Splish Splash, Adventureland, Cedar Beach, Smith Point – they're just a few of the many attractions around Long Island, places familiar to so many on the island. However the same can't be said for many kids in New York City who come from disadvantaged communities.
But that's where the Fresh Air Fund comes in, and this past week, three local families stepped up to host kids from such communities for a breath of fresh air.
"It’s a rewarding experience for us to give an opportunity for the kids and watch them enjoy the things we have that they don’t have," said Margo Abrams of Miller Place, whose family has been participating with the organization for three years.
Jelaya, an 11-year-old girl from Brooklyn, has visited the Abrams family three times so far – and has fit right in, after hitting it off with Margo and Paul Abrams' daughter Halle. "They’re definitely both girly girls. They were doing their nails, they enjoy all the same music," Margo said.
Matthew and Sherrie Kelly of Mount Sinai have had much the same experience, hosting Jayssen, 8, of the Morningside Heights neighborhood, for the third year in a row. "This is his opportunity to have an anchor, to run around," Sherrie said. "We went to Splish Splash. We actually get in some extra excursions because he’s here."
Jayssen has become a friend to the Kellys' son Jack, 6, and the family keeps in touch with him throughout the year.
"I cannot encourage people enough to do it," Sherrie said. "It’s very rewarding. He’s like another member of the family. ... Quite honestly, I see this is a lifelong thing."
For Terry Holtzman of Stony Brook, whose family has been participating with the Fresh Air Fund for four years, the program carries special meaning.
"My grandmother used to be in the Fresh Air Fund," Terry said. "She used to tell me stories of how she would spend time on a farm in Pennsylvania. I always thought it was such a great program that we got involved as soon as we could."
The Holtzman family welcomed 13-year-old Tajai, from the Bronx, this past week. It's the third time Tajai has visited the Holtzmans, hitting it off with their daughter Julia, who is just a year younger. Together they spent four days in Montauk, went to Adventureland, and had sleepovers with Julia's friends.
This year close to 4,000 kids got weeklong "vacations" via the Fresh Air Fund, which has been around since 1877, according to executive director Jenny Morgenthau. She said the experience can be an educational one for both the children and the families they stay with.
"The host families all say that they get more than they give," she said. "We have more kids who would like to go than we have host families who signed up. Think about it for next summer."