Ocean breezes, fresh air, baseball fields and sandy beaches all fit into the landscape of Kings Park and for one week a boy from Brooklyn will slip on some flip-flops and enjoy all a Long Island summer has to offer.
Monday afternoon, 32 New York City kids arrived in Commack to spend summer vacation with volunteer host families throughout western Suffolk County. Brian Nazinitsky and Susan Peckins, welcomed back 12-year-old Malik of Brooklyn who has visited them for the past three summers. The couple has four children ranging in age from 11 to 17.
The family is part of the Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that matches inner city kids with host families in rural, suburban and small town settings that dates back to 1877.
“I’ve known about the program since I was young,” said Peckins. “Smithtown is a nice place for kids stuck in the city,” she said.
Their son, 11-year-old Scott, who was on hand to greet Malik as he stepped off a charted bus, agreed. “It’s fun,” he said.
Peckins said the first time Malik visited it took a little time for him to adjust.
“Sometimes it is their first time away from home. We really want them to be a part of the family,” she said.
According to volunteer, Russel Gomes, just about every child and family gets matched.
“We had 4,200 kids from five boroughs,” said Gomes adding that many of the families are repeat hosts. Gomes and his family have been hosting the same child for over ten years.
“We keep in touch throughout the year,” said Gomes. “He is part of our family.”
Nazinitsky, a New York City schoolteacher, thinks the program is great.
“It is very well run,” said Nazinitsky. “We always thought it was a great program, very well set up.”
Malik will spend his days in Kings Park doing some of the things he loves to do most when he visits; swimming and fishing.
“I love coming out here. They take time away from their family to spend time with me,” said Malik, who has two brothers who have spent time with Fresh Air families as well.
Plans include visiting a local boat basin to take a look at the big boats, hiking and fishing, but first, the family needs to pay a visit to Target.
“First thing we need to do is get some flip-flops,” said Peckins.
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