The Fresh Air Fund: Making a Difference in a Child's LifeAug 05, 2014
[caption id="attachment_102" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Angie with my children, Sophia and Max[/caption] Can one person really make a positive difference in another person‚Äôs life? What if that person is someone you have never met? So many times, I have found myself asking that question. I know the answer is "yes". Four summers ago, my family and I decided to host a child through The Fresh Air Fund. Started in 1877, The Fresh Air Fund is an independent not-for-profit organization. Theirs is a simple mission ‚Äì to allow children living in low-income communities to get away from hot, noisy city streets and enjoy free summer experiences in the country. We signed up to host a child in the hopes of helping her have an enjoyable summer experience away from the streets of New York City. Of course, I was nervous when I went to meet our child at her drop-off destination near our summer rental. All we knew about her was that her name was Angie and she was nine years old. Angie was traveling from the New York City area on a bus chartered by the The Fresh Air Fund with other little girls and boys in search of fresh air, sea, stars, and summer fun. Not only did I hope she would like us and feel comfortable with my family; I also hoped that my daughter Sophia, then age seven, and son Max, age two, would not do or say anything inappropriate. As we looked at each child exiting the bus, we could not wait to lay our eyes on Angie and welcome her. She emerged from the bus when her name was called. Angie looked apprehensive, but who could blame her? Each child in the program possesses a high degree of bravery and adventure to even step onto a Fresh Air Fund bus. They are departing from the known: their neighborhood, their family and their friends. Hours later, they step off into a world that is more than just a bus ride away from anything they‚Äôve ever experienced in their lives. We will host Angie for the fifth time this summer. My family has treasured every moment we have spent with this exceptional girl, who is now a young lady. With our family, Angie experienced fishing and crabbing, trying new kinds of foods, four-wheeling, tennis camp, biking, hiking, and visiting new places. She is an amazing sport and always up for a new adventure! Through it all, Angie has been so appreciative, gracious and kind. My children have learned a lot from Angie and look up to her. I know that I speak for my family when I say that we hope we will always have Angie in our lives, even when she is grown. Participating in The Fresh Air Fund program made a positive impact on Angie‚Äôs life. Two years ago, my husband was able to help Angie switch into a top middle school. During her summer visit, we learned that Angie had just completed her first year in a middle school that was neither challenging nor safe. We were very saddened by that news and wanted to do something immediately, before her potential was wasted in a high school that would not adequately prepare her for college. We discovered that she had been admitted to a good middle school that she did not attend because it was further from home. My husband got the Vice Principal on the line, explained Angie‚Äôs predicament and secured her the last spot in the class! My family attended Angie's middle school graduation in June. Angie‚Äôs courage, hard work, good grades and determination have made it possible for her to attend a top high school in the city next year. She aspires to be the first member of her family to attend college. She wants to become a judge because she knows if you dream it and work hard you can do it. And my family knows she will! [caption id="attachment_103" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Angie graduated from middle school in June 2013, with an Award of Excellence in English Language Arts.[/caption] The biggest gift The Fresh Air Fund gives children is far greater than a fun summer vacation spent in nature: these experiences can give children hopes and dreams. It is impossible to envision something if you do not know it exists. The Fresh Air Fund helps children see a new world full of fresh possibilities. They can believe anything is possible and then go to work to achieve it! The Fresh Air Fund is always looking for host families and volunteers. Jenny Morgenthau, The Fresh Air Fund‚Äôs Executive Director, reminds us that ‚Äúvolunteering to host doesn‚Äôt take much - just an open heart and an open home. Interested families don‚Äôt have to plan anything special during the visit, they can include the Fresh Air children in activities they would normally do with their own children.‚Äù To learn more or sign up, please visit The Fresh Air Fund's website¬†or call Martha Mintzer at 203-216-4152. I speak from experience when I say that The Fresh Air Fund makes welcoming a child into your family as easy as possible. Please sign up today and give another child the gift of fresh air, starry nights and big dreams!