CAPITAL DISTRICT Do you ever notice how many stars are out on a summer night?
A lot of kids who travel to the Capital District from New York City through the Fresh Air Fund every summer do. They rarely have the luxury of seeing them Downstate.
“In New York City, it’s never dark, so kids have never seen stars. It sounds sort of basic but…,” said Fresh Air Fund’s Executive Director, Jenny Morgenthau.
Since 1877, the Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Town Program has been giving children ages 8 to 18 the chance to get away from their urban surroundings. Every year, they pair thousands of children from disadvantaged communities in the five boroughs to host families in 13 states and parts of Canada.
The nearby Capital District remains one of the most popular locations for hosting. There is no cost to the child or the host family for participating.
Up to 3,000 kids from the city also have the opportunity to stay at camps located in Fishkill. Even so, there are never enough hosts to accommodate all the roughly 4,100 kids who would like some time away from the city.
The fund is still seeking host families for the remainder of this summer. Families can host one or two-week time periods from late June through mid-August. According to Morgenthau, around two-thirds of the kids who visit are invited back to the same family.
“It’s a very special program, and people get very attached,” said Morgenthau.
Brian and JoAnn Sterner of Saratoga Springs will be hosting Randy, who is from the Bronx, for the second time this summer.
“I was drawn to the simplicity of opening your heart and home,” JoAnn Sterner said. “As much as we are offering the city kids an opportunity, they have so much to offer to our families as well. Randy taught us how to appreciate the little things in life. We turned off the computer and enjoyed the outdoors.”