When Heather and Chris Peck first learned about The Fresh Air Fund in a local newspaper, they thought The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program would be a terrific opportunity for a New York City child. The Pecks knew they lived in a beautiful neighborhood with ample amounts of fresh air, so in 2012 Heather, Chris, and their children Justin, age 11, and Anna, age 9, decided to open their hearts and Newtown home to a Fresh Air child.
It was not until the Pecks met and welcomed their Fresh Air daughter, Ashley, that they realized what a wonderful opportunity it was for their own family as well.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, more than 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
Ashley will be visiting Newtown for the third time this summer and the Pecks are looking forward to her arrival. Ever since Ashley’s first visit, it has been important to Mrs Peck that Ashley be exposed to as much fresh air as possible. For the past two years the Pecks have experienced a whole array of outdoor activities, from visiting the farm animals at Silverman’s Farm in Easton and picking blueberries at Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, to going for a dip in the water of Lake Zoar on a hot summer day.
When asked about a favorite memory with her Fresh Air daughter, Heather immediately recalled taking Ashley and Anna to see a local production of Seussical: The Musical.
Heather, Anna, and Ashley decided to dress up for their special evening out and coincidentally all put on a blue dress for the occasion.
“For the entire rest of the night we called ourselves ‘the ladies in blue,’” said Mrs Peck. From matching with her Fresh Air family to seeing the spectacle of Seussical, Ashley was overjoyed with the whole evening. “Just seeing the expression on her face is something I’ll never forget,” Mrs Peck said.
As for this summer, the Pecks are looking forward to doing more of the same: riding bikes, hiking, and swimming.
“We don’t go over the top when Ashley visits, and seeing her excitement for simple every day activities is truly the best,” said Mrs Peck.
Host families are still being sought for children planning to visit the area this summer. One group of campers will be arriving in Newtown on July 22, and staying until August 12. Another group will be arriving August 2 and staying until August 9.
To learn more about becoming a Fresh Air Fund host family, call local coordinator Marie Athans at 203-426-7137 or visit freshair.org.