By Lindsay Andarakis
Every summer for the past four years, Southampton resident Jennie Magaro and her family have looked forward to a special summer visitor. And once again this summer, the Magaro family will welcome Tyshawn, who comes to them through the Fresh Air Fund.
According to Ms. Magaro, Tyshawn, a shy 14-year-old from Queens, looks forward to coming out to the Hamptons to spend time with his host family as much as they have enjoyed getting to know him.
Tyshawn is one of 11 children from the Fresh Air Fund who have visited the East End already this year. Another 17 are expected to visit this summer.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent and not-for-profit agency that has given over 1.8 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods free and uplifting summer experiences and academic programs since it was founded in 1877. Every summer, almost 4,000 children move in with host families in rural and suburban communities across the East Coast, including here on the East End, through the fund’s Friendly Towns Program.
When Fresh Air Fund children are invited back by the same family, they can continue with the program until they turn 18 and stay for longer visits each summer. Ms. Magaro’s children, Ashton and Zaida Triffitt, were both excited to see Tyshawn again — the three have developed close bonds over the last several years.
“It’s nice to have the same child repeat because you kind of really get to know their preferences, and they’re much more comfortable, no one gets nervous, and it’s just a really comfortable, easy visit,” Mrs. Magaro said.
There are plenty of fun activities on the horizon for Tyshawn’s visit this week. “I know what he’s looking forward to doing,” Ms. Magaro said. “We always go to the beach, we always go out on our boat and go fishing. He likes to do that a lot. And then, it depends on what the weather is doing, and what’s going on, but we were hoping to go to the LongHouse, and we’re hoping to do Quogue Wildlife Refuge.”
Typically, she said, the family focuses on a lot of outdoor activities for Tyshawn’s stay in Southampton.
Unfortunately, she said, there is a shortage of families willing to host Fresh Air children on the East End.
“They really need a lot more host families. I think it’s kind of silly because there are so many families that would be great for it,” she said. “It’s such a great area with so much to do, but I know very, very few people that do it.”
Ms. Magaro said she would recommend other families take the plunge. “I do think if they actually tried it, it’s not that difficult, I think it’s kind of a misperception that they think, ‘Well, you know, I have my own kids and we’re so busy and I have a lot going on,’” she said. “And that’s true for everybody in life, but I think especially once you get to know a kid, it’s really not that much more difficult than taking care of your own kids. You just bring them wherever you go and they love it so much.”
The experience is as gratifying for her family, as it is for Tyshawn, she said.
“I think at the end of the day when you can say, ‘Oh, I’ve really helped somebody feel good about themselves’ and have a good time, then it’s worth it, but I think that people again are intimidated just by the prospect of doing it,” she said. “I wish more people would try it. I think if they tried it, they’d really, really enjoy it.”
For more information about the Fresh Air Fund’s programs, call (800) 367-0003 or visit freshair.org.