There have been several new faces in town this weekend, as New York City children have been discovering firsthand local Commack hot spots before branching out to see what Long Island has to offer.
The Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit founded in 1877, places New York City children for a week with families in a small town to enjoy a different kind of environment. Many children, between the ages of 6 and 18, stay with the same host family summer after summer. A bus of 21 city children have arrived in Commack July 18 to spend the week with local host families, with a second trip coming in August.
"It's so nice to see a child that has a different world opened up to them," said Gina Karp, of Commack.
Gina Karp and her husband, James, have been a host family with the Fresh Air Fund since 2002, opening their home to five children over the past 10 years. Gina said her husband's family has been involved as local hosts for years, since before they were married, and its a tradition the Commack couple wanted to continue.
"It's great for my children to learn to be kind to other people, to open up their hearts and their homes to other," Gina said.
Her 11-year-old-son, Daniel, eagerly awaited for the return of Akeem, a 12-year-old boy from Brooklyn, who the family also hosted in 2011. Host families who mesh well with their guest can extend the invitation year after year.
The Karps had a full scheduled planned to show Akeem, nicknamed C.J., around Long Island. Stops included a day trip to Splish Splash, a day in the Hamptons, ice skating at the Superior Ice Rink and a trip tonight with other Fresh Air Fund families to Adventureland Amusement Park in Farmingdale.
Gina said despite the busy schedule, its sometimes the little things and opportunities the city children normally wouldn't have that make the biggest impact.
"Every child who has come to us so far has not been able to swim, because they live int he city and haven't had the opportunity to learn. So every child that has come to us, we take advantage of the opportunity to get them swimming lessons," she said.
The swimming lessons and acquired skills stay with the Fresh Air Fund children long after their one-week trip is over.
Akeem is just one of the more than 4,200 New York City kids who will spend a week visiting "friendly towns" from Maine down to Virginia this summer under the Fresh Air Fund.
Other host locations in Suffolk County include the Hamptons and Medford areas.
A second busload of children will be arriving in Commack early in August to spend an extended two weeks with local host families. To learn more about the Fresh Air Fund and how your family could host a child, visit the nonprofit organization's website.