'Sweet Spot' With Mike Sugerman: NYC Teens Get A Country Experience With The Fresh Air Fund

July 05, 2018 - 7:46 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Lamar Bell of South Jamaica. Queens is ready to enjoy a summer of strawberry picking and blueberry picking.

picking and blueberry picking.

“Yes – he loves it,” said mom Louise Bell.

Fruit picking in South Jamaica, Queens? No. Lamar is joining thousands of other city kids who get to turn into country mice because of the Fresh Air Fund, WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman reported in this week’s “Sweet Spot.”

“We’ve come to truly understand the value and power of summer, and the fact that summer matters in the life of a child,” said Fatima Shama, executive director of the Fund.

The Fund started in 1866, when a minister thought it a good idea to get kids out of the Lower East Side tenements because of tuberculous. And it continues today with low-income kids throughout New York City.

“It’s been something that’s been completely life-changing,” said Israel Dudley.

Dudley spent summers with a Vermont family before he went to college – the first to do so in his family. He then became a counselor for the fund.

“It’s shown me more opportunities,” Dudley said. “Me leaving New York City was really good for me, because it gave the chance to see something different than what I would see in my neighborhood.”

The host families learn from their guests, of course, too. Linda Byam appreciates getting to know people whom her family normally wouldn’t. 

“We take a lot of that for granted, and we don’t necessarily understand that people don’t have the opportunity to fish and swim and play baseball and play basketball in a park every day,” Byam said.

Her family’s is a different lifestyle to be sure for Lamar Bell.

“I wake up to a kale smoothie” every morning in Connecticut,” he said. “It’s good, but…”

It’s not so much on the menu at home.