Six children from New York and New Jersey traveled by bus to Sussex County last week for fresh air and a view of life outside the city.
Alex and Janet Sydnor and their son, Evan, of Lewes met Kalilou Diawara in Laurel. It is the Sydnors first year to host a child through the Fresh Air Fund.
"We wanted to participate because it is such a great opportunity for both kids to learn that there are many ways to live in the world," Janet said.
She said her family is enjoying getting to know Khalilou and spent most of the weekend on Lewes Beach.
"It is our hope that we all learn from each other and form a lasting friendship," Janet said. "We are just getting to know each other now, but things have been going well and the boys are getting along great."
BJ Ellis, the Delmarva coordinator for the Fresh Air Fund since 2010, said she is always excited when the same children return to stay with host families. Ellis, of Seaford, is hosting the same two boys she had last year.
John Brown, 13, of New Jersey, said he wasn't sure he would come back this year, but after having so much fun with Ellis last year, he signed up again.
"My favorite thing so far is learning to longboard," Brown said.
It is up to the family to invite the child back, but Ellis said it happens often.
The Ellises are also hosting Zayquan Lewis, 12, who said he was excited to return this year. "It's fun being here," Lewis said.
The two have enjoyed spending time with Ellis's 17-year-old son and lounging in the family pool. They planned to play mini-golf and enjoy local treats like ice cream from Hopkins Farm Creamery before heading home.
Ellis first participated in the Fresh Air Fund in the 1990s before her son was born. Then, when he was older, he pushed her to sign up again. In 2010, the coordinator position was open, and Ellis decided to take it on.
"We enjoy having the kids, and we have the space to do it," said Ellis, a retired teacher. "I am working to grow the program now and am always looking for volunteer families and others to help with publicity and fundraising."
Tracey Gross, a Long Neck mother of three, was in Laurel last week to pick up Thomas Asturias. It is the Grosses second summer hosting Thomas, who enjoyed boat rides, time at the beach and lots of fun with Wyatt, Savannah and Lindsay Gross.
"It's just such a great program that needs more support in the region," Gross said. "This program gives these terrific kids a way to get out of the city for part of the summer."
Five families from Delmarva participated in the first July trip; others are taking in children starting July 30, Ellis said.
"If we are going to make this program really successful, we need more families to sign on," Ellis said. The sign-up progress includes an application, background check and home visit. Once a family is approved by the central Fresh Air Fund office in New York, they are approved for three years. After three years, the family is re-interviewed, Ellis said.
For more information or to start an application, call Ellis at 302-228-9326. For more information on the Fresh Air Fund, go to www.freshair.org.
About Fresh Air Fund
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.
Children are selected to participate in The Fresh Air Fund’s programs based on financial need. Fresh Air youngsters are registered by more than 90 social service and community organizations in all five boroughs of New York City.
Fresh Air boys and girls from 6 to 18 years old visit more than 300 rural, suburban and small town communities during the summer. Fresh Air children on first-time visits are 6 to 12 years old and stay for one to two weeks. Sixty-five percent of all children are invited to return year after year. Reinvited youngsters may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18, and many spend the entire summer in the country. Fresh Air children and volunteer families often form bonds of friendship that last a lifetime.
Source: Fresh Air Fund