Next month, a young man from the Bronx will travel upstate for the third summer in a row to, among other things, revel in the joy of picking his own blueberries.
13-year-old Shemar, whose last name could not be disclosed for privacy reasons, is one of more than 42 Fresh Air children who will visit New York’s Southern Tier this summer, according to a recent media release.
Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund has organized and provided free summer vacations to rural, suburban and small town communities for more than 1.8 million children from low-income New York City families, the release said.
Each summer, more than 4,000 Fresh Air children stay with host families across 13 states, from Virginia to Maine.
For the third consecutive year, Shemar will be staying with the Efthimiou family, of Delhi, who said getting involved with the nonprofit agency has been one of the best decisions they have ever made.
“It’s a way of blessing a child that doesn’t have the opportunity to — quite literally — enjoy a summer full of fresh air,” said Leslee Efthimiou, a mother of four. “But it’s also really a blessing for us. It gave us an appreciation for the life we have in Delhi and has brought a wonderful kid into our lives.”
Shemar will be arriving in Delhi in August and will stay with the family for a week, Efthimiou said.
Efthimiou first heard about The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program at Delhi’s community Fair on the Square event, she said. It seemed like an easy thing to give up a week of vacation “in order to bless a child that wouldn’t otherwise have this kind of opportunity.”
According to the release, The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city.
From the get-go, Shemar adapted “really well” to Upstate living, Efthimiou said. He seemed excited to be in a new place and went along with whatever the family of six had planned for each day.
“He meshes with our family really well,” Efthimiou said.
During his week-long stay, Shemar gets to meet the friends and neighbors of the Efthimiou family and participate in fun family activities, such as swimming, biking, hiking, playing games, sitting around the campfire and eating “a lot of ice cream,” Efthimiou said.
One such excursion took place last summer when the family hiked to the top of Vroman’s Nose in Schoharie County, Efthimiou said.
Efthimiou’s four children, who range in age from 18 to 23, have all grown close to Shemar, she said. They will all come home for his visit in August.
Even though all four children are significantly older than Shemar, he brings out the kid in them, Efthimiou said.
“My youngest son enjoys bringing the Legos back out,” Efthimiou said.
During the other 11 months of the year, Efthimiou tries to keep in touch with Shemar by calling him at least once on the telephone and sending him a package on his birthday, she said.
But it doesn’t take much to please the 13-year-old, whose experience with gardening, vegetation and other “green things” was minimal before coming to Delhi.
“Every morning, he goes outside and picks blueberries,” Efthimiou said. “He loves it. I give him a little bucket to put them in. It’s so nice to see him having so much fun and so full of joy.”