By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
CHERRY TOWNSHIP —
Gary Davis has so many great memories of the summers he's spent with a Slippery Rock-area family through the Fresh Air Fund that he had a hard time picking just one.
"I have a lot of memories," said Gary, 16, who's been coming from the Bronx each summer since he was 8 to stay with the Pry family in Cherry Township.
Gary lives in an apartment with his mother Ebony and sister Amaiya, 8, and if they want to spend time outside in some kind of green space, that usually means walking to a park.
Denny and Lisa Pry, who have five children and six grandchildren, with sons Denny, 18, and Zach, 13, still at home, live in a heavily wooded area down a gravel road, and their large property includes an expansive yard and pool.
"It's a full house," Mrs. Pry said Monday afternoon as several friends and relatives passed through the kitchen to take a dip in the pool.
It seems there is always room for one more at their home, and Gary isn't even the family's first Fresh Air Fund child - the Pry family has been part of the program for about 10 years, having hosted five boys and girls.
Mrs. Pry remembers seeing an ad in the Butler Eagle for the Fresh Air Fund - the non-profit organization was looking for local families to host kids from New York City.
"I love it," she said.
There's a screening process that includes a home visit and the Fresh Air Fund people make sure your family will be the right match for each child that needs placed.
The agency has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877, and host families in 13 states and Canada are involved, according to a news release from the Fresh Air Fund.
Gary, who will be a junior in high school and is a bit soft-spoken, said he remembers being a little scared the first time he came to stay with the Pry family, but he now looks forward to returning each year.
And it's the simple things that Gary enjoys - making s'mores and having bonfires in the backyard, learning how to swim, camping, going to the fair, hanging out with Denny and his friends, playing paintball, going to amusement parks and baseball games and visiting local attractions like the Old Stone House and McConnell's Mill.
"It's been kind of bittersweet," Mrs. Pry said of watching him grow up and how she doesn't want to think about how next year will be his last year in the program.
But Gary plans to visit the Pry family even after he reaches the Fresh Air Fund cut-off age, and they hope to be able to host his sister.
"He has been the best fit," Mrs. Pry said, adding they keep in touch all year and she and part of her family have met his mother and sister.
Denny agrees they feel like one big family and said he's learned a lot from Gary about what it's like to grow up in a different culture like the Bronx, and the two of them are like brothers.
"It's been enlightening," Denny said.
For more information about the Fresh Air Fund, visit www.freshair.org
Published July 17, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.