NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The 138th annual Fresh Air Fund summer program kicked off Monday, providing inner-city kids a chance to have fun away from New York City.
As 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported, for two weeks, thousands of children from the city's five boroughs leave behind small apartments and concrete playgrounds for wide-open spaces in states such as Virginia and Vermont. Many of the children will stay with host families.
Kids Head Out To Experience Rustic, Pastoral Life In Fresh Air Fund Camp Program
CBS 2's Alex Denis was there as 230 of the children – between the ages of 6 and 18 – began their journey Monday at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The children were grateful for the opportunity to partake in the free summer camp.
"Thank you for letting me go on big, fun trip," said Leysy Torres, 9.
Ethan, 6, was excited to arrive and meet up with his host family.
"They bring me to the lake, and I get to see the fish," he said.
Ethan was saying goodbye to his mother, who remembered her brothers enjoying Fresh Air Fund summer trips.
"They form a bond, and it's more of a family than just camp," she said.
At the terminal, volunteers checked in the children, tagged their bags, and had them wait for a bus that would take them to their final destination in one of 13 states spanning from Virginia to Maine. Some kids were even headed to Ontario, Canada.
In all, a total of 7,000 children were set either to enjoy to stay with a host family, or at a campground, where they will experience country living firsthand.
"The big favorite, if you ask a current child, is swimming and making new friends," said Fresh Air Fund executive director Jenny Morgenthau, "and fishing seems to be very popular."
Morgenthau said there are lots of sights kids get to see for the first time out in the country.
"The big surprise is stars. Think about it – in New York City, you can't ever see stars because it's never dark – and chasing fireflies, and things that we take for granted," she said.
For many of the children, it was to be their first time away from home. They had no idea what another state would look like, but they knew exactly what they wanted to do when they get there.
"We're going to go into their pool in the backyard a lot, and, we're going to chase the chickens," said Ciane Telaney, 8.
A majority of the kids were excited about the change of scenery. It was the parents who needed consoling.
"I don't think I'm going to get any rest mentally," said Korea Joyner of Queens.
But the veterans of the group said a little separation anxiety is just part of the gig. Participant Jahrik Fulmore said it was hard to say goodbye to his family, but, "I got to leave."
Buses filled with children will leave every day throughout the summer.
The Fresh Air Fund has provided summer experiences to more than 1.8 million children from low-income communities since 1877.
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