By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – A team of seven women representing the Fresh Air Fund (FAF) in central Massachusetts needs families from Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Southborough and Westborough to host New York City youth for a week this summer. Organizing this region’s efforts are Julie North of Shrewsbury and Eileen Palmer of Northborough. Each has volunteered with the nonprofit organization for about 10 years.
“We’re looking for families to open their front doors and their hearts for a week,” Palmer explained. “Kids who come here from the city enjoy the littlest things. Some of their fondest memories are making s’mores, playing with the family pets and riding a bicycle. They thoroughly enjoy the water – swimming in a pool or any local beach. It’s the basic things that we take for granted.”
NYC youth ages 7 to 14 will arrive by bus Tuesday, July 12, and depart Tuesday, July 19. Travelling weekends is purposely avoided.
“Traffic in and out of NYC on the weekends in the summer is impossible,” Palmer noted. “These kids are on a bus for about four hours. Many of them took a bus, subway or taxi to get to the bus station. We need to think about their happiness and safety.”
Activities are currently being scheduled throughout the week that will be offered to host families. Planned activities thus far are a Worcester Bravehearts baseball game and a day trip to Water Country in Portsmouth, N.H. Among other considerations are a movie night at the Mendon Drive-In and a visit to Memorial Beach in Marlborough.
“Scheduled activities are available, but there’s no pressure to participate in all these events,” Palmer stressed. “Optional activities are nice to have in case they’re looking for something to do and meet other families. There’s a great comradery among FAF families.”
Many local families have hosted NYC youth repeatedly, which gives them the option of visits longer than a week. The team is particularly interested in welcoming more families who are new to FAF.
“We’re especially looking for young families with children ages of 7 to 14, who would like to keep it simple for a week with a NYC child,” Palmer noted. “A family that hosts for FAF should be laidback and relaxed because that’s what summer is supposed to be all about – letting your hair down a little bit.”
Palmer urges local families to consider the alternative for some NYC youth if not given the opportunity of a FAF vacation.
“Most of them sit in a very hot apartment in a project with asphalt basketball courts,” she said. “There’s no pool or beach. Often, there’s no air conditioning. In comparison to what these kids have in the city, nearly everybody here has something more to offer.”
The local FAF representatives recently attended a conference in NYC. There, they heard statistics that confirmed their belief that FAF is a beneficial program.
“We heard that one in five children in NYC is obese, and one in three children in NYC lives below the poverty line,” Palmer relayed. “There’s a correlation that these kids aren’t getting enough fresh air. They’re not riding bicycles, they’re not running on grass and they’re not eating peaches at Tougas Farm. Poverty doesn’t provide them with fresh fruits and vegetables, or grass to run around on. It’s good to show these kids the importance of healthy living.”
Families interested in hosting can contact Julie North at [email protected] or Eileen Palmer [email protected] by Sunday, May 1, to ask questions or arrange an interview. A date will be announced for an information night in June at the Northborough Free Library. For more information about FAF, visit freshair.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/freshairfund.