Cumberland Times-News

April 16, 2014

Local family says hosting New York City children in summer is ‘wonderful experience’

The Fresh Air Fund has been placing kids in rural settings since 1877

For the Cumberland Times-News
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Sonya and Christopher Morgan of Cumberland always planned on a hosting a child through The Fresh Air Fund Volunteer Host Family Program. “Christopher always said once we had kids of our own we were going to do it. When our son turned 6 we said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” said Sonya.

She found it especially memorable to host their first child, Antonio, because it was his first year as a Fresh Air child. Sonya still finds her involvement with the Fresh Air Fund fulfilling. “It has been such a wonderful experience for my children, they have grown so much,” said Sonya, “and we can give these kids experiences they don’t get in New York.”

The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, more than 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

The Morgans fill their visits with camping, fishing, trips to the beach and as much outdoor fun as possible. Especially important to Sonya is getting the kids outside as much as possible. “I love seeing all the kids’ different reactions to being outside,” she said. Hosting a child can be an eye-opening experience. Sonya remembers how her own children were shocked that Antonio would immediately run outside in the morning. “We took the ability to just run outside and play in a yard for granted,” said Sonya.

The Eichhorn family heard about The Fresh Air Fund for years and last year decided it was the right time to host a child for the first time. It gave Amber and her family the opportunity to show a child what it was like in to be a member of the Eichhorn family. Camping, fishing, swimming and campfires are just a part of their daily lives and The Fresh Air Fund allowed them to share those family activities with a child from New York City. Amber Eichhorn spoke to Elijah, their Fresh Air child from last summer, a few weeks ago and said he had a list of the things he wanted to do again this summer and friends he had made that he couldn’t wait to see.

It has been such an enriching experience for her sons that she views as one of the best parts of being a host family. Without The Fresh Air Fund, the Eichhorn family never would have met Elijah and as Amber said, “then we wouldn’t have the opportunity to share our life and love with him.”

“It’s definitely an experience that I think would be a great growing opportunity for every family to try. It was a great first time experience and everyone clicked really well,” said Amber.

“If you’re the type of person who wants to do something for someone else or help a child experience something new and be a part of it, then volunteer to host a child this summer. You go into it thinking you’re going to have a huge impact on these kids and they end up having an even bigger impact on you,” said Sonya.

The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family in Cumberland, contact Sonya Morgan, the local volunteer leader, at 301-268-3729 or visit The Fresh Air Fund at www.freshair.org.