Fresh Air Fund brings joy to city children and area host families

Starting now, summer vacations are scheduled to be provided to thousands of disadvantaged New York City children by The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency established in 1877.
The Fresh Air Fund has planned three different bus trips throughout the summer to transport children ages six to twelve to the suburbs and small communities across thirteen Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada for a two-week stay.
After children visit for the first two weeks, they may come back and stay for the whole summer, up until they are 18 years of age.
Children are selected to participate in the program based on financial need. Children are from low-income families, with the majority receiving some form of public assistance. Fresh Air children are registered by 60 social service and community organizations in all five boroughs of New York City.
Volunteers in Northern Blair County are encouraged to become host families and open their hearts to a child from New York City.
“A host family is anybody that’s willing to open up their homes to another child,” said Altoona chairperson Karen Gildea. “If they don’t have children in their own home, they should have children in their neighborhood that the kids can play with.”
Gildea said there are still many summer openings for The Fresh Air Fund program and that an interested family simply needs to fill out an application. A security clearance will be scheduled for the interested family, a brief interviewing process will be carried out, and personal references will be checked.
“There’s always more kids who want to come here for the summer than there are families,” said Gildea.
There are no financial requirements for hosting a Fresh Air child, and host families are not paid.
The Fresh Air Fund also has a program for placing children who have special physical or emotional needs.
The Fresh Air Fund is a not-for-profit agency that depends on support from private contributions. It costs The Fresh Air Fund $495 for a children’s visit with a volunteer host family.
Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to The Fresh Air Fund, 633 Third Ave., 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017. Families who wish to be hosts may call The Fresh Air Fund at 1-800-367-0003 or contact 696-4225 for more information.
“It’s to provide a vacation for kids to experience things that their kids take for granted, to really get some fresh air and get out of the city for two weeks,” said Gildea of the goal of the program. “It’s a very rewarding thing for the host family. You get as much out of it as the child does. You can really build a long-lasting relationship with the kids.”