GLOVERSVILLE - Every summer, thousands of children leave their homes in inner-city New York to spend a week or two with host families in rural, suburban and small-town communities.
While the program sends children all over the Northeast, a few of them get a taste of life in Fulton and Montgomery counties, where they can experience lakes, farms and mountain trails for the first time.
Brenda Huitian, a 7-year-old girl from Manhattan, recently spent two weeks with the family of Amy and Chuck Goebel at their home outside Gloversville. The Goebels' children - Emma, age 9, Derek, 7, and Jordan, 2 - enjoyed entertaining their guest and introducing her to life in a small town far from the subways and skyscrapers of the Big Apple.
Brenda Huitian from New York City swims with Emma Goebel during Brenda’s recent stay in Fulton County through the Fresh Air Fund. (Photo courtesy of Amy Goebel)
Brenda Huitian, second from left, poses with freshly picked strawberries with the Goebel children, Derek, Emma and Jordan. Brenda’s stay with the local family this summer was her first trip outside New York City. (Photo courtesy of Amy Goebel)
In this July 1966 photo taken at the Amsterdam train station, Richard L. Loeben (in the hat), checks nametags for 11 children who had just arrived from New York City to spend two weeks with local families through the Fresh Air Fund. Loeben was the chairman of the Fresh Air Fund Committee of the Gloversville Rotary Club, which then was the local sponsor for about 30 children every summer in the 1960s. (Leader-Herald photo archives)
"Emma was excited to host a girl," Amy Goebel said of her daughter. "Brenda was a great match for our children."
Brenda, whose family mostly speaks Spanish at home, stayed with the Goebels from June 28 to July 10.
"It was wonderful," Goebel said. "Brenda had never been out of the city before. She had a wonderful time, and she had a lot of 'first' experiences."
Among them was swimming in a lake for the first time.
"I liked when I went to the beach, and when I went strawberry picking," Brenda said, and though the trip was "exciting and fun," she admits to having felt a twinge of homesickness.
"But she did a good job of making it through," Goebel said. All the children got a lot out of the experience, Goebel said, learning about each other's home lives and cultural differences.
"It's a really great program, and I think it's great to be able to get a kid out of the city and into the country for a bit," Goebel said. "It was a great experience for our children, too."
She said her family looks forward to hosting a child - either Brenda or another child - again in the future.
A new group of Fresh Air children, ages 6 to 18, arrived by bus on Tuesday in Saratoga Springs, where they met their host families before heading to their homes all around the Capital Region.
"The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877," according to the organization's mission statement on its website. "Each summer, over 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program."