Clarke farm gives a city boy country life
BERRYVILLE — For one week in the summer, Jose Guadalupe leaves the busy streets of the Bronx to spend time at Smithfield Farm in Clarke County.
The working farm, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains about seven miles east of Berryville, contains a 19th century bed and breakfast and more than 500 acres.
It’s a much different world for the 11-year-old — this is only the second green space he has visited, outside Central Park.
Jose doesn’t talk a lot, but his constant smile says he feels right at home.
“I feel excited,” he said. “There’s not, like, the fun stuff [in the Bronx].”
Jose is able to get away through the Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that provides free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children ages 6 to 18 from low-income communities.
Through the program, children spend a week to two weeks with a host family who live in the suburbs, a small town or the country.
Jose’s host family is David Wiedemer, his wife, Betsy Pritchard, and their 11-year-old son, Benson, who all live at Smithfield.
“This is a great opportunity to help some kids,” Wiedemer said. “They get a feeling for a world they otherwise would never experience.”
This is the second year the family has hosted Jose, whom Wiedemer calls “ideal and very adaptable.”
Since Jose arrived a week ago, the family has gone rafting on the Shenandoah River and to Hershey Park, where Jose rode his first roller coaster. They also stayed at a four-star hotel, watched fireworks, made smores, saw a movie at the theater and shopped at a local bookstore.
“They take me places I never went,” Jose said.
Jose, who comes from a single-parent home, also enjoys things at the farm that most children take for granted, like playing Xbox and soccer and sitting down to eat dinner with a family.
Wiedemer believes Jose’s arrival also benefits his son, who gets to meet someone from another background.
“Since I’m a single child, it’s kinda fun to have someone else,” Benson said.
Host families may request the age group and gender of the Fresh Air child they would like to host. The Fresh Air Fund provides transportation for children to and from the community and will pay any medical expenses not covered by insurance. The host family picks up all other costs, such as food and activities.
“People think it’s such a commitment, but it’s not as bad as they think,” Wiedemer said. “It’s going to be extra time, but we take Jose along on things we were going to be doing anyway.”
— Contact Rebecca Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org