A bus load of children from New York City is scheduled to arrive in Portland on Monday, where many will experience a rural summer vacation for the first time.
"You know, running barefoot, seeing rainbows, " explains Dawn Hansen from the Fresh Air Fund, "things that we take for granted, that kids from the city don't get to experience on a daily basis."
Hansen admits that Maine, with its thick forests and small population, can be a bit of a culture shock for kids who have spent their whole lives in an inner city setting, surrounded by concrete, but she says the kids soon learn to relax and enjoy the countryside.
"It's a real freeing experience for a lot of kids that are used to staying inside their apartments in the city, or not having safe parks and things like that." Hansen says another 25 kids are scheduled to arrive on Thursday.
The kids will stay with host families around Maine.
The nonprofit program to bus inner city kids to the country, free of charge, has been going on since 1877, when Willard Parsons, a rural Pennsylvania minister asked his congregation to open their farms and homes to New York City children for the summer. The program proved to be popular with health reformers, and rapidly grew.
Today, 13 states and Canada participate in the Fresh Air Fund.