Summer in the city can be hot and gritty, but thanks to a group of area families, some city kids got a breath of fresh air.

A couple dozen Fresh Air Fund host families gathered Saturday at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield to welcome a group of young visitors from New York City. The youngsters — some of them making their first trips out of the city, others making return visits — get to experience life in the ’burbs through life with new friends.

“We like new people and we like a lot of friends,” said Shayla O’Donnell, 9, of Weston, who met 10-year-old Jayla for the first time Saturday.

The O’Donnell’s plans for Jayla include “probably going to go tubing, build a bonfire, water slide …,” she said.

“We talked to her the other day and she was so excited,” said her mom, Michelle O’Donnell.

“Bringing these kids out to Connecticut is just special,” said Jessica McManus of Fairfield, a Fresh Air Fund volunteer. During the summer, about 200 children will visit for one or two weeks throughout southwestern Connecticut.

“They’re going to the park, going to the beach,” McManus said. “They’re not sitting inside just watching TV.”

And while these activities may seem routine summer pastimes for Fairfield County residents, the program offers a different perspective to children often surrounded by concrete urban environs. “What we take for granted is a special week for them,” she said.

The Fresh Air relationships can prove to be long lasting, noted Bob Lombardi of Bethel. Growing up in Danbury, he said, his family hosted a girl decades ago and, “my sister, who is now 51, has been corresponding with the girl for 40 years.” It was a great experience for himself and his three siblings as well.

“That’s what gave me the idea for doing it,” he said, as his family prepared to meet 9-year-old Tiana from the city.

“We decided it would be a great opportunity for the girls also to have someone visiting,” said his Lombardi’s wife, Joanna, who plans to bring the girl with her family to the beach during the visit.

“We just want her to be a part of our family for a week,” she said.

For Ethan Righter, 11, of Fairfield, a friendship was formed last year when Dayvon, 10, was hosted by his family. “It was fun,” Ethan said. “He just kind of got used to us and we got along really well, and so he came back this year.”

“He’s nice,” he said, “and he likes sports and we just get along really well.”

Dayvon agreed, noting it was great to be back in town. “I get to have fun,” he said, noting that Ethan and his sister, Abby, 9, “are fun and funny.”