Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fresh Air Vacations For New York City Children by Kristen Hetland - 

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More than 180 children left their homes in the city Wednesday to spend some time in the country as part of the Fresh Air Fund’s annual summer program.

PHOTOS: Free Vacations for Kids

The Fresh Air Fund has provided free vacations to more than 1.7 million disadvantaged children in New York City since 1877.

Alice Stockton-Rossini reports

Each year, the organization sends 5,000 children either to spend a week with a host family or spend the summer at a camp in the country. The program gives children the chance to go on vacation each summer when their families would not normally be able to afford it.

“The program makes time for children to be children and do it in a safe place,” Executive Director of Fresh Air Fund Jenny Morgenthau said. “Some of these children have seen driveby shootings. Getting away from the city makes these kids aware of the other lives that are out there.” Morgenthau said the vacations also help build self-esteem within the children.

Each child that is taken in by a host family develops a bond with that family that often lasts for many years, she said. Some children will stay with the same family year after year and some host families will actually come to New York to visit the Fresh Air child they hosted.

For mother Tracy Jordan, sending her son, Amir, 10, to spend a week with a host family means he will be able to experience things she has never been able to provide for him.

“The generosity and kindness of the host families is a wonderful thing,” Jordan said. “They can give my son the things I don’t have the time or resources to do. It gives him a chance to do something outside of what he does everyday. He gets to meet new people, go to new places and do new activites. He never would have gotten this opportunity otherwise.”

The Fresh Air children boarded buses to Vermont, Massachusetts, upstate New York, Connecticut and Canada Wednesday to begin their week-long vacations.

While on vacation, the children will have the opportunity to go swimming, hiking, biking and visit the country. Ultimately, the activites are left up to the host family.

The Fresh Air Fund is dependant on its volunteers and the donations of corporations. To learn more about the organization and its mision, visit