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Our Fresh Air Fund Experience

MAY, 2011...

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.

-William Blake


My kids are lucky. They're not rich. But they're not disadvantaged, either. We own our home in the suburbs. We have a (small) fenced in backyard for them to play in. We have playgrounds and lakes and walking trails and state parks and creeks and forests and mountains to visit and play in, relatively safe areas to ride bikes and so on. They go on camping trips, take swimming lessons, play outside with friends til dark.

We tend to take these things for granted.

Alexa Makes A Welcome Sign For Niesha, Our First Fresh Air Fund Child

There are kids, though, who are living in disadvantaged communities in inner-city areas who don't have those things. They don't have safe places to go outside and play, they don't get to appreciate nature much, a lot of them have never even walked barefoot in the grass. Their summers may consist of playing on hot concrete or having to spend a lot of time shut up in their small apartments for lack of good, safe, wide open places to just be a kid and play. Their families cannot afford to just move away or send them off to summer camp to get away from it all for a while.

But if you live in one of the thirteen northeastern states ranging from Virginia to Maine (and even parts of Canada), you can help.

Alexa, Ben And Niesha Play With One Of Our Turtles In The Backyard

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

It's not a huge commitment. Just one to two weeks out of your summer.

You can volunteer to host one of these children in your home, to give them a memorable summer experience, a break from the city, a brief summer vacation like the kind you had when you were a kid. Like the kind your kids have. A chance to enjoy wide open spaces, nature, fresh air.

Something so simple can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Our First Breakfast With Niesha

We became Fresh Air Fund hosts for the first time in the summer of 2010, after seeing a flyer for the program at our local library. I visited the Fresh Air Fund's website, clicked the "Request More Information" button, and waited until I received something in the mail that included the contact information for our local representative.

She was so nice when I called her. She was really happy to hear that there was a new family in the area considering hosting. Because, see, she told us about how there are more Fresh Air Fund Children than there are Fresh Air Fund hosts. She told us about how some kids will show up to the bus pick up and drop off spot with their bags packed hoping that another child had to drop out of the program and that they might be able to go in their place.

It was a sad thought.

There are currently more children than there are host families!

Niesha With Ben At The Town Pool

I didn't want to be one of those people who thought "Well, maybe, someday, I don't know..." but then didn't go ahead and actually take that step, figuring "someone else" would do it.

Instead, we WERE "someone else."

We set up an appointment for her to come over and get the ball rolling.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. 

-Anne Frank

Alexa And Niesha In The Kiddie Pool- It Doesn't Take Much To Make Them Happy!

When she did come, we had an interview, but it didn't feel like being grilled. We were just chatting. We had to fill out some papers, but they were no big deal. We had to take her on a tour of our home, but she wasn't poking into cabinets and inspecting our closets and looking under our beds. She just needed to make sure our home was reasonably safe and clean and to see where the child would be sleeping and so on. We had to provide three references that the Fresh Air Fund could call, and we had to authorize a background check.

That was about it.

After that, we just waited to hear that we were approved (we were) and then waited to hear that we'd been matched with a child.

The Safari Ride At Lake Tobias Wildlife Park Was A Huge Hit With Niesha

Niesha was our first match. She was ten years old and she came with her suitcase which included matching pink teeshirts for her and Alexa that she'd picked out with her mom. She was supposed to stay with us for two weeks. As it turned out, it being her first time away from home and her family, she got very homesick. She went home early, after a week, but, still, it was a neat experience. For my daughter, Alexa, it was like one long sleepover. They had fun playing and doing things together during the day, listening to a read aloud at night (we read "Alice In Wonderland" together), whispering and giggling when they should have been sleeping.

I had fun seeing this child experience different things for the first time- like the safari ride where she could see all different animals up close, or spending the day at the lake.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

-Winston Churchill

Niesha at Locust Lake

Because our first Fresh Air Fund experience was cut short and that was a little disappointing for Alexa, we decided to host again that very same summer.

Cheyenne was our second match. She was nine years old and she came for a week. She was very friendly and sociable and loved taking pictures of everything she saw. While she, too, got a little bit homesick in the last day or two, she made it through and had a very good time.

Alexa, Cheyenne, And My Niece, Alison, Enjoy A Ride At Knoebel's Amusement Park

That week, we went to an amusement park, we went to the lake, and we went back to the wildlife park because the safari ride had been such a big hit. You should note that you don't have to do expensive things with them or take them somewhere every day. Picking berries, running barefoot in the grass, swimming, riding a bike, seeing a farm animal, roasting marshmallows, catching fireflies, chasing butterflies, and doing the day to day activities you normally do with your family are all wonderful things to do with these kids.

But it's worth noting that there are places in your community (and your representative can give you a list) that will admit Fresh Air Fund Children for free!

Alexa And Cheyenne Gear Up To Participate In An Interactive Story Time/Theater At Knoebel's Amusement Park

Cheyenne Made A Beautiful Gypsy!

Fresh Air Fund Children coming to your home for the first time are between the ages of 6 and 12. You can pick the age range of the child you want to host, and you can pick the gender as well. There's no "typical" host family. There are couples without kids, families with kids, and people from all walks of life who can host Fresh Air Fund Children and make a difference. I, for example, am a secular/Jewish homeschooling mom. My husband is a tattoo artist. We are Fresh Air Fund hosts!

Cheyenne At Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

You can host on a one time basis, or you can host year after year. You can request a new child each year or you can invite the same one back. If you continue inviting a child back, they can continue coming to you until they are 18 years of age. If it is your first time hosting, you can only host one child at a time. But in subsequent years, you might decide you'd like to host two at once, as we decided to do for the Summer of 2011. See, Alexa wanted to have a girl her age come to stay again, but Ben also wanted a friend to come stay with him! So I decided that this time around, I'd choose the shortest trip (the one week trip) and host a girl Alexa's age and a boy Ben's age at the same time.

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

-Kahlil Gibran

Alexa and Cheyenne roasting Marshmallows At The Lake

We were matched with Kamryn, who is 9 1/2 years old. She likes to be outside and, her mother tells me, has recently adopted a pet snail. She and Alexa talked a couple of times on the phone prior to the visit and were really looking forward to meeting each other. We were also matched with Malachi, who recently turned 6 years old. We chatted with him on the phone a couple of times, too (he was adorable!). We sent both kids letters and photos of our family. Here is the one we'd sent to Malachi:

A Letter We Sent To Malachi

Malachi told me he loves dancing and Michael Jackson, and that he wanted to dig in the sand for a treasure chest. He and Ben had a couple of very earnest telephone conversations about Sponge Bob, and Malachi sent mail back to us:

Mail Received Back From Malachi And His Family

We hosted Kamryn and Malachi from July 25 - August 2.  We started off with a three night camping trip at a local campground, going there directly from the bus without even stopping at our house. We stayed in a deluxe cabin, which the kids loved, and got to explore the campground, drive around in golf carts, use the pool, roast marshmallows, make S'mores, and so on. The kids had a great time doing these things and just being together.

Alexa, Kamryn, Ben, and Malachi Exploring the Loft in our Cabin

Two Little Boys, Ben and Malachi, Ready For Bed On Their Air Mattress At The Cabin

At home, we did various outings and field trips, and spent a couple of days hanging around the house. The kids got along great. Both Kamryn and Malachi have asked if they can come back next summer, and both Alexa and Ben have indicated that they would like that. These were good kids and there were no major issues or behavioral problems, and there's a good chance we will invite them both back. Malachi, at 6, did ask us to buy him or give him a lot of things. Kamryn, at 9, did get a little scared the first time she was to sleep (with Alexa) on the third floor of our home but felt better when we let them leave the light on. They were kids, and sometimes it was tiring having two extra kids here for over a week, especially with young kids already in the house, but it was fun and rewarding, too, for all of us, and a very worthwhile experience, for all of us.

Ben, Malachi, Kamryn and Alexa at the Playground

I have had the opportunity to speak with the moms of each of these four children on the phone over the course of the past two summers, and all of them have come across as warm, friendly, caring women and mothers who just want to give their children a good opportunity and an enjoyable summer experience. They have all expressed how happy they are that there are people out here willing to help make it possible.

If you would like to consider hosting and making your own memories, or want more information, or even want to make a donation to the Fresh Air Fund (who also sends some children to one of five different summer camps as well as to "Friendly Town" host families) instead, visit their website at:


You may also want to view this short video entitled "Two Weeks," where Fresh Air Fund Children explain how just two weeks of fresh air, swimming and star-gazing can change a child's life:


And, if nothing else, just spread the word: The Fresh Air Fund Needs Host Families!

Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.

-Edwin Hubbel Chapin


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jenae Holtzhafer
Mar. 4th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
Fresh Air
Thank you for this AMAZINGLY concise and accurate depiction of how easy and 'real' a hosting experience can be. I'm the Fund Rep for Lehigh Valley Friendly Towns (we have four here), and just loved seeing a true-to-life experience.

If you don't mind, I'd love to use this on our local Fresh Air FB page ... www.facebook.com/freshairfundlehighvalley.

Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories!

Mar. 4th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Fresh Air
Thank you for your comment! You are welcome to use it on your page! :)
Karen Dyer
Dec. 18th, 2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
Fresh Air Fund a gateway to Fostering?
Nancy, I am so happy that you took the time to write such a thorough post. My family and I have been discussing the possibility of becoming foster parents for over a year now. From those discussions we learned that we want to gradually see how it would be to have another child in our home (my 7 year old daughter is an only child). I hope that by us being a host family for the summer my daughter will get a more vivid picture of what it'll be like with another child in the home (like sharing her toys and her parents' attention). :)

Who knows, hosting a child every summer might be the perfect fit for our single-child, homeschooling lifestyle.
Dec. 18th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Fresh Air Fund a gateway to Fostering?
I think this would be a great way to see what it's like having another child come to stay and whether fostering might be for you! You'll have to let me know how it goes! :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Shawn - 40, Husband, Dad, Tattoo Artist, Body Piercer, Business Owner, Saltwater Aquarium Enthusiast, Cook, Mr. Fix-It.

Nance - 41, Wife, Homeschooling Mom, Bookworm, Writer, Field Tripper, List Maker, Planner, Chauffeur.

Melissa - 22, Special Needs. Is in a sheltered workshop/life skills day program. Likes music, movies, shopping, and reading.

Alexa - 14, Left public school in March of 2009 and has been home since, happily homeschooling with Oak Meadow and an eclectic mix of other things. Currently in 8th grade. Enjoys reading, writing, art, singing and music, theater/performing, doing her nails, and sleepovers with friends.

Ben - 9, Has never been to any outside school. Currently doing 3rd grade at home. Enjoys computer, video and board games, especially Minecraft and shooter games, silly jokes, soccer, rough-housing, and occasional cuddling and reading.

Adelaide - 15 months and my little ray of sunshine. :) Enjoys pointing at things, chasing the cat, trying to pull all the books off my bookshelves, eating, playing, and snuggling.

We are a relaxed/eclectic, secular homeschooling family living in Pennsylvania and thoroughly enjoying Life Without School!


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I've always been a fairly relaxed homeschooler. While I've buckled down more this year with my 8th grader, in general we do school around life, not life around school. We use mainly a fun, hands on curriculum that isn't overly time consuming and isn't dry or textbookish, and we're always willing to drop it for the time being if something fun, interesting, or educational comes up outside the house. Living is learning!


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