Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More fun with The Fresh Air Fund

I first heard of the Fresh Air Fund many years ago, when my college room-mate asked me to be a
reference for her family who was hosting a Fresh Air Child.  I was in graduate school, not yet married
and did not have any children…but I was intrigued.  Fast forward 14 years later and several friends in the area were hosting kids with the Fresh Air Fund.  I spent a year or two reading their posts on Facebook and seeing pictures of their kids have many awesome adventures with their Fresh Air kids. I was hooked! I decided my 2 boys (ages 5 ½ and 8 ½) were ready to handle a week -long visitor and were in need of expanding their horizons. So, I eagerly signed up!

I immediately pictured an adorable boy about 7 playing with my kids in the backyard. I started planning the myriad of activities and places we would go when he came to visit… Dorney Park, the creek, a farm, the pool, drive-in movie, Iron Pigs game etc. We tend to be an “on the go” family and I figured that would be even more so when he came.  I hoped the boys would be instant friends and that we would provide a “new world” for our FAF child and begin a beautiful relationship of love and respect.  We would show him new places, teach him new things and maybe help shape his future (I know, big  aspirations resulting from a week – long experience!) In turn, I hoped this experience would teach my children to be grateful for all the blessings they have; not only, all of their material possessions, but also the accessibility of the outdoors they enjoy on a regular basis.

We filled out all of our papers, did our references checks, had our interview and home visit and waited... until we got the email that we were matched! A 7 year old boy named Samuel from Brooklyn had selected us!

We had several phone calls prior to our visit and exchanged pictures.  We could not wait to meet the
sweet, chatty little boy we had been talking to on the phone! Finally the day arrived when we greeted him at the church!

We had a wonderful visit! Samuel adjusted fairly quickly to life in the ‘burbs and to the chaos in our
house. He seemed to enjoy our busy schedule with one fun thing after another. We took him to some of our favorite places in the Lehigh Valley. We went to Jordan Creek, the Lehigh Valley Zoo, an Iron Pigs game, and Dorney Park.

We had some new experiences too! We visited Crystal Cave, the drive-in movie theater, and Oley Turnpike Dairy (and petting zoo). I think our favorite times were playing in the backyard, attending a festival in the park, playing Beyblades and Lego’s, and swimming in our neighborhood pool.  These are the things we do on a regular basis…not just when we are hosting a child.

 Samuel’s parents and extended family have taken him to various places around New York and the  surrounding area. So, some of the experiences we had with him, were not completely new to Samuel.

However, he does not know how to swim. We were in the water several days and he seemed more
comfortable with each day, shrieking with glee that he was “swimming!”

He also was not a big fan of animal encounters. I didn’t realize how many times we saw animals during that week!  However, he gradually became more comfortable being around farm animals (eventually throwing the food into their cages from a distance) and then at the Fresh Air Fund picnic the last night of his visit, he RODE A DONKEY!!  I was bursting with pride!

My boys loved having a new playmate.   They seemed proud to show him around our town. My husband and I loved having a very polite little boy in our home! He thanked me each and every time I made him a meal…and often reprimanded my children when they were misbehaving! I will never forget the look on my son’s face when Samuel told him to listen to his mother!

The tears were flowing when it was time to say goodbye (and not just from Samuel).  We can’t wait for our next adventure together this August!

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