2016-07-21 / News

Hosting kids for Fresh Air Fund often generational

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

Richard "Richie" Rubino, 7, of the Bronx is a Fresh Air child staying with the Goldberg family in Saco for two weeks. Richie shows Hayleigh Goldberg, 5, how to break-dance and do "the dab" at Aquaboggan Water Park on Sunday, July 17. (Ben Meiklejohn photo)Richard "Richie" Rubino, 7, of the Bronx is a Fresh Air child staying with the Goldberg family in Saco for two weeks. Richie shows Hayleigh Goldberg, 5, how to break-dance and do "the dab" at Aquaboggan Water Park on Sunday, July 17. (Ben Meiklejohn photo)SOUTHERN MAINE – Last week, 27 children from New York City arrived in southern Maine, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund, to get out of the city and experience Maine. The children are matched up with host families for one- to two-week visits where they enjoy recreational activities in Maine and a change of pace from city living.

Samantha Brink, a co-chairman for the Biddeford area “friendly town,” said she grew up with her parents hosting Fresh Air kids in the summer, and the family established meaningful friendships with their guest children that have endured even to adulthood. Oftentimes, Brink said, the children will return each year to the same family.


Fresh Air Fund child Richard “Richie” Rubino, of the Bronx, center, with Hayleigh and Cameron Goldberg, of Saco, enjoy the cool water at Aquaboggan Water Park last Sunday. Richie is a Fresh Air kid on retreat from the big city life to visit the Goldbergs for the second year in a row. Hayleigh and Cameron said Richie is “like a brother” to them and hope he returns every year. (Courtesy photo) Fresh Air Fund child Richard “Richie” Rubino, of the Bronx, center, with Hayleigh and Cameron Goldberg, of Saco, enjoy the cool water at Aquaboggan Water Park last Sunday. Richie is a Fresh Air kid on retreat from the big city life to visit the Goldbergs for the second year in a row. Hayleigh and Cameron said Richie is “like a brother” to them and hope he returns every year. (Courtesy photo) One of her family's guests even moved in with the family for a year to finish up his last year of high school in Sanford, graduated in 2009, and then took college courses at Southern Maine Community College.

“It was too tough where he lived and it was actually a really, really amazing thing to see (him graduate),” Brink said. “To get out of the city for a week or two to experience something different. It's doing something amazing to open up doors to other kids, but it's also good for hosting families. They get to experience something different, too.”

“All of my fonder memories have Fresh Air kids,” she added. “Most of the Fresh Air kids when I grew up are adults now and I stay in close contact with most of them.”

Bethany and Andrew Goldberg of Saco are hosting a child for the second year in a row, and were excited this year to see Richard Rubino, or “Richie,” a 7-year-old from the Bronx, for the second time. While they hosted Richie for one week last year, they asked to have him visit for two weeks this time.

Brink said it is common for families to build relationships with their guests and want to have them visit for longer as the years go on.

Like Brink, Bethany Goldberg said she grew up with Fresh Air kids visiting her family during summers.

“My parents were a host family before I was even born,” said Bethany Goldberg, “and they did it again when I was 6. We had a little girl that stayed with us for several summers.”

While Richie is in Maine, the Goldbergs said they plan more family outings and do more activities. The Goldbergs also have two children of their own, Cameron Goldberg, 7, and Hayleigh Goldberg, 5.

“We get to act like tourists for a little while,” Andrew Goldberg said.

“We pretty much do the same thing we normally do as a family, except instead of making two breakfasts in the morning, we make three,” said Bethany Goldberg.

Some of the places the Goldbergs have taken Richie are to a Sea Dogs game, Sebago Lake and Aquaboggan Water Park.

Brink said each year, Aquaboggan Water Park treats the families to admission to the park for free, and it's a chance for host families and their guest children to get together and have fun.

Brink said two different groups of Fresh Air kids come to Maine each summer, one group in July and another in August.

Kate Kessler, a host mother from Portland, said she too, grew up with a family that hosted Fresh Air kids. Kessler said she has kept in touch with her Fresh Air guest, Karema Brown, as an adult. Brown is from the Bronx.

When Kessler decided to start hosting Fresh Air children herself, she contacted Brown and asked if she could host Brown's daughter, Brianna Miranda. The two friends coordinated with Fresh Air Fund to make sure Brianna could get matched with Kessler. When families and Fresh Air kids have a good bond, sometimes the Fresh Air Fund will even provide for the children to stay with their host families for up to a month. Kessler said Brianna, who is 14 now, stays in Maine for a month.

Kessler said her 4-year-old daughter, Gabby, loves Brianna.

“It's like having a big sister around,” she said.

Brink's mother, Dawn Hansen of Sanford, has volunteered for the Fresh Air Fund for more than 20 years and is now the representative for southern Maine, coordinating area visits. Hansen said more than 65 percent of returning Fresh Air children return to the same host family.

Richie, who lives with each of his parents in two different apartment buildings, one on a second floor and the other on a fifth floor building, said Maine is different from the Bronx because it doesn't have all the big buildings.

“I don't have a yard at home,” Richie said.

Hayleigh said she likes it when Richie visits.

“He's like a brother,” she said. “Richie likes Cameron, but he likes me more.”

Cameron said Richie teaches him how to break-dance and they all had a laugh when Richie tried to teach Cameron's father, Andrew Goldberg to do the moves.

Bethany Goldberg said the Fresh Air Fund provides great support to hosting families, making sure they understand the details and responsibilities that come with hosting a child from New York.

Although it is too late to sign up as a host family for this year, Hansen said families interested in hosting a child next year can seek out more information at www.freshfund.org.

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