Fresh Air Fund Winter Visit
New Canaan family invited Fresh Air Fund child for winter visit
Sporting jeans, matching pink Minnie Mouse t-shirts, and two braids, Fresh Air child Helen and her host sister Annie Meyer “are just like sisters,” according to eight-year-old Helen. Six-year-old Annie said, “no, we’re twins!”
Alicia Meyer, her husband Brad and their children Annie, Watson, and William first welcomed Helen, of Queens, into their New Canaan home last summer through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program, and enjoyed a recent holiday visit with their Fresh Air child.
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 inner-city children visit suburban, rural, and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program.
Helen spent three days in between Christmas and New Years with the Meyers, excited to play dolls with Annie and stay up late together telling each other stories. “Helen brought a kit, and the girls made snow globes together. They played air hockey in the basement, had a make-your-own-pizza dinner, and went to the movie theater to see Frozen,” said Alicia. “The biggest difference with the offseason visit was that there was no shy, getting-to-know-you period. The kids basically picked up right where they left off.”
While the family relished in quality time indoors this past holiday visit, Helen and Annie enjoyed all that New Canaan has to offer last summer. “There were so many favorite moments!” recalled Alicia. “We had a particularly fun night catching fireflies in Irwin Park. Helen and Annie had a great week attending day camp at the New Canaan Nature Center. All of the kids loved picking blueberries at Jones Family Farm in Shelton, CT. We also went with friends to the Summer Theatre Festival at Waveny Park to see The Little Mermaid.”
To beat the summer heat wave during Helen’s July 2013 visit, the Meyers and Helen spent their days cooling off at the beach on Shippan Point and at local ice cream shops. “The kids also had a great time just hanging out around our house – doing art projects, running around the backyard, playing with our dog, and swimming in the pool.”
Although Helen wasn’t able to swim when she first arrived to the Meyers, she worked hard to learn. “When I picture Helen, I picture her in the pool. When she first arrived, Helen couldn’t swim at all. She really, really wanted to get in the water, but also really did not want to go in any farther than the second step. We worked with her every day, and watched as her confidence grew, and as she made her way down the steps. By the end of the visit, she was able to tread water for a brief period of time, and would cruise the edge of the pool with her floating noodle and snorkeling gear.”
Sharing her love of cooking with her host family, Helen was Alicia’s “grocery-shopping buddy” during the summer “and she taught us how to make her special salsa - green, delicious, and very spicy!” This past holiday visit Helen again helped shop for groceries so she could make the Meyers a special fruit salad that her mom taught her how to make.
The local Fresh Air community plays a big role in the Meyers’ Fresh Air experience as well. “We had great support from our local volunteer leader, Teri Reed, and attended a fantastic pool party over the summer,” where they were able to meet with other local host families. The Meyers look forward to spending another summer with Helen, teaching her to swim and ride a bike, spending time at camp, and hopefully seeing the fireworks on the Fourth of July at Waveny Park.
“The Fresh Air Fund offers a truly unique opportunity for a mutual learning adventure. You will have as many new experiences as your Fresh Air child will. We’ve gotten to know a fabulous child whose kindness and curiosity have been a great model for my children. We have had the opportunity to see both new experiences and our day-to-day lives through her eyes, and to appreciate these blessings in a more meaningful way. And we’ve had a lot of fun along the way!”
The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family this summer, please call Teri Reed at 203-972-9199 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at freshair.org.