Giving New York City kids a taste of Niagara
Nancy Salvage is a big advocate of the Fresh Air Fund program. She’s seen the benefits it can have firsthand.
Salvage is the chair for the Welland, Port Colborne and Fort Erie branch of the non-profit organization, which started 140 years ago in Pennsylvania after a tuberculosis outbreak in New York City. She said a group of people from Pennsylvania started it as a way to help kids get out of the outbreak area and into some “fresh air” by having them stay with host families.
“We bring them to families just to be one of the family,” Salvage said.
Although the tuberculosis outbreak has long passed, the program continues, bringing low-income kids from New York City to stay with host families.
Host families are available in many areas across the United States and in Canada.
Last year, she said, 110 children came from New York City to spend a week to a month over the summer with a Niagara host family, 15 of which stayed in Port Colborne.
Salvage was set up at the Port Colborne library on Saturday with pamphlets, display boards and her wealth of knowledge about the program to share with anyone who might be interested.
She and her husband have had several children come stay with them through the Fresh Air Fund, and although they’ve aged out since it’s only for kids seven to 18, she keeps in touch with them even today.
Having been a part of the program herself for several years, she can confidently say it’s not about creating a financial burden on the host family.
The Fresh Air Fund takes care of travel costs, and having the kids come to stay isn’t about needing to take them to all the tourist attractions or going on lavish excursions. It’s about giving them a different experience than they might be used to.
She said there have been kids that have come from the big city life to stay with farming families, for instance. The child has the opportunity to help out on the farm, see the animals and even see the stars without all of the city’s light pollution.
Some of the New York City kids who have been through the program speak at conferences, where she said they talk about the simplicity of just being able to experience something beyond what they’re used to at home.
“It’s great for the families, too,” she said. “It’s great for our kids to meet someone from a different background.”
Being a part of the program is no small feat on either side, though. Savage said it’s a “big deal” for the parents or guardians of these children to let their kids travel to another state or another country to spend some time over the summer. For the host families, it’s about deciding if this is really right for you.
“This isn’t something we want to push on people,” she said. “It’s too important a commitment.”
Salvage said this is the time of year to sign up for the program though because there is a lot of work that goes into setting up a child with a family. Interviews, background checks and making sure to have a good match between the child and family are just some of the steps that need to be taken.
To find out more information and get involved with the program, Salvage recommends visiting freshairfund.org or getting in touch with her by phone at 905835-0442 or 905-941-0533 or by email at email@example.com.
Nancy Salvage, chair of the Welland, Port Colborne and Fort Erie Fresh Air Fund campaign, is a big advocate for the program which brings kids from New York City to Niagara to experience a summer away from home.