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'We're Okizu strong' | Camp for kids impacted by cancer destroyed in North Complex Fire

Former campers and volunteers said this was their happiest place on earth and that Disneyland didn't even come close.

BERRY CREEK, Calif. — A 500-acre camp for kids impacted by childhood cancer was destroyed in the North Complex Fire, a board member confirmed with ABC10. 

It's called Camp Okizu and it's been in the Berry Creek area for about 20 years. 

Camp staffers haven't had a chance to see the damage in person yet, so they gave ABC10 permission to visit their property to get a better look at what was left behind.

Former campers and volunteers say this was their happiest place on earth and that Disneyland didn't even come close.

"I think that it really hasn't set in that it's gone," said Jenna Linehan, a former volunteer. "It's weird to even say that out loud, that Okizu is gone."

Linehan has a special connection to the camp. She came here for the first time when she was only 11-years-old after her twin brother was diagnosed with cancer. 

"Had the most amazing summer, met kids that were kind of going through similar situations that we were at the time so we fell in love and continued to go back year after year," she said.

Linehan's brother passed away before he could come here with her the following summer, but still, she kept coming back. She eventually became a camp counselor with plans to help out as a nurse after she got her degree. 

"So seeing this symbol of my brother and my experience with having a child in our family that had cancer, now gone, it almost kind of reopens that whole in my heart a little bit," she said.

For background, Hanna Malak, a camp board member says Okizu, the name of the camp, comes from the Sioux language and means unity, to come together, to heal from a hurt and to make whole.

"One of our families said it best. They said they go to the hospital to cure the cancer and they come to Okiza to heal," Malak said.

And while camp staffers still haven't had a chance to look at the damage yet to decide how they want to move forward, they said the iconic fireplace still standing in the middle of where the dining hall once was is a sign. 

"It resembles that we are a strong community. We're going to stick together. We're Okizu strong," he said.

Although camp was virtual this past summer because of COVID-19, all of these programs at Camp Okizu are offered to families free of charge, as many are already facing the financial burden of undergoing cancer treatment.


WATCH ALSO: Butte County Sheriff identifies 2 dead from North Complex West Zone Fire

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea identified the two victims who died in the North Complex Fire as Josiah Williams, 16, and Millicent Catarancuic, 77.

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