Devvon S. Howell, 8 1/2, of Queens, NY., recently enjoyed the vacation of a lifetime for two weeks with Steve, 52, and Janet, 43, Janas of Clifton and their two children David, 10, and Katie, 4.
One of nine brothers and sisters, Devvon participated for the first time in the Fresh Air Fund, a non-profit agency that provides free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income families.
A rising fourth-grader this fall, Devvon arrived by bus really shy and scared, said Janet Janas. He came with three other children who also stayed with host families in Northern Virginia.
Devvon and the family saw "Spider Man 2," went to water parks, played mini-golf, basketball and went swimming. "He ate a lot. He loved ribs, pizza and chicken," said Janet with a laugh.
While staying with the Janas family, Devvon went swimming in their backyard pool, which "he thought was the coolest thing," said Janet Janas, "He liked the house. And seeing all the greenery."
"I DIVED OFF a diving board, and went bike riding. We went to [Bethany] beach and played football and basketball," says Devvon, "and we played with Play Station 2."
Devvon, who had never been to the ocean, was scared of the waves, said Janet Janas. However, using a life jacket, he swam in the ocean for the first time. The family also went fishing, another first-time experience for Devvon, who caught a skate [like a stingray]. On the first day of Devvon's vacation, he hurt himself riding a bike.
Janet Janas learned about the program by reading the New York Times. "It seemed like such a nice thing to help a kid," she said.
"I hope that he can see that there is life beyond what he sees in the city," said Janet Janas, a pediatric nurse practitioner. "I hope that he can set goals. And I actually hope that it gave my kids some perspective ... we have to count our blessings. It was a lot of hard work but it was rewarding."
Husband Steve Janas is a retired executive at Time-Life, a direct markets company for movies and music.
Of the experience, Devvon says, "I learned not to hit people or curse."
Cynthia Kronlage, the Northern Virginia chairman for the Fresh Air Fund, also known as the Friendly Town Program, says: "They [the Janas family] were a really great host family."
The Fresh Air Fund, established in 1877, is always looking for new families to host a Fresh Air Child. For more information, visit its Web site: www.freshair.org.