Take a deep breath of fresh air. It is something we take for granted here in Newtown, where foggy mornings, not smoggy mornings, are the norm. For thousands of inner city children, though, fresh air is at a premium on summer days.
This summer, as in previous years, children from New York City’s lower-income neighborhoods will enjoy not only fresh air, but the many height-of-summer activities and opportunities available, thanks to the big hearts of those up and down the East Coast who open their homes to host Fresh Air Kids, including families in Newtown.
This summer’s first Fresh Air visitors were out and about in Newtown and area towns for a week, beginning July 7. A bus with other guests is scheduled to arrive on July 28, and our town will welcome late summer Fresh Air Kids in August, as well. These kids, some as young as 7 years old, will be swimming, hiking, biking, playing, and taking advantage of the beautiful town we call home. You might see them in the library, or laughing at a movie at Edmond Town Hall. You might catch one twirling in the clean and open spaces of our parks, learning to skateboard, or swatting at a tennis ball. They will swing from swings and sing with new-found friends.
Over the years, Fresh Air Kids have been welcomed so warmly that some return year after year, so long as they are eligible, to rejoin the same Newtown families. The bonds they forge are huge. The homes into which they are invited become homes away from home, and for many, that connection continues on with phone calls, texts, and e-mails from one summer to the next.
The Fresh Air Fund places 4,000 underprivileged children in rural situations and camps every summer, and since 1877 has enabled nearly two million children to escape the heat and noise of large cities. These children are granted feelings of safety, security, and new experiences because of the hundreds of host families and generous donations that support the fund’s camps.
We are proud of the families who make their homes a refuge from the chaos and heat of a city in summertime. The opportunity to just be a kid in the peace and quiet of a country setting creates memories that these children will carry with them, whether they visit for one year or for multiple years to come.
Charitynavigator.org rates the Fresh Air Fund as a three star (out of four) charity. Contributions, gifts, and grants make up approximately 90 percent of the organization’s funding, with nearly 70 percent spent on programming for children. So far as charities go, one could do worse, and in this case, do a great deal of good by going to freshair.org and finding out how to volunteer, host, or provide financial support. It is never too soon to think ahead to next summer.
In a world that can be confusing, dangerous, or limited, those who donate time, money, and family life to give a child respite are, truly, a breath of fresh air.