MATTAPOISETT — Many people remember spending the summers of their childhood playing outside with their friends or swimming in the pool in their backyard. But in cities like New York, many children don’t get the opportunities to enjoy their summer vacation in those ways.
However, since 1877 the nonprofit organization Fresh Air Fund has been working to get kids out of busy cities during the summer months. The Fresh Air Fund was created to get inner city children from New York out of the hot city and into fresh air, particularly children hit by the tuberculosis epidemic, as fresh air was seen as a cure for respiratory diseases.
Today, families throughout the East Coast and southern Canada continue to host inner city children ages 7 to 18 for a week or two during the summer. In Mattapoisett, Tracy Fiore and her family are hosing Ella, a 7-year-old from New York City, for the second summer in a row.
“She’s a very bright little girl, very inquisitive, she loves doing anything,” Fiore said.
Ella was a bit shy around this reporter, but it was clear that she’s enjoying her time outside of the big city.
One of the goals of the organization is to expose the children to things that they wouldn’t necessarily get to experience in a city environment.
“[We do] things like walking barefoot on the grass, feeding the birds,” Fiore said. “I have chickens, so we check for eggs.”
Despite Ella’s young age, Fiore said she handles being away from her family well.
“She’s really brave and independent,” she said. “She’s very well behaved, very smart, very helpful.”
Parents hear about the program through television advertisements and can sign up through social service agencies or churches, and the children are then paired with a host family in a more suburban or rural area.
Fiore said she knows of families in Dartmouth and Rochester as well who are doing the program. Many people are like her, and host the same children multiple years in a row.
“When I picked Ella up,” Fiore recalled, “there were people with signs that said ‘welcome back…for the fifth summer.’”
Families interested in hosting a child next year can visit www.freshair.org to learn more.
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