New York City children are invited to take a breath of fresh air

The Fresh Air Fund has been providing children the opportunity to step into nature since 1877.

Richard, Kiera Pratte and Riley Pratte are pictured.

New York City children are invited to step out of the city and take a breath of fresh air with the Fresh Air Fund.

Volunteer host families along the East Coast and Southern Canada can sign up to provide unique opportunities for children to gain experiences in rural areas they otherwise would not have access to.

As mentioned in the video on the Fresh Air Fund website, New York City can sometimes feel like a “box” to children, and they are introduced to nature through these host families.

Medford residents Laura and Leo Pratte took in a child through the Fresh Air Fund for the first time in 2014 after hearing about the organization through a flier they had seen. Since 2016, they have been hosting a 10-year-old child named Richard, and they invite him back to their home every year to spend approximately seven to 11 days in Medford.

“I thought [being a host family] would be a good experience for my kids to spend time with somebody that comes from a different background,” Laura said. “With my kids being raised in a situation where they have a lot of things accessible to them, it’s nice to expose them to other kids that maybe don’t have all the things that they have just to help them appreciate that a little bit more. At the same time you’re providing an opportunity for another kid that doesn’t have access to those things.”

Laura and Leo, along with their 10- and 12-year-old children Kiera and Riley, have created a bond with Richard through the time they’ve spent together over the past years. Richard has been described as sweet, intelligent, gentle and ambitious by his host family.

“He’s super well-mannered,” Laura said. “You couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

Their days together typically consist of swimming in pools and the nearby lake, riding bikes to get ice cream, visiting amusement parks, go-karting, bowling, playing board games and video games and more.

“He has the same interests I do with video games and things like that,” Riley said. “It’s cool having another kid here to play with for a week.”

According to the Fresh Air Fund fact sheet, starting in 1877, the not-for-profit organization has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City communities with the help of volunteer host families in rural and suburban communities.

“We hear, over and over again, from our alumni, parents and host families that our programs continue to make a significant impact on the lives of our children who are growing up in low-income communities throughout New York City,” Fresh Air Fund Executive Director Fatima Shama said. “Anecdotally and in survey results, we are seeing that The Fresh Air Fund is as relevant today as it was when it was founded over 140 years ago. As we hear from alumni and connect with long standing host families, we continue to learn how Fresh Air Fund summers have impacted lives — and continue to transform lives many years later. We have learned that a summer can last a lifetime.”

To volunteer, donate, or to sign up your child, visit http://www.freshair.org.