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Southampton Fresh Air Home Blasts Into Independence Day During Annual 4th Of July American Picnic

Lee Fryd

Dee Hickey, Stephen Hickey, Kirsten Solsvig Galef, Melanie Wambold, and Christl Meszlat. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFA.com)

Southampton Fresh Air Home's American Picnic with Fireworks by Grucci - to benefit their camp for physically challenged underserved youth - is a signature community celebration. The crowd, spanning all generations, gravitate to the white picnic tables and classic spread in one section of the benefit or the carnival for kids taking place in another. They all converge for the Grucci fireworks that shoot over the Shinnecock Bay.

"It's the old fashioned nostalgia that we all grew up with, which we love to see continue," SFAH Board President and Chairman of this year's Picnic, Kirsten Solsvig Galef, told Hamptons.com. She started coming to the fireworks 20 years ago. "My kids were very small and it became a summer tradition for us," she told us. "It was before I was even involved with the board, but I was very drawn to the event because of the connection with physically disable kids. I'd always worked with the Easter Seal Society as a high school student in the Midwest."

John Rohrbach, Charlotte Galef, James Galef, and Lily Galef. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFA.com)

"The picnic just has an old fashioned Americana appeal. Grucci does a fabulous job with the fireworks. We have a wonderful group of young families that come, as well as people up into their 90s," Galef shared. "This is the 15th summer Danielle and David Ganek have hosted it at their home. They're just incredibly generous and gracious - and it's great way to start off the holiday weekend."

There's always a multitude of happenings that appeal to all ages. "There's a carnival event that Kings does for us with everything from photo booths to the bouncy castle, so the parents can get a little break while the kids run around. There's an ice cream cart, popcorn station and cotton candy. They have face painting, arts and crafts. The kids come in red, white and blue outfits. We hand out neon necklaces they put on when the sun goes down and we get ready for the fireworks. And we have a band to dance to."

The Fresh Air Home has been providing a summer sanctuary for the past 116 years. "Some of the new campers come for a week because they get homesick," Galef said. "And we have a boy that is coming to us this summer from a homeless shelter and that will be with us the entire summer, to get him out of his situation. Our Camp Director, David Billingham is very good at getting to know the families and their situations. If there is somebody who's really in need, we try accommodate them for longer stays."

There is also outreach to the communities the kids live in, to take them to concerts and sports events, help them achieve their higher education goals and move into adult lives.
"We're now doing year round programs, where our campers and alumni come on the weekends," Galef said.

The 2017 American Picnic Honorary Chairmen were Michaela and Stephan Keszler. The American Picnic Chairmen included Kirsten Solsvig Galef, Nicky and Jamie Grant, Christl and Kenneth Meszkat, Nicole and Brett Pickett, Sarah and Izak Senbahar, with Stephanie and Steve Hessler and Dee and Stephen Hickey as American Picnic Vice Chairmen.

For more information, visit www.sfah.org.


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