by Alonso Espinoza
August 13, 2019
From baseball games at Citifield to trips out of state in the Pocono Mountains, a group of Bronx youngsters are getting to broaden their horizons thanks to a program called TravelwithChaz, a non-profit organization created by Charles and Jennifer Benson three years ago.
Following their motto, “Youth Empowerment Through Travel,” TravelwithChaz takes Bronx youth – who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity – on free or low-cost trips so they get to experience the world around them. In addition to Mets games, the trips include the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Governors Island, and up to the Pocono Mountains.
“I think the most beautiful aspect is that it exposes the kids to a lot of different environments which ultimately empowers them to do more things in life,” Chaz said.
thisistheBronX had the opportunity to join the TravelwithChaz family on a trip to last Wednesday’s New York Mets / Miami Marlins game. Through an ongoing partnership with the New York Mets Community Ticket program and a contribution from Assembly Member Marco Crespo, a yellow bus filled with Bronx kids and a group from Grandparents Around The World were able to sit at Citi Field to watch the Mets hit four homers to beat Miami.
As the kids cheered through 9-innings, they were provided with free snacks, homemade sandwiches and drinks as they enjoyed the recent success of the Mets. Chaz told thisistheBronX that experiences like these are unique because too many Bronx youth are often unable to even get off their block.
TravelwithChaz is a simple concept, he said, that was inspired by his 13 year-old son, Charles. Years ago, when the Benson family left their home in the Bronx for a trip, Charles noticed a child who was watching the neighborhood from his apartment window. When they arrived back from the trip, he noticed that the boy was still in the window. It was in that moment when Charles turned to his father and asked if they can bring him on the next trip.
Through careful permission and trust by the parents of the youngster, the Benson family took their first kid to a trip in which they paid for. From that first trip to Governors island, the program has grown to offer more than 50 kids the opportunity to travel outside of their neighborhood.
“It’s not just about the kids, it’s also about engaging the community,” Mr. Benson said.
Chaz said that TravelwithChaz gets support from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, the Bronx Borough President’s Education Department, Soundview Cornerstone Community Center and the NYC Parks Department.
TravelwithChaz aims to complete up to ten trips per month. In fact, this month there are 12 trips planned. Their next big trip plans to take everyone away to a 3-day, 2-night getaway to the Pocono Mountains.
As the program grows, the Benson family hopes that their organization can get enough support to reach into other boroughs. “We want to be visible in every community, every school and every home,” Chaz said.