“Summer brothers” return for Fresh Air visit
By Joan Simoneau, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – For the past five years, David and Elaine Ritter have opened their homes and hearts to two young boys from Brooklyn, N.Y., DeJohn and Delavonte,? as part of the “Fresh Air Fund.”
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877.
Over the years, DeJohn and Delavonte have maintained a special friendship with the Ritters, particularly their sons, Zachary, 13, and Evan, 10.
“My sons call them ‘our summer brothers’ and think of them as family,” said Elaine,? “and we all look forward to their coming every year.”
The boys” favorite pastimes are swimming in the Ritter boys” grandmother's pool, playing basketball and fishing.
During their 10-day stay, the boys enjoy their favorite foods, including fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese and seafood but have also learned to eat a wider variety of food. They enjoy the outdoors, running and playing in the grass and play areas, and have learned to accept bugs and flying insects as a way of rural life, according to Elaine.
“They see how a family with a dad works as they share a single mom and have different dads who they do not know,” she said.
The boys keep in touch with their Marlborough family through the year via Facebook, cards and email.
“Fresh Air Fund has been a huge positive in our lives,” said Elaine. “I think we have grown as a family and I love that my boys know that what they have is a lot more than most and they [have] learned how to share their home and parents.”
“They have also learned that helping in our community is important and giving and sharing our time with some who are less fortunate can be very rewarding,” she added.
The program is for both boys and girls, from ages six to 18 years old, who live in New York City.? Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for one or two weeks. Children who are re-invited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. Families find hosting so rewarding that more than 65 percent of all Fresh Air children are invited to visit the same host families year after year, as has been the case with the Ritters. Through the eyes of Fresh Air children, many families often rediscover the beauty of their own communities.
For more information on hosting a Fresh Air child this summer, contact Lisa Sajedi at 978-635-1211 or visit The Fresh Air fund online at www.freshair.org.
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