With a mixture of welcome back embraces and shy, hidden faces, a group of young men and women from New York City stepped off a coach bus as it arrived in Newtown Tuesday afternoon.
Holding a handmade sign that read: “Welcome back Joseph” was Newtown resident Katherine Kohrman, who waited for the young man who would enjoy a week at her house through the Fresh Air Fund, making summer vacations possible for inner city children. Wearing a big pair of sunglasses, Joseph shouted, “I can’t wait to get to the house.”
According to FreshAir.org, “In 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, an independent not-for-profit organization, was created with one simple mission — to allow children living in low-income communities to get away from hot, noisy city streets and enjoy free summer experiences in the country.”
This year, children again arrived for visits either for the first time, or to reunite with a family they had been with in past years. Resident and Fresh Air Fund representative Martha Mintzer waited with a handful of parents and their children in the lot of Christ The King Lutheran Church on Mt Pleasant Road Tuesday afternoon, July 22, when a bus from the city soon arrived.
Waiting in the shade was New Canaan resident Sheri West with her daughter Olivia, 11, and son Donovan, 7. They were waiting for guest Janiyia, also 11. They would soon take their visitor on a family trip to Lake Compounce, and had other plans for camping, peach picking, and going for a swim. All the makings for fun summer days, Ms West said, complete with ice cream in the freezer. Looking forward to a girl her own age as company, Olivia expected to have a lot of fun, she said.
Fairfield resident Meg Staunton has been hosting city children through the Fresh Air Fund for about a dozen years, she said. Glancing toward the street and hoping to see the guests arrive, she said, “I get choked up every time the bus comes. They’re staring out the window, they’re so excited.”
Hosting Tyshawn Wilson, who will celebrate his 12th birthday next week, Ms Staunton said it will be the boy’s fourth summer with her family. She had no specific plans other than to go out on their boat, bike, and swim.
Mary Sireci of Sandy Hook was also among those waiting for a child to arrive. Aza Smith, who will turn 13 on July 30, soon found Mary and quickly admired a necklace she was wearing. Mary looked at Aza, standing eye-to-eye with her and said, “You got taller.”
Checking off arrivals on her list, Ms Mintzer mentioned that other vacation weeks are scheduled for August, and the Fresh Air Fund is still seeking host families this summer. Still a few families shy for the number of children they would like to send out, she said, “We could still make it happen, but it’s got to happen fast.” Contact local coordinator Marie Athans at email@example.com or FreshAir.org for more information.