Inner city children visit the country through The Fresh Air Fund.
Back in 1877, the Rev. Willard Parsons asked members of his congregation in Sherman, Pennsylvania, to host New York City's neediest children, allowing them a chance to vacation in the country. Since then, The Fresh Air Fund has helped inner city children visit the country and provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million children from disadvantaged communities.
Host families in 13 northeastern states open their doors and hearts each summer through the fund's Friendly Town Program.
Children ages 6 to 18 visit more than 300 Fresh Air Friendly Towns. Most stay for two weeks, and about 65 percent are invited back, sometimes year after year, according to Fresh Air Fund statistics. Some of the matchups result in strong-enough bonds that when the children are invited to return, they stay with their host families for the entire summer.
Many children from inner cities live in housing with no playgrounds, swimming pools or even grassy lawns. They are more used to streetlights than starlight.
"Fresh Air hosts range from young families to grandparents," says a volunteer. "There is no age limit. All it takes is the willingness to open your heart and home . . . ."
March 20 has again been proclaimed Fresh Air Fund Day by the 13 state governors.
For more information or ideas on how to start your own program, visit the website at www.FreshAir.org.