As the first round of New York City children arrived in the north country Monday night as part of the Fresh Air Fund, local organizers hope others who see the children are inspired to become host families.
Marcia LaManna, Fresh Air Fund's Thousand Islands area chairwoman, said more host families are needed throughout the area to offer a maximum number of inner-city children an often first-time experience in a rural setting."Many of the kids aren't around grass or animals, so it's a big treat for them," she said. "Any families here that just have some time for them are needed. There are so many kids that'd benefit from this."
Fewer than 100 children will visit the north country this summer as part of the Fresh Air program. The number of children who come each summer depends on the number of families willing to volunteer at least one week.
"This year's been very light for me," Mrs. LaManna said. "We're trying to push to get some new host families. There's still time; we have an abundance of children who need host families."
Since the fund's establishment in 1877, it has helped more than 1.7 million children have a free experience in 13 states and Canada.
At 6:30 p.m. Monday at Salmon Run Mall, six children arrived to spend to spend the week with families from Jefferson or Lewis counties. A separate group of children will arrive at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Canton Village Park.
Linette A. Irish, Fresh Air Fund's St. Lawrence County coordinator, said all it would take to bring more New York City children is a mix of dating, engaged or married couples to "open their heart and home."
Donna B. Yancey, Fresh Air Fund's Lewis County coordinator, said Lewis County desperately needs more host families. There is only one hosting from July 9 to 21 and one hosting during a two-week session in August.
Last year in Lewis County, 13 inner-city children visited the area through the program.
Fresh Air Fund Chairwoman Danielle Jewett said first-time hosts may have a child for one or two weeks. Once a family hosts a child through one experience, a strong bond typically develops and those children revisit their host family each year.
"They become a part of the family," she said.
Children will arrive in the north country throughout July and August.
For more information, or to become a host family in St. Lawrence County, residents may call Mrs. Irish at 261-8529. For Jefferson County, call Mrs. Jewett at 1 (585) 978-9002 or Mrs. LaManna at 200-2880. For Lewis County, call Mrs. Yancey at 376-7023.
The Fresh Air Fund may be reached by calling 1 (800) 376-0003, ext. 8889.