Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.
The following article is a guest post from Michelle Nahom at A Dish of Daily Life.
Every summer, we host a child from the Fresh Air Fund. The Fresh Air Fund offers disadvantaged kids from New York City a chance to get away from the city and stay with host families for a week or two during the summer. Over the years, 1.7 million children have benefited from this amazing program.
“The only real voyage of discover consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust
When our Fresh Air Fund child first came to us, she was 6 years old. She hated bugs. She could not swim or ride a bike. I remember those last two facts being listed on her original application as things she wanted to learn while she was visiting.
This summer will be her 7th summer with us. She knows my kids’ grandparents and their cousins on both sides because her visits have coincided a number of times with family parties. Everyone looks forward to seeing her when she visits. She’s been hiking, has climbed on rocks at a local waterfall, has visited several amusement parks, has been zip lining, and last year she went with us on a beach vacation to Rhode Island. She loves going with me to the farm to pick fresh veggies at a local CSA we belong to (although I can’t convince her to eat most of them). And she still hates bugs.
I remember the first summer she was with us, I could hardly get her out of the pool. She swam around with her lifejacket and didn’t want to get out…EVER. She even asked me if she could sleep in the pool! She didn’t learn to swim without a life jacket that summer, but over the years, she’s become quite the fish. She would be in the pool all day if I let her. And she can now ride a bike as well. We live in a great area for bike riding, near a private school with lots of sidewalks.
My husband and I heard about this program through a newspaper article before we had kids, and we decided way back then that this was one way we wanted to “give back” once we had children. I cut the article out, and it sat in my inbox for years, until 7 years ago, when we felt our children were old enough. And we are so glad we did!
Our Fresh Air child is a great kid – we look as forward to her visits as she does. Many people have made comments to me about how lucky she is that we host her every year. But the truth is, this has also been an amazing experience for our family. Our kids have had the chance to see the world through someone else’s eyes. We’ve all learned invaluable life lessons about caring and sharing. In the end, Fresh Air is so much more than a summer experience. If our Fresh Air child is “lucky” for having this opportunity, then we are “lucky” too.
The Fresh Air Fund is always looking for host families if you think you might be interested in hosting. You do have the ability to choose the age and gender of the child you host, and more than 65% of all participating children are re-invited to stay with their host families summer after summer. There is no typical Fresh Air host. Some have children; some do not. As the Fresh Air Fund website says, all you need is “room in your home and in your heart!”
Michelle Nahom is the blogger behind A Dish of Daily Life. She’s a soccer mom with 3 children and has been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years. She blogs about her family; ways to organize, share and enjoy your memories; and social media. Connect with Michelle on her Facebook page and Twitter.