On Thursday afternoon, 25 children from New York City came to with their host families to enjoy a day of swimming, pizza, and ice cream.
These children are Fresh Air children, brought to the suburbs by the Fresh Air Fund.
Since 1877, the fund has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children. Each year, thousands of children ages six to 18 visit volunteer host families in 13 states – including as far away as Virginia – and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps.
This summer, children will be spending time with host families in Connecticut in Ellington, Somers, Windsor Locks, Tolland, Vernon, Manchester, Coventry, Marlborough, Hebron, South Glastonbury, Avon, West Hartford, New Hartford, Oxford, and Auburn and South Hadley in Massachusetts.
For Michelle Manning of Hebron, this is her third year hosting a child. She has had the same child, a now 9-year-old girl, all three years. Manning has a son and a daughter, ages 10 and 13, of her own.
“We want to give the opportunity for kids who don’t get out into the country very much to have some fun,” she said. “We also wanted to broaden our own kids’ experience.”
Manning said that her child was looking forward to the pool party again and noted how it’s very interesting the things that she remembers and wants to do again – like having chocolate croissants, going blueberry picking, or having s’mores.
Karen Michaud, a Fresh Air Fund volunteer leader, said that in addition to making friends with their host families, the Fresh Air children make friends with each other – broadening their networks even more.
“They might never see each other when they go back to New York, but next year when they come back, they remember each other,” she said.
She also noted how these relationships are lifelong, saying how the child she began hosting eight years ago – who is now 16 – will come to visit at Christmas, in addition to the time she spends in Connecticut with the Fresh Air Fund.
Kiana, 8, has come to Connecticut once before and said that she will do it again in the future. She has enjoyed going to the beach, watching fireworks, and eating different things since she has been here. Malquan, 10, said that his experience has been good and that his favorite part is going to the pool.
Emma, 9, says that “it’s different, but fun” having someone come live with her family. She said that for fun, they built a slip-n-slide.
If you would like more information about the programs or hosting a child, check out the Fresh Air Fund Web site.