ShareThis Page

City kids enjoy Fresh Air in Cowansville

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, 11:20 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Total Trib Media
Ezra Seyler, 1, helps Savion Hawkins, 12, and Lucius Orellanes, 11, feed the guinea hens at his family's home in Cowansville. The Harlem teens are staying with Kayla and Gregory Seyler and their children for two weeks as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. Aug. 8, 2014.
Louis B. Ruediger | Total Trib Media
Savion Hawkins, 12, of Harlem takes a look at the pet rabbit of the Fresh Air Fund program family that is sponsoring his two-week visit at their Cowansville home. August 8, 2014

For the next couple weeks, two New York City boys are trading the noisy streets of Harlem for the quiet rolling green hills of Sugarcreek Township.

Savion Hawkins, 12, and Lucius Orellanes, 11, arrived by bus at Grace Brethren Church in West Kittanning on Thursday to meet up with Kayla and Gregory Seyler, a host family with the Fresh Air Fund program.

“I live in a place called the projects,” Hawkins said. “For fun, me and my friends go to the pool, ride our bikes and go skateboarding. Here, I play with my brothers and have fun.”

Hawkins, who has a little sister in New York, considers the Seyler boys — 2-year-old Holden and 1-year-old Ezra — his brothers.

He and Orellanes are unrelated. But thanks to the Fresh Air Fund, this will be their fifth year sharing a two-week vacation together at the Seylers' Cowansville home.

“The Fresh Air Fund gives kids the opportunity to experience simple things that we might take for granted,” said Brenda McCall, a Fresh Air representative of the Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland region.

The nonprofit Fresh Air Fund agency was started in 1877. It gives inner city kids ages 6 through 18 from low-income families a chance to stay with families in rural communities or small towns across 13 states.

“They're like family now,” Kayla said, as Orellanes pushed Ezra in a stroller for a visit to the chicken coop out back.

Every year, the boys enjoy eating outside at family cookouts, taking part in nearby events like the recent Rimersburg's Cookie Daze Festival and swimming in the Belmont Complex pool.

“They absolutely love Belmont,” Kayla said. “Swimming tops it off for them.”

In a wooded section of the Seylers' backyard, Hawkins coaxed guinea hens down from the trees so he and the others could feed them.

“It's way louder in the projects than over here,” Orellanes said.

Hawkins remembered catching a frog and seeing a shooting star for the first time when he visited the Seylers at the age of 7.

Orellanes was a bit more hesitant on Friday to join the others under the trees in the buggy undergrowth.

“I do more exploring here. I see new insects, learn things like how to feed the rabbit, feed the chickens and learn how to run away from bees,” Orellanes said, swatting a buzzing bug away from his ear.

Kayla said she would like to see other families consider getting involved in the program.

“It's less than two weeks of your life, and it's really fun,” she said.

Strong bonds are formed between host families and visiting kids, McCall said. She knows of one boy who has spent every summer since he was 7 with an Apollo family. Now, he is 18, over 6 feet tall and has signed up to be a Marine. This will be his last year staying with the family.

“It's so wonderful for these kids and families knowing they will always have that connection,” McCall said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.