WILTON – Shakyra Wilder said it was like being reborn.

Coming to Maine from New York City to spend the summer with a Wilton family, the 12-year-old said she saw how many stars were in the sky for the first time, spent hours in the green woods, and slept out under the stars.

“I’ve been born again,” she said. “You experience everything over again. It’s kind of weird, but cool.”

Wilder was brought to Maine by the Fresh Air Fund, a New York-based organization that, since the 1800s, has brought city kids to the country for a taste of summer.

Nearly 170 kids between the ages of 6-18 came to Maine this summer, staying between two and six weeks.

Wilder was hosted for a month by Robert and Melinda Langton and their four kids.

“We wanted our kids to have a friend from a different kind of background than they are; we wanted one from a whole different area, growing up,” Melinda Langton said Thursday.

Watching a city kid’s wonder at run-of-the-mill things, like being in an area where it’s safe to split up in stores, mom in one direction, four kids in the other, widened their horizons, she said.

“In New York, her mother doesn’t let her out of her sight – in a good way,” Langton said. “They have cops at their school. They have to go through metal detectors.”

Last year, Langton said, Wilder came to stay for two weeks. Langton and her mom became friends. During the winter, there were calls back and forth.

This time, she stayed for twice as long. They went to the ocean and to the family’s camp up north. They walked on trails nearby, spent time at the park.

“Tell about finding the cattails,” 8-year-old Mariah Langton said, prodding Wilder Wednesday. Wilder, 10-year-old Courtney Langton, and 11-year-old Savannah Mitchell took turns telling. They went to a swamp to pick cattails. “She said she’d never seen one before – except in a botanical garden,” one of the Mainers said, laughing.

She touched one, and shrieked. “The swamp was scary,” Wilder said.

She went home Thursday. Now the Langtons are trying to plan a time to go visit the Wilders in New York, maybe go ice skating in Rockefeller Center this winter.

“I’m gonna miss everyone,” Wilder said Wednesday, talking about leaving. Then she turned and ran to one of the wading pools in the Langton’s front yard. Soon, there was water – and the sound of laughter – flying all over the yard.



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