Bringing Fresh Air to City Children

The Fresh Air Fund gives inner city youth a taste of the country living

School’s out, summer vacation is here, and many kids are looking forward to relaxing days of sun, fun and warm weather.

But, for the children who don't have access to open fields and swing sets, there's the Fresh Air Fund.

Since the late 1880s, the program has offered urban youth the chance to attend sleep away camp or to stay with host families in rural or suburban areas. Last year, nearly 5,000 children bunked up with families across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada, and 3,000 children attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill.

It’s no surprise that Pelham parents, like Heidi and Matt Carey, have gotten involved with the organization considering how rooted it is in this community. In 1888, a group of residents organized The Pelham Home for Children for New York City's underprivileged children, as part of the Fresh Air Fund program, according to town historian Blake A. Bell.

The Careys, along with their three sons, will greet Junior, whom they’ve hosted since summer 2007, when his bus arrives at Rye High School on July 5.

"He's the same age as my middle son, Teddy," Heidi Carey said. "Several families in Pelham host Fresh Air kids, and we all have fun with it. I'm trying to encourage more families to participate."

Despite the Fresh Air Fund’s long-standing presence, there was a shortage of host families across 13 states, including New York, according to Hannah Beck, a Public Relations Assistant at the independent, non-profit organization. To date, 25 percent fewer invitations were extended in Southern Westchester for summer 2011.

Still, many families who have committed to hosting in the past, are continuing to do so. Rye residents, Michele and William Dennis, will open their doors to Tyrel, 12, who plans to spend 10 days with the family.

“This is be our third year hosting him,” Michele Dennis said. “He lives in Washington Heights and enjoys the freedom to go outside whenever he wants.”

Michelle said Tyrel loves basketball and swimming, “and he’s pretty active.”

Tyrel’s time with the Dennis’ isn’t isolated to summer, though. He also joins the family for Thanksgiving and Easter.

“It’s nice to keep in touch,” Michelle noted.








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