The idea is great: Host a Fresh Air Fund child for a week. Give a city kid time in the country. Do something good, in one small way.
The concerns, though, can be overwhelming: Bring a stranger into my home? What will we do for 7 days? What will my kids think?
The reality, fortunately, is fantastic. Fresh Air Fund hosts find that the week flies by. There is plenty to do — but sometimes the best is to just open the door and let ’em play outside. And the benefits — to you and your kids — are incalculable.
For the past 5 years, Nikki Gorman and her family hosted a boy named JJ. Any initial worries melted away when — as soon as he got off the bus from New York — JJ started talking sports with her sons.
“The kids spent a lot of time just playing,” Nikki says. Pool, basketball, swimming, hanging in the hot tub — that’s how most of the days went.
There were trips to the beach, a Bluefish game and more. Many camps enroll Fresh Air Fund youngsters at reduced rates; JJ loved the Fairfield University basketball camp.
Sure, he was a bit homesick at first. But when JJ returned home, Nikki says “it felt like a piece of our family was missing.”
That family appreciated the chance to share their life and possessions, and provide JJ with new experiences. It also gave her children “excitement about things that used to feel ordinary.”
They quickly understood that JJ did not have the advantages and resources that they did, Nikki notes. “It made them generous with him in a way that siblings are not typically with each other. Each one competed to see who could give JJ more in terms of attention, things or adventures. It makes a mom proud.”
She and her husband have found JJ’s enthusiasm “infectious.” He has been “a role model for keeping a great attitude in the face of adversity, and valuing family above all. We feel so lucky to have him in our lives.”
Nikki strongly recommends the Fresh Air Fund to “any family trying to instill perspective, and an understanding of the world outside of suburbia.”
Her son, Noah Lomnitz, agrees. As a Staples High School sophomore, he now realizes “the profound impact these friends had on my outlook on life.” He recognizes a “subtle sense of entitlement” in Westport, but says helping host JJ has made him “more generous, tolerant and kindhearted.”
He adds: “The Fresh Air Fund has had a profound impact on my life, and I’m sure JJ’s life as well. I would recommend it to anyone in Westport for a new perspective on the world, whether you have kids or not. It’s only 1 week, for a lifetime of memories.”
(An information session for anyone interested in hosting a Fresh Air Fund child will be held tomorrow — Friday, May 29, from 12-1 p.m. — at Village Pediatrics, 156 Kings Highway North, Westport. Dr. Nikki Gorman will answer questions. To learn more about the Fresh Air Fund program, contact Nicole Heath at 203-829-8196 or click here.)