Saul Saldivar, 12, and Mark Wilks, 13, both of Brooklyn are enjoying themselves on the North Fork for the next couple of weeks as visitors with locals participating in the Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.
Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from 6 to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for one or two weeks. Over 65 percent of all children are re-invited to stay with their host families, year after year.
Mark is one of those kids who have been experiencing repeat stays with Greenport couple Carole and Richard Mavity. The Mavitys have been participating in Fresh Air for the past nine years. Mark has been visiting for the past four.
“The first thing he wanted to do this year was to play mini-golf, but we haven’t gotten to that yet,” Carole said. “When he arrives, we make a calendar and fill in the things he’d like to do when he’s here. We’ve already been sailing out of Orient, swimming at the beach, renting movies at the library for the evening. We know Mark really well and are always delighted to have him.”
Kathleen Dwyer of East Marion is another host to the Fresh Air kids. She is showing around Saul Saldivar during his stay this summer. She said that they’ve already been bike riding in Greenport, have visited the aquarium in Riverhead and plan a day at the beach on the ocean in Westhampton.
“The rule that I have is that anything goes — within reason, of course,” Dwyer said. “He’s never been in the bay before so he’s learning. And he can pick out whatever he wants for dinner every night. He definitely keeps me busy.”
Carole Mavity said that her family has owned a house on the Long Island Sound near 67 Steps beach in Greenport since 1936. She is now 69 and her husband is 71, and they are on the older scale of people who participate in hosting the Fresh Air kids. But she said that there is nothing like the reunion with Mark every summer for a couple of weeks — it gives him a healthy way to spend a part of his summer and keeps them feeling young.
“It really does keep us young and amused — and it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I remember how much of a great time I had growing up out here, the summers spent in Greenport. And things like clamming and boating are so new to so many of these children. If they weren’t doing something like this, they’d be home playing video games when they should be out running around. There are so many things for children to do around here, and we fill it up every day.”
For more information on hosting a Fresh Air child, please contact LaShika Walker at ext. 8962 or The Fresh Air Fund at 800-367-0003. You can also visit them online at www.freshair.org.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.