Those interested in hosting a Fresh Air child next summer, or learning more about the program, may call Tom and Linda Kosiba at 802-722-4315.
Originally published in The Commons issue #160 (Wednesday, July 11, 2012).
BRATTLEBORO—As evening rolled around, a charter bus full of children from New York City pulled into the parking lot at Brattleboro Union High School, where six families affiliated with the Fresh Air Fund were waiting to receive them.
Whether they were meeting their families for the first time or returning to their hosts from last summer, the kids getting off the bus on July 5 had smiles on their faces and seemed eager to start their two-week vacation.
The Fresh Air Fund, a New York-based organization, has helped connect kids from the inner city with camps and host families throughout the Northeast and Canada since 1877.
While many thousands of kids get the opportunity each summer to get out of the city, fewer and fewer of them are finding a place to stay here in Windham County.
“Brattleboro used to host between 20 and 30 kids itself,” said Tom Kosiba, a volunteer organizer for the area. “The numbers dropped significantly, and now we have actually only one family in Brattleboro proper.”
Kosiba was unable to attribute the drop to anything specific, but he was disappointed not to have more hosts, given how many children are turned away each year.
“I think Brattleboro has the potential to be a really good host town, but it’s just a matter of hearing about the program and recognizing the benefit,” he said.
“The benefit is two ways,” Kosiba was quick to point out. “It’s not just the kids from the city that benefit, it’s the families that benefit.”
Kosiba illustrated that point with a story about his son, then a first-year college student.
“His journal entry was about what he learned from being a child in a family that hosted a Fresh Air child,” he said. “It was about diversity and listening to others’ perspectives. I think for people who want to teach their kids about diversity, it’s great to live it — at least for a week or two.”
Another host, Deborah Reed, was eager to convey just how much fun she has with a 10-year-old, Leah Sanchez, whom she has been hosting each summer for the last four years.
“We just like to do all of the same things. She picked me out because I’m all alone and I have a dog,” Reed said with a smile.
Reed said that she had assumed no child would want to stay with a single person, but that turned out to not be the case. In fact, Leah’s mother told Reed that Leah had picked her out specially.
As it turns out, there is a wide variety in the kinds of people who offer their hospitality through the Fresh Air Fund.
“One of the misconceptions is that it’s just families that can host — it’s not,” said Kosiba. “It’s anybody. We have single people who host, we have retired people who host, we have single-parent families. It’s really open to everybody.”
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