TUPPER LAKE - Three New York City children returned to the Adirondacks Tuesday as they hopped off a bus at the Municipal Park and into the arms of their host families.
"I love it here," said Jante, a 13-year-old. She and the others were here through the Fresh Air Fund, which has been arranging rural summer vacations for New York City children since 1877.
Jante's host family, Kelly and Stuart Burnett and their five children, first began hosting her when she was 6 years old. She's been coming back to Tupper Lake every summer since then to camp, swim, go to the beach and - her favorite part of the trip - spend time with the family.
Maia, 11, a Fresh Air Fund child from Brooklyn, hugs her host sister Haley, 9, as her other host sister, Sara, 11, looks on Tuesday in the Municipal Park in Tupper Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Brittany Proulx)
"She's gone from being a kid we knew to being family," Kelly Burnett said. "My family talks to her on Skype and misses her. They look forward to spending their summer with her."
Ayanna, 10, of the Bronx, is spending another summer with Melissa Perham of Tupper Lake, who said she learns a lot from being a Fresh Air Fund host.
"You learn more from them than they do from you, I think," Perham said.
With the annual Woodsmen's Days approaching, Perham said she was "pumped" to introduce Ayanna to the weekend's events.
"The two weeks are very interesting," Perham said. "It's very different because they're not used to small towns - even just saying hi to people on the street. It just shows how close we really are in Tupper Lake."
Ayanna, who keeps in touch with Perham via Facebook throughout the year, said coming to Tupper Lake is a nice break from the city.
"I get to see new things that I don't get to see in New York," Ayanna said. "We usually go to fun places, and we get to go to the beach."
When asked what her favorite part about coming to the Adirondacks was, Maia, 11, of Brooklyn, simply said, "It's more quiet."
"There's no tall buildings," echoed her host brother Drew, 5.
Andy and Carrie Donatello of Lake Placid have been hosting Maia for three years, along with their son Drew and daughters Sara, 11, and Haley, 9.
"She fit in right away," Carrie said.
"She's great, she's fun, she's easy to have, and she tries everything," Andy said while the family listed the type of activities they do with Maia, including swimming, hiking, going to the beach and waterskiing.
"She's quiet right now, but she's a daredevil," he added.
The girls who arrived in Tupper Lake Tuesday were three of four children spending time in the Adirondacks this year; one child is spending time with a host family in Keene, according to local Fresh Air Fund Chairwoman Deolinda Jessie. The bus that stops in Tupper Lake continues on to Canton, Potsdam and Massena, with a total of 27 Fresh Air Fund children in the region this year.
Jessie has been involved with the Fresh Air Fund since 1995, when her daughter Emily, now 21, was in kindergarten.
"I think what it really was was having enough to share with another kid," Jessie said. "I just like them to learn that there are different people in the world."
Jessie said she hopes more families learn about the Fresh Air Fund and consider hosting children from the city.
"We definitely need to drum up some new blood in the Tri-Lakes," she said.
Anyone interested in hosting a Fresh Air Fund child in the future is asked to call Deolinda Jessie at 518-359-3414 or visit www.freshair.org for more information.