The Ellis family of Seaford has been involved in The Fresh Air Fund since 1990, when they hosted a child for the very first time. Nearly 24 years later, they plan to host again this summer. Their commitment to The Fresh Air Fund comes from its message of getting kids out of the city into new, outdoor environments. Many of the activities they plan over the summer involve trips to the beach, going to amusement parks or camping in the backyard, or as B.J. Ellis said, “getting as much fresh air as possible.”
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small-town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
“I think The Fresh Air Fund gives people the opportunity to give back and to learn about how other people live,” said Ellis. “It’s so different from the city; it’s quieter and greener. They are shocked by little things like how we actually sit outside at night roasting s'mores.”
Ellis first became involved with The Fresh Air Fund through her family: her mother-in-law was volunteer leader of the area and her brother-in-law’s family already hosted a little girl. When B.J. and her husband first decided to host a child for the summer, they chose the brother of the little girl. She still remembers the first time she met her Fresh Air child. “He was so sweet, and he couldn’t get over how soft the grass was,” Ellis said. Many years and Fresh Air kids later, the Ellis family still looks forward to opening their home up every year for a summer filled with new memories.
“I keep doing it because it helps children and gives them an experience they wouldn’t get otherwise,” said Ellis. When asked if she would suggest The Fresh Air Fund to others, she replied, “Absolutely! The city is too hot in the summer. Take the opportunity to give a kid some fun in the country; it’s worth it.”
The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside the city. To learn more about how to become a host family in Laurel for next summer, email Nutan Chaudhari, the local volunteer leader, at 212-897-8934 or go to www.freshair.org.