Two special homes brighten the lives of children with physical challenges: the Fresh Air Home that gives them their own summer camp and the Meadow Lane home that helps support it. For the past 32 years, the Fresh Air Home's Annual American Picnic with Fireworks By Grucci has taken place on the sprawling grounds of this house that sits between the Atlantic
Ocean and Shinnecock Bay. But, it has been owned by two different families. Hosting the party was the condition of the sale!
First owner Barbara McEntee had been active in the Fresh Air Home for five years, when she got her big idea. "I wanted fireworks!" she told us, for the summer gala. She and husband Jim had the lawn to hold it.
She had been inspired by a visit with campers' parents at the Hospital for Special Surgery. "A mother told me our organization has changed her son's life and her life," Barbara remembered. "It gave him a place to go where he can feel free, bond with others and learn." And even though she loved and missed him, it gave her relief from his care.
"I was always a physical person who loved sports," Barbara remembered. "When I went to the Fresh Air Home, and saw these children who had no capacity for anything but wheelchairs and crutches, I had to help." A July 4th tradition was born.
Fifteen years later, when Barbara and Jim put the house on the market, there was an unorthodox condition to the sale: a covenant to continue the party for at least five years. "I knew it was a huge thing to ask," Barbara remembered, "not at all easy. But, if someone really wanted this house that's what had to happen."
The Wong family. (Photo: Carl Timpone/BFA.com)
"The house wasn't even officially on the market when David and Danielle Ganek heard about it and came to me. When I told them about this covenant, without hesitation, they said, 'Done!'"
Last year, Barbara and her family lost Jim McEntee. The Fresh Air Home also lost longtime supporter Peggy Hill. Hill's daughter, Stephanie Hesslier has been coming since she was young, and is now a Fresh Air Home Honorary Board Chair. In a special gesture, the 32nd American Picnic was dedicated to the memories of Jim McEntee and Peggy Hill.
Honorary Chairmen were Lise and Michael Evans, Stephanie and Steve Hessler and Christl and Kenny Meszkat. American Picnic Chairmen were Mimi and Andy Crawford, Whitney and Drew Mogavero, Maura O'Rourke, Lyn Devon and William Reardon, Bronwen Smith
, Sophie Elgort and Eric Von Stroh and Ashley and Victor Wu.
We chatted with: Jean Shafiroff
and daughter Elizabeth Shafiroff, Kate McEntee
and James Marzigliano, Raya and Clif Knight, Anne Jameson and Jay Eisenhofer, Louis Burgis and Katarina Dimich, her daughters Leyla and Natalia Giordano and Alan Glatt.
"The picnic is a wonderful event for parents and children," longtime Executive Director Tom Naro told us. "It's got everything you'd have at a traditional family picnic: delicious barbecued chicken, pulled pork, corn on the cob, ice cream, snow cones, cotton candy and popcorn. There's music, dancing, games for the kids and the spectacular fireworks display choreographed to patriotic music that takes place over Shinnecock Bay."
For more information on the Southampton Fresh Air Home, visit: www.sfah.org.