2009-07-30 / Local & State

New York To Germany, By Way Of Summers In PA

By Micaiah Wise BilgerI

LEWISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Near the beginning of July, the Wray family in Lewistown, about 20 miles southeast of State College, received an unexpected telephone call.

Al-Mahdi Hosang, their Fresh Air Fund child for many years, was going to stop by for a visit. Now a grown man stationed in Germany with the Army, Hosang said he decided to surprise the Wrays with a visit while he was on leave.

"It was a spur of the moment decision,'' Hosang said. "I wanted to surprise them, until I got lost. Then I had to call them.''

The Fresh Air Fund still brings New York City children to visit families in Pennsylvania every summer. The program is designed to give inner-city children a summer vacation in the country.

When Kevin Wray, who is a student at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport and son of Joanne and Mark Wray, heard about Hosang's surprise visit, he quickly packed a bag and made the 1 1/2-hour drive 50 miles southwest to Lewistown, he said.

Hosang, who grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., just north of the Bronx, said he first visited Lewistown when he was 6 years old. His first visit lasted two weeks; but as he got older, he began to stay for a month every summer, he said.

Kevin Wray remembered, "He was a lot more energetic than we used to be. We played a lot of games.''

As a child, the family also hiked and rode bikes a lot, Hosang said. One of the new experiences of country life that he discovered in Lewistown was catching lightning bugs, he said.

Hosang's visits to the Wrays continued until he was 18 years old, he said.

Hosang said his recent Lewistown visit was relaxing. The family went to see fireworks, wandered around the town and ate at local restaurants, Hosang said.

"I'm slowly getting used to the town again,'' he said. "My family is here.''

Despite being stationed overseas, Hosang said he and the Wrays still keep in touch over the phone and the Internet.

Hosang said he will return to his post in August.

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