looks like a Soul Train line…even if you’re too young to know what that means. And everyone cheering you on looks and sounds like they’ve had one too many energy drinks.

You have no choice but to run, walk or dance through all that excitement with a smile on your face (while still wearing your mask, of course). That’s what the tunnel of love is like.

Then came one of our favorite parts of the summer: coming up with camp names!

We love this tradition because you can tell some campers had been thinking about it all throughout the pandemic. This is where we start to see some of their personalities come out, and it allows all of us to bring some of our Oakland pride to other parts of the Bay Area.

Here are some of our favorite camp names from this summer:

Fruity Pebbles


Shooting Star


Random Fun
Mega Mind
Lil Curry

At the end of the first night, we all ate dinner outside and held the opening ceremony around a campfire so the campers could officially meet their counselors and the rest of the team that would guide them throughout their camp experience.

Coach, our director of programs and operations, served as the official hype man for each of our staff members, and let’s just say we’re all just now getting our voices back.

The rest of the days were spent hiking, doing academic instruction with our brainfeeders, bonding, campfires, eating delicious, homemade food (that pepperoni pizza casserole was fire!), playing dodgeball and, of course, playing an epic battle of Capture the Flag.

At the end of the day, we knew there could be the possibility that the pandemic would disrupt our plans this year.

However, we also knew how important it was to do our best to give Black and Brown kids from Oakland an experience of being in a community where you can find healing in the great outdoors—especially after going through the challenges of this past year.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the communities that are struggling with this COVID-19 resurgence.

We hope most of our campers and summer camp staff can come back next year.