Monday, December 9, 2013
From staff reports
KENNEBUNK — Quiyonna McGirt stepped off the bus Tuesday afternoon wearing a bright orange skirt outfit, a backwards ball cap and an ear-to-ear grin.
Cheri Poulin of Kennebunk takes a photograph of her daughters Lauren, left, and Katharine, right, both 8, as they pose with their visitor, Maria Castro 7, center, of New York City after Castro arrived in Kennebunk on Tuesday.
Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Fresh Air Fund host families wave to their visitors as they arrive on a bus at Kennebunk High School on Tuesday.
The 9-year-old's excitement to be in Maine for the first time was evident as her host mother, Lori Maxwell of Lyman, stepped from the crowd to greet her outside Kennebunk High School.
"I'm really glad I'm here," Quiyonna said. "I'm ready. My sister has done this and I want to feel what she has felt."
Quiyonna was one of 39 youngsters from New York City, ages 6 to 18, who arrived in Kennebunk as part of the Fresh Air Fund Southern Maine summer program.
The fund matches volunteer host families with children from New York City for as long two weeks in the summer, said program volunteer Lisa Dearborn.
"These children are leaving the city streets to run barefoot in the grass and stargaze at night in southern Maine," Dearborn said.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that since 1877 has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities. The program places children in rural, suburban and small-town communities across 13 states, from Virginia to Maine, as well as Canada.
The children who arrived Tuesday were matched with families from the Kennebunk, Biddeford and Buxton areas, Dearborn said.
She said some of the children were away from New York City for the first time, while others were returning to families they had visited in past summers.
It was the first time for both Quiyonna and Maxwell. "I'm anticipating that I'm going to learn a lot more from Quiyonna than she is from me," said Maxwell, 49.
Cheri and George Poulin of Kennebunk and their twin 8-year-old daughters, Lauren and Katherine, are also a first-time host family.
They greeted Maria Castro, 7, another first-timer, who appeared a little overwhelmed by everyone as she clung to the handle of her small suitcase.
The twins immediately approached her and wrapped their arms around her in a group hug.
George Poulin, 48, said that for him it's "fun to help a kid out. It's as simple as that."
"Stuff we take for granted is a treat to these kids," he said.
Cheri Poulin, 42, said she believes the experience will broaden her own children's perspectives by teaching them that not everybody lives the way they do.
Jayla Reid, 13, returned to her host family for the third year, with plans to stay a month.
Sheila and Scott Dube, their 13-year-old daughter, Madi, and their springer spaniel, Baxter, rushed to greet Jayla as she got off the bus.
"Jayla and her mother have become a part of our family," Sheila Dube said. "She has changed our lives. Jayla has given us the opportunity to experience Maine with a whole new set of eyes, through Jayla's eyes."
The soft-spoken teenager said she loves coming to Maine because "I get to do things that I can't do back home."
For the past two years, the Dubes have invited Jayla to visit with them in Dayton in the winter, when she learned to snowboard.
Dearborn said another group of children will come to southern Maine in August, and anyone who's interested in being a host family can contact her at 205-1606.
click image to enlarge
The Dube family – Sheila, Madi and Scott and their dog Baxter – of Dayton walk from the bus with their visitor, Jayla Reid, left. Reid is a returning visitor to Maine and the Dube home.