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Low-Income New York Kids Come to State College for 'Fresh Air'

by on August 02, 2014 3:15 PM

Messiah Garcia, an eleven-year-old New Yorker, watched the landscape change from skyscrapers and highways to “more open land, and more houses” on his way down to State College for the first time.

Garcia, along with about 15 other New York children, arrived by bus in State College yesterday afternoon as part of an annual trip put on by the Fresh Air Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing free summer vacations to kids from low-income families.

“My sister has done this before, but I haven’t,” Garcia says. “She told me that the people she stayed with were so much fun, that they rode go-karts and golf carts and that I had to give it a try.”

Jeniasha Paige, 10, also joined the Fresh Air trip to State College after a friend extolled the virtues of the two-week vacation. Though she had “to sign lots and lots of papers” to join, she’s excited to spend time in State College.

“I get really annoyed in the city sometimes,” Paige says. “There are a lot of people and a lot of cars, and the city makes a lot of noise.”

Brenda Whyte, a Fresh Air Fund representative, has been involved with the program for the past twelve years. As a host for Fresh Air children, she says the annual summer trip has benefited both the New York kids and her own children.

“One year, my kids were listening to one boy talk about his mom trying to find them a new house because of gun violence and gangs,” Whyte says. “Hearing that gives my kids a whole new appreciation for this area.”

Garcia says that he’s not the only one in his family that will benefit from his time in State College. While he’s looking forward to swimming and hiking, he says his mother will get just as much out of the program as he will.

“This will be good for my mom,” Garcia says. “She’s always stressing out, so it’s good that she gets a break too.”

Pam Hubbard, the Fresh Air Fund chair of the Lock Haven area, says she’s continuing a tradition of hosting Fresh Air children that her parents started when she was young. Each year she looks forward to seeing “the smiles and the excitement, and watching the families fall in love with these kids.”

“The kids don’t cry when they leave on the bus from New York, but they cry when they leave here,” Hubbard says.

Demetrius Brown, 13, has come to State College each summer for the past three years. He says he enjoys the area’s trees and mountains, which help make the trip a nice change of pace from city life.

“I like being able to get out for fresh air,” Brown says.

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Michael Garrett is a freelance reporter who covers a wide range of assignments for StateCollege.com.
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