A group of smiling people waited in the parking lot at the Covington Park as a large bus sat idling in the parking lot. Each volunteer host family was holding a cheerfully decorated sign welcoming a child from New York City into their home for a week or more of summer fun.

The kids on the bus were participating the Fresh Air Fund summer program, which matches children between the ages of seven and eighteen from New York City with host families in rural areas and small towns along the East Coast and southern Canada, giving the children the opportunity to experience the kind of summer activities not usually available to kids in a large urban environment.

Eight children from the city arrived on the bus on the afternoon of August 6 to spend time with families from Hawley, Bear Creek Township, Dallas, Effort, Kingston, Shavertown, Tafton, and Honesdale. Each child will spend one or two weeks with their host family, some for the first time and others as returning guests whose summer visits have become a regular part of their host families’ routines.

Seven-year-old Shannon Way, Jr. of Brooklyn, NY was all smiles as he was greeted by siblings Abigail, Trevor, and Noah Steele of Harvey’s Lake. This is Shannon’s first time participating in the Fresh Air Fund summer program, and he although he wasn’t sure what to expect, he said he was looking forward to “having fun, and playing, and doing a lot of fun things” with the Steele siblings.

Richelle Steel, the host mom, said she believes participating in the program is a great experience for her own children as well as for the children from the city since it allows all of the kids to experience something new and different. “We enjoy doing this for the experience pour kids get from it, and for the chance to develop an everlasting friendship with someone with such a different background. We enjoy opening our home and welcoming a new child to share our summer,” explained Mrs. Steele.

Standing not too far from the Steel children who were happily making a new friend was a family greeting an old one. Aiden Rijos was returning to spend his fifth summer visit with a family from Hawley, said Deb Katz, his host parent. Ms. Katz said, “We’re happy to have Aiden back again for the fifth time. We do this because it’s wonderful to pay it forward. And we’ve met Aiden’s mom and created a relationship with his family. Aiden’s mom and older brother did this before, and now he has a chance to do the same.”

Rob Orsher, Aiden’s other host parent, said they cram a lot of activities into Aiden’s week in a small town, including fishing, boating, swimming in the lake, ziplining, rafting, and kayaking. While each Fresh Air Fund child’s experience will be unique and will be a reflection of the host family’s lifestyle, all of the city children who participate are able to experience a wide range of outdoor activities and summer adventures during their visits.

The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency, which has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.  Each summer, thousands of children visit volunteer host families along the East Coast and southern Canada and at the Fund’s sleepaway camps in upstate New York. Participating children also engage in academic enrichment and leadership programs throughout the year. For more information, visit www.FreshAir.org.