LANESBOROUGH -- Friday saw warm welcomes from area families to returning youths from New York City -- participants in the Fresh Air Fund program.
The children, ready for summer after another year at school, arrived in Great Barrington on Friday afternoon for a week in the county.
Osaretin Uwaifo, of the Bronx, who just completed fourth grade, was among them, taking up with Richard Cohen and Cheryl Sacks, of Lanesborough, for the third time.
Uwaifo took a break from pingpong and water gun fights to speak to the Transcript, using one word to describe the Berkshires: "Peaceful."
"You can leave your cars unlocked and your doors open," Uwaifo said. "At home, you don't get to just walk out your door and have water fights."
Cohen's son, Adam, spoke of his experience with the program.
"It's really good for host families because you meet people from the city and learn about their lives while they learn about your life. It's a good way to meet new people and make new friends."
In fact, Richard, Cheryl and Adam had an opportunity to meet Uwaifo's family last year.
"We met up with his family at the Bronx Zoo," Cohen said. "It's been great for our boys to get to know people from the city, and going down there, we've gotten an opportunity to see what his life is about."
During Uwaifo's visit, the family plans to take trips to Tanglewood, go swimming in Great Barrington, go hiking at Mount Greylock and
"Cheryl grew up in Westchester County, New York, and knew of the program and always wanted participate in it," Cohen said. "A few years ago, we read an article in a local paper and jumped at the chance."
The Fresh Air Fund is a nonprofit agency geared at transplanting inner-city children to the country for a summer vacation.
Another family, Rebecca and Jerry Cole, of Adams, have participated for four years, taking in Monique Ferguson, 13, of Brooklyn, N.Y., for the third time this year.
Rebecca has taken the week off from work to free herself up for activities around the area with Ferguson.
"I'm working on and fitting things in here and there by piecemeal," Cole said. "I'm fortunate to be able to take the time off to spend with her. One of the local things she really likes to do is go to Whitney's Farm and see the animals. One time I took her to pick blueberries, though, and she absolutely hated it. She stood there with her arms crossed -- wasn't exciting enough, I guess."
Ferguson, for her part, was happy to be in town after a three-hour bus ride.
"It's fun out here and I have a good time," Ferguson said. "I'm looking forward to canoeing, and I've missed the cats and dogs."
The family also plans to hike, along with planned visits to Bousquet Ski Area and Hampton Beach, N.H.
"It's wonderful," Cole said. "It's gotten to a level of comfort where we feel like she's part of the family."
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