The Fresh Air Fund has been doing it’s very important thing since 1877. In the era when it was founded many NYC children were packed into tenement housing and tuberculosis was running rampant. At the time it was believed that the cure was literally fresh air! Thus the concept of sending kids to stay with families outside NYC for a respite from city life was born. The organization has since expanded to offer camps and ongoing education for children who participate in the program.
Before we became involved with the Fresh Air Fund I had heard ads about it, but didn’t really know what it entailed. A good friend invited us to a cocktail party/info session to learn more and I signed on the dotted line by the end of the gathering. To become a host family, one submits an application and then undergoes, by necessity, a careful and thorough approval process. After you are approved, the organization does it’s best to match you with a child to host for one week over the summer.
The concept of Fresh Air is quite simple, but one that can go under appreciated. If you sit and think for a moment, there are many special things in our lives that we take for granted. My kids CERTAINLY take SO MUCH for granted. It is not their fault. It’s kind of in their job description, but still it is one of the more frustrating aspects of parenting. Is there such a thing as shaken teen syndrome? Kidding, kind of, mostly, definitely kidding.
We invited Madi to live in our home for a week as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. In the course of a week she has experienced so many fun firsts. Whether at the lovely camp by the pond, on boat rides or bike rides, in yoga class, reading on the porch, playing at, in and on the ocean, or relaxing in the yard, Madi has experienced it all with us. We are just doing the things we normally do and they all happen to involve a lot of fresh air.
And you know what Madi did for us? She infused each day and every activity with a life affirming, refreshing, rejuvenating and much needed, mammoth gust of fresh air. Her enthusiasm for the things we take for granted was irresistibly contagious. Through her eyes, energy and shining and smiling face, we all got to dust off our eyes and re-see the things we’ve been taking for granted. I saw the renewed joy on my kids faces when they watched Madi hold a crab for the first time. The look on her face was priceless. Seeing my kids observe her enthusiasm for this simple act was too. Immediately my two wanted to replicate the experience, so they craned their necks around the docks to unveil more salty wildlife. The presentation of each and every treasure was richly rewarded with squeals and smiles. This defined the entirety of the week.
My son and daughter took it upon themselves to make sure Madi was included and that she was seeing and experiencing everything. They went out of their way to be polite, inclusive, warm and funny. If Madi wanted to go tubing, because Madi had never been tubing, my two pushed the issue until tubing was on the agenda. If she was nervous about something, they gently coaxed her along. They often sounded surprisingly wise. A few times I could hear my own words coming out of their mouths. Who knew they were listening after all? They shared with Madi their very best selves. As a mother, I cannot ask for more than that.
Thank you Madi for bringing the fresh air with you. Please leave a little behind for us when you go. See you next year!
If you want to learn more about the Fresh Air Fund and about becoming a host family visit freshair.org or email: Jacqueline Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org