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Fresh Air Home Kicks Off Summer With Annual Picnic And Fireworks

Originally Posted: July 05, 2009

Edward Callaghan

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Southampton Fresh Air Home President Kim White and Robin Avram. Photos by John Wegorzewski

Southampton - Summer finally began this weekend with the first clear days in memory and a fabulous picnic and specially created fireworks display by the masters of pyrotechnics The Grucci Family on Friday evening, July 3 to benefit the Southampton Fresh Air Home (SFAH).

Danielle Ganek, vice president/secretary of the Board and her husband David Ganek, long-time SFAH supporters, opened their magnificent Meadow Lane oceanfront property for the 22nd Annual American Picnic with Grucci fireworks for friends and supporters of the Camp's wonderful work in providing a summer respite for physically challenged youth. Concurrently, Claire and Jim Mulholland hosted the campers for their own private party and viewing of the spectacular pyrotechnic display in the skies over Shinnecock Bay.

With literally hundreds trying to get a great vantage point for the fireworks, getting there required patience and good humor as cars slowly inched their way up the scenic roadway. Upon arrival at the gates to the Ganek property, guests were greeted by stilt-walker Frankie D who encouraged the kids to jump as high as they could to "Hi-five" him. Frankie a veteran of five picnics relished in the attempts of the little ones to catch his hand.

Guests make their way up the packed Meadow Lane.

Walking up the drive greeters Steve Gugliotti and Tony Piazza presented each guest with a great looking SFAH baseball cap which was put to good use as the sun was still shining brightly. SFAH Board President Kim White and Kurt Wolfgruber generously provided the nifty caps.

On the front lawn, there was a veritable carnival set up for the children. An enormous blow up Spiderman had scores of kids bouncing up and down. On the other side there was a two story inflatable slide where kids could get a rush from "luging" down to a cushy landing. Basketball hoops, football tosses and all manner of fun games were there to entertain the families.

On the main lawn of the sprawling estate some 50 tables were set up for the All American buffet picnic where the friendly and professional staff from Robbins-Wolfe Eventeurs served up a traditional All American picnic - North Carolina pulled pork, barbecued chicken, coleslaw, mac & cheese, cornbread and all the fixings. Southampton Public House & Microbrewery had extra long tables to accommodate thirsty revelers. At another table, a team of mixologists were shaking up gallons of the evening's most requested drink - tangy mojitos.

Steve Gugliotti and Tony Piazza handed out SFAH camper hats to all.

Kim White introduced singer Darren Ottati who performed a stirring rendition of our National Anthem and then the brilliant fireworks began with an extraordinary soundtrack that ranged from pop from The Pointer Sisters "Jump" to "Rhapsody in Blue" to the cheery "Put On A Happy Face" which had everyone singing along to the lyric "Gray skies are gonna clear, put on a Happy Face" as the sky exploded with the iconic smiley faces overhead. The whole display was beautifully choreographed by the organizers and ended with a thundering finale to the powerful "1812 Overture." The crowd went wild with applause.

For many of the attendees the event is one of the most anticipated fetes of summer and it signals the official kick-off to the season. Under the clear skies, scores of families including Carl and Rose Musacchia of Hampton Bays mingled with old friends while their children frolicked in the carnival area. Carl said, "This is one event we always make, as it is not only a great party but helps hundreds of kids have a great summer in the Hamptons with a terrific team of professionals."

Stiltwalker Frankie D let you know where the party action is.

And for over a century, the Southampton Fresh Air Home has been doing just that - providing an enriching, recreational camping experience for physically challenged youth at their Barker's Island camp that fosters self-esteem, maturity and independence through a broadly balanced program of activities. As well, it provides families and caregivers with a well-deserved respite.

It all began in 1901 when a group of women in Southampton, wishing to share the benefits of sun and ocean air with city-bound, physically challenged children, established a very special summer camp. They rented a small building to accommodate 10 children, and began the search for a more suitable site. The next year a generous donor gave the property at 36 Barkers Island Road to the Fresh Air Home, and the dream of its founders was a reality.

Over the past century the Fresh Air Home has served thousands of campers. The number of campers each summer grew from 10 to 60 in the 1970s. When dormitories were built in the 1980s, the Home was able to take 150 campers each summer. Adapted sports programs and indoor activities bring the traditional American camping experience to the physically challenged children who visit the Southampton Fresh Air Home.

Artists created personalized tee-shirts on the spot.

In 2003 a new activities building, with its lovely Maren and Werner Otto Arts Studio, and the Mulholland Computer Lab, was opened. Now campers play, create, learn and experience the joys of the arts and computer technology in state-of-the-art facilities designed with their needs in mind.

The Fresh Air Home continues its tradition of offering financial aid to families who require it. SFAH donors and contributors make it possible that no child who can benefit from the programs is turned away for financial reasons.

This long-time tradition would not be possible without the support of the hardworking and dedicated SFAH Board and the many generous individuals and businesses in the community, including event co-chairs Pamela and Alex Camacho, Lara and William McClanahan, Tania and Brian Higgins, Diane Roesch DiMenna, Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller, Christl and Ken Meszkat, Alexia and Baird Ryan, Stephanie and David Wolkoff and caring supporters Henry Buhl, the late Catherine di Montezemolo, the Fell Family Foundation, The Randall Smiths, Devon and Peter Briger, Mildred Brinn, Robin and Anton Katz, Patty and George Kraus, Michael Melnick, Pamela and Bill Michaelcheck, Edward Mule, and Sheila and Daniel Rosenblum, Hampton & Co., Bartlett Tree Experts, Casinos by Duro, Lynch's Garden Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sound Associates, Don Sullivan of Southampton Publick House and Microbrewery and Wolffer Estate Vineyards.


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Guest (elaine wagner schneiderman) from coconut creek,fl. says::
I also spent many summers in South Hampton, at this wonderful camp. Mrs. Robinson ran the camp at that time. the years I spent were 1951 - 1959 South Hampton holds a very special place in my heart. I REMEMBER FEELING LIKE EVEYONE ELSE.
Apr 4, 2011 4:50 pm

Guest (harry juers) from galveston texas says::
i was very fortunate to be able to stay at this wonderful facility each summer from 1935 to 1942. as i was from the south bronx your place was the first that i remember being able to smell grass. it brings back the most wonderful memories. it was at that time run by mrs price, a most gentile woman. we put on gilbert and sullivan hms pinafore for her guests keep up the good work harry
Jan 10, 2010 11:15 am


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