For many of us, fall means escaping the city to enjoy apple picking, a hayride, pumpkin carving, and other outdoor activities that help us appreciate the changing of the seasons. Unfortunately, many families in the city can’t afford to take these kinds of trips. That’s why we love our Urban Adventures program so much, it gives children the chance to leave their borough and see more of New York. Our goal is to expose children and teens to opportunities throughout the city and beyond that they would otherwise not experience. Many of the sites we work with through Urban Adventures are shelters in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
Last year, we brought children to farms around the tri-state area so they could experience apple orchards and pumpkin patches during the fall season. But these projects aren’t cheap, paying for buses to leave the city is expensive. For our programs to visit farms upstate or in New Jersey to go apple picking, the cost of a bus was $700. Many of these amazing places are not accessible via public transportation. For even the closest location, the groups would have to walk a couple miles from the train station in order to get to the farm.
Unfortunately, the high cost of bus transportation has forced us to slash our most popular trips for many of our partners this fall: apple and pumpkin picking. This is creating a ripple effect in programming. After long discussions with our Team Leaders and Community Partners, a couple programs have chosen to use buses to go to nearby farms, but this means having to opt for more free or low cost trips throughout the year. It’s a difficult process to weigh the importance of trips to the ice skating rink, zoo, aquarium, and bowling alleys against trips to a farm or upstate for hiking and barbeques in the summer. Amazingly, some of our Team Leaders have even fronted the cost of a bus to provide these opportunities to the kids to whom they’ve grown close, just so they can still have these experiences.
We are looking at more creative ways to give kids an opportunity to experience their city without eating away at our budget. Consequently, we’ve been encouraging Team Leaders to take advantage of the free and low-cost opportunities during the warmer months, such as mini golfing at Governor’s Island and Pier 25, Central Park Field Days; as well as deals at museums like SONY Wonder Lab and the NYC Police Museum. In some ways, it’s great because we’ve been showing the kids the plethora of resources available within New York City. However, there are only so many free and low-cost activities in the city, and we often find that a lot of groups end up doing similar trips. Throughout this time, our Team Leaders, Community Partners, and volunteers have been amazing, spending even more time together working on strategies to engage children and teens in this program. Still, with the budget cuts, we’ve been forced to reduce the number of children involved with these programs. We used to have 15-20 children participate from each site. This year, we’ve had to scale it back to 10 or 12.
You can help send children on more trips by making a donation today. As you can see, a lot of funds are needed to keep our most popular programs going. Send a child on a trip today!
By Susan Torres and Brittany Perotti