Summer is a season of fun in the sun, walks on the beach and dips in the pool. This summer, as part of the Fresh Air Fund’s host family program, New York City children may spend their vacation visiting families in surburan, rural and small town communities like Weston.
The Fresh Air Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides free vacations to more than 1.7 million children from low-income communities who don’t get to go play in their neighborhoods.
There are two types of programs within the Fresh Air Fund. One program is a camp about 2,000 kids attend each summer. The other is the Friendly Town program, in which children between the ages of 6 and 12 visit host families for one to two weeks out of the summer. Once they have visited the family, they may continue with their summer visits until they are 18.
The Fresh Air Fund has been in place since 1877; this year will be the 137th summer, said Westonite Martha Mintzer, a veteran host and member of the Fresh Air Fund.
Ms. Mintzer said Weston currently has about 12 host families and that number has grown over the years.
Kendall Webb and her husband, Don Kendall, of Weston have been hosting Kayla, now 12, since she was 8.
Ms. Webb said she had always wanted to get involved with the community in some way and provide help to someone in need. After hearing about the host family program from a good friend, she and her husband decided to volunteer as a host family.
Every summer, when Kayla comes to visit, she, Ms. Webb, Mr. Kendall and their three children enjoy a variety of activities such as swimming, biking, pottery, and tennis. Kayla also attends camps. She is particularly interested in art, so Ms. Webb said she is trying to find an art camp for Kayla to go to this summer.
In addition to their family activities, Ms. Webb said, they enjoy the festivities organized by the Fresh Air Fund, including a picnic on the beach at sunset.
When Kayla is in New York, Ms. Webb said, they keep in touch with her by phone, and every year, Ms. Webb and her kids take an outing to New York to visit Kayla. They see a Broadway show, grab lunch and take a trip to M&M World.
Ms. Webb said being a host family is very rewarding and she believes more people should get involved.
As part of an effort to raise awareness for the program, the Fresh Air Fund held an ice cream social for host families and interested volunteers at the Lunch Box in Weston on Wednesday, March 20, also known as Fresh Air Fund Day.
To become a volunteer, visit freshair.org or call Ms. Mintzer at 203-226-6627.