Written by Jill Ettinger
If New York City seems a little less crowded this summer that may be due in part to the Fresh Air Fund. This independent non-profit agency has been providing free summer vacations for thousands of New York's kids since 1877.
Many Fresh Air children come from low-income families or communities throughout the Tri-state area. These families lack the financial resources for family vacations or the expense of summer camp. Spend any time in any of New York's five boroughs and instead of yards or porches, you'll notice cement and brick high rise apartment buildings in every direction, often without an outdoor play space or park nearby. And on its best day, a concrete playground is no substitute for running barefoot through a grassy yard, roasting marshmallows over a camp fire or riding bikes around quiet country roads.
Ages 6-18, all of the Fresh Air kids come from New York City to spend time with host families up and down the east coast and Canada. Visits can last 1-2 weeks, and kids invited year after year by the same host families can often stay longer. These visits are life changing for both the host families and the children--and become an eagerly anticipated end of the school year reward. Several thousand Fresh Air children also attended five Fresh Air camps located on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.
The Fresh Air Fund is currently looking for host families to sign up now for the 2011 season and beyond. The host program, called "Friendly Town" is made up of homes in suburbs and small town communities in 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. Learn more about how you can change a child's life on the Fresh Air Fund website.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography