Long Island residents, the Hardys, will spend their fifth summer with Fresh Air children this summer through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. Through their story, the Fresh Air Fund hopes to recruit more dedicated volunteers and hosts for this summer and future summers on Long Island.
For the past four summers, Marlene Hardy, of Long Beach, has opened up her home to New York City children, giving them the opportunity to escape the inner-city asphalt and spend a week in the sun and the sand, through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. The Hardy family’s favorite summer memories are with 10-year-old Jordan, of Brooklyn, and nine-year-old Estefania, of Jamaica, New York, boating, swimming and biking on the boardwalk.
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 inner-city children visit suburban, rural, and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through The Fresh Air Fund.
Growing up, Marlene remembers a Fresh Air child staying at a home in her neighborhood. Some of her own fond childhood memories involved playing games outside with her neighbor and Fresh Air friend each summer. Forty years later, she jumped at the opportunity to host children herself. “I saw an advertisement, and knew it was something I wanted to do.”
As a part-time teacher, Marlene enjoys filling her summer breaks by helping others. “I thought it would be fun to share our summers with a New York City child,” she says. Marlene recalls the first time she took her Fresh Air child Jordan swimming in the ocean. “He said he could swim and was comfortable in the swimming pool, but the second we took him to the ocean, he would not stop clinging to my husband. He was terrified,” she says. “After the second summer he spent with us, he was not only comfortable enough to swim in the ocean, but loves to boogie board and surf too!”
Marlene’s son Timothy is the same age as their Fresh Air child Jordan, and her daughter Carolina is the same age as Estefania. The children have set aside differences in their backgrounds, and focus on what they have in common, including their love for playing catch, riding bikes, and playing games on the beach. Both Fresh Air children are looking forward to another Long Beach trip this upcoming summer with the Hardy family.
Based on her own experience, Marlene would recommend hosting through the Volunteer Host Family Program to any family who is interested. “It is a lot of fun, and it is a great experience for children to learn to share the simple things in life with another child from a different background. It is remarkable for both parties.”
The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer vacation outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family in Nassau County this summer, please call Eileen Rauchenberger at 516-677-0215.
Find more information about The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.