Camp Okizu for families coping with cancer gets new life in temporary location

ByLena Howland via KGO logo
Friday, August 19, 2022
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Camp Okizu, for families coping with cancer, is back at a temporary Livermore location after losing everything in the North Complex Fire in 2020.

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- A camp designed for families coping with cancer is back after losing everything in the North Complex Fire in 2020.

This week, Camp Okizu is being held in Livermore, thanks to the Taylor Family Foundation.

Both camps are well known to ABC7 viewers, as former ABC7 Anchor Cheryl Jennings regularly profiled their wonderful work.

RELATED: Camp Okizu marks 35 years of helping kids with cancer

Tucked in the hills of Berry Creek in Butte County, complete with their own lake, Camp Okizu was once a welcome retreat.

"Camp Okizu is a magical space, a magical camp, for families affected by cancer, and it's a place for the whole family to come to find respite, community, support, love and to have fun," Amy Siegel, a board member for Camp Okizu, said.

But decades of memories made here were reduced to rubble in the unforgiving path of the North Complex Fire in 2020.

EXCLUSIVE: Tour heartbreaking wildfire damage at Camp Okizu in Butte County

It's something longtime camper, 17-year-old Julian Carter, remembers like yesterday.

"I cried for a while, that was kinda tough, and I'm sure it was tough for a lot of people because Berry Creek, that was Okizu," Carter said.

Carter had been visiting since he was in middle school after learning about his brother's cancer diagnosis.

"Before coming to camp, I was a lot more closed off and I bottled up all my feelings because I didn't really know who to talk to about it. But after coming here for the first time, I met a bunch of people who were very similar to me, so it was a lot easier to open up," he said.

With no place left to go, that's when the Taylor Family Foundation stepped in to help.

"Well they lost their camp and I know how critical camp was to them because we used to fund it, and I couldn't imagine the families not having that service for themselves and for their children," Elaine Taylor, co-founder and president of the Taylor Family Foundation, said.

The foundation opened the doors of Camp Arroyo in Livermore for two weeks at no charge to Okizu, its campers or their families.

"The beauty of camp is that the magic can happen anywhere. It's really the kindness, the love, the community, that makes camp, camp," Siegel said.

While Camp Okizu might be in a different location, the essence of Camp Okizu is following these campers wherever they go.

"Berry Creek did mean a lot to everybody but what matters most is that we're still able to be here together and that's what makes this so special," Carter said.

Camp Okizu does plan to eventually rebuild in a new location.

If you'd like to donate to their mission, visit their website here.

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