The Fresh Air Fund could breathe easier if more local families sign up and invite New York City kids into their homes.
Trena Reidinger of Bakers Mills had opened her house to borough-dwelling kids for the last few summers.
“It's fun to be involved in other kids’ lives,” she said.
Reidinger strives to educate her own five children on the wonders of the larger world. Bringing the kids from the big city to a small Adirondack town can educate them in the same way.
“They see that life is bigger, too,” she said. “And sometimes smaller.”
Church friends had a visitor every year, and she was interested, but waited until her own kids grew up a little so they could enjoy hosting a city kid, too.
Simply offering a traditional family atmosphere can be a new experience to some kids. Because she has children, her summers are already full of experiences that a city kid wouldn't have. They go blueberry picking, swimming at the lake, and hiking. They've even visited the water park in Old Forge and The Great Escape, which the program helped cover for their visitor.
Regional coordinator Patty LeRoy said the kids from the boroughs have to qualify for a school lunch program, and can participate until they turn 18.
Leroy's been involved with the program for 45 years.
“I'm in the grandma stage now,” LeRoy said.
Though families can sign up for as little as a week, LeRoy suggests two.
“The first week is honeymoon week, but the second week is when you really get to know the kids,” LeRoy said.
The numbers locally have dropped year-over-year recently, and LeRoy is trying harder to get the word out to local families to get hosts. Instead of a few kids, she would like to see a whole busload.
As a chair, LeRoy reviews families for entrance interviews when they're interested, and repeats the interviews every three years for consistent participants.
“Taking in a child is a tremendous responsibility not to be taken lightly,” she said, but it's also a lot of fun. The program covers medical and liability insurance. If the family goes on vacation, insurance extends there.
If there is a problem with a visiting kid not connecting with the family, the program will change placement.
When LeRoy's husband died a year ago, a now 38-year-old Fresh Air kid attended the ceremony, and brought a Yankees jacket to bury with his summer family member.
“I can't understand why everybody doesn't do the same thing,” she said.
For more information, call LeRoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Reidinger by email at email@example.com, or phone at 251-3263.