Do you remember your summer vacations? I do. I remember going up to my Aunt Dianne’s house in Washington and spending two weeks running around in the country. She lives on ten acres complete with a pond, a massive field, and a forest. For a suburban kid with a concrete backyard it was pure paradise. Those summers shaped so much of what I am today. They heavily influenced my love of nature and being outside. Those vacations gave me the opportunity to chase snakes, put on knee high mud boots and go searching for frogs, and spend hours in the forest pretending I was a pioneer.
I know I was lucky to have those summers. Alot of kids never get them. What’s even more concerning is that alot of kids have never even seen a forest! Can you imagine? Luckily there is something we can do. We can help the Fresh Air Fund.
In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.
The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.
If you live in this part of the country you can host a Fresh Air Child. These are kids just looking for the opportunity to play in the backyard, ride a bike, camp under the stars, roast marshmallows, learning to swim, and just having fun outside. Its nothing fancy or expensive. Its just a chance to be a kid out of the city.