A breath of Fresh Air

Area host family greet inner-city summer visitors

Host families from the Capital District and beyond greeted a busload of visitors from New York City on Wednesday, June 30, as the long-running Fresh Air Fund shifted into gear for the summer.

About 20 inner-city children stepped off the bus at Christ Our Light Catholic Church in Loudonville, some greeting families they have vacationed with in the past, some meeting their hosts for the first time. All will spend at least a week upstate to get a true summer vacation experience.

But the program doesn't just benefit the children who travel upstate, said local organizer Cindy Mangione, who has been a host in the past.

It gives my children the opportunity to learn about another area, she said. "I think my children learned more than I did."

The program has been running since 1877 and seen 1.7 million participants. For many of the inner-city children, Fresh Air is their only opportunity to vacation away from the city.

Locally, the program will match over 80 children with host families this summer, over three, two-week periods. Many of the host families will invite the same child back, said Mangione, and once a good relationship is established then they can host a visitor for up to a month.

While there are die-hard host families, many are diving in for the first time every year, like Sara Rosenblatt of Delmar, who met 7-year-old Natasha Dailey on Wednesday.

She said her children"Ben, 6, and Ella, 8"are looking forward to the two weeks they'll have with Natasha, who lives in Staten Island.

"I grew up with a woman who was an absolutely wonderful role model when it comes to being charitable: my mother," Rosenblatt said. "I try to instill that in my children, as well."

The Rosenblatts plan to hit local attractions like museums, the library and the Elm Avenue Park pool, in addition to outdoor expeditions. This weekend, they're heading to Lake George to take in Fourth of July festivities and fireworks.

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