MADRID – There is nothing like the feeling of grass between your bare toes during a north country summer.
That is the lesson that Fresh Air Fund St. Lawrence County Representative Gail M. Bice instills in children ages 6 to 12 who visit the north country from the five New York City boroughs via the Fresh Air Fund summer program for the first time.
Mrs. Bice and her husband, Scott, have hosted two children in their Madrid home in the last four years. Her first visitor, Joe Mansam, 10, loved it so much he came back for a second time.
We call him Joe Weed the Garden because he loves spending time in our garden, she said. When he went home to the Bronx, he brought two recyclable bags filled with vegetables from the garden, and introduced his mother to zucchini.
Mrs. Bices family purchased a bicycle so that Joe could ride to and from the garden along with their son Owen, 8.
I think it is a great eye-opener for them when they hang out together, she said. Even though they live in the same state, they have different cultures and different ways of living. Joe loves that he can ride his bike to the park and know he is safe.
A third-generation Fresh Air Fund host along with her sisters Earline A. LaFleur and Melody Rishe, Mrs. Bices involvement in the Fresh Air Fund stems from a long-standing family tradition.
My grandparents in Lawrenceville hosted children while my mother was growing up, she said. My uncle, Danni Wilson, was named after their first Fresh Air child.
Her daughter, Brandy L. Bradish, hopes to continue that tradition.
Last weekend, Mrs. Bice was named Fresh Air Fund Representative of the Year at a special ceremony with over 400 attendees at the Marriot Marquis in New Yorks Times Square.
It was a blast, she said.
Mrs. Bice has been instrumental in extending the reach of the Fresh Air Fund in St. Lawrence County. There are currently over 50 volunteer families in the north country who help introduce urban children to rural life.
I think its just the comparison of how we live and how they live, she said. They only see the big city and the hustle and bustle, but we have so much to offer here still in New York. It is so relaxing to get out of the hustle and bustle.
This years program will run from July 15 to 25 and Aug. 9 to 20.
We are looking for host families, she said. We want to make our area grow because we have so much to offer. These kids are just happy to be in your backyard, having a picnic or having glass of lemonade on your front porch.
She said that the organization is also looking for families to serve as substitute host families in the event of an emergency or death in the family.
We accept everyone, she said. Same-sex partners, and open or empty nests. Grandparents also make wonderful hosts.
For more information, contact Mrs. Bice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-0120.