BRATTLEBORO -- As kids hailing from the five boroughs of New York City stepped off the bus to meet families hosting them for a week or two, Fresh Air Fund volunteer Tom Kosiba noted that not every year is perfect. But that's not the case this year.

"It doesn't happen every year but this year, it looks like everyone is a good fit," he said.

Kosiba stood waiting with families for the children to arrive at Brattleboro Union High School on Wednesday. With most families, Kosiba says, the intent is not to do extraordinary things with the visiting children but to have picnics, go swimming and catch lightning bugs.

If eligible for the free lunch program in New York City, kids can enter the Fresh Air Fund program at 6 years old until they are 12.

Local host families and children from the Fresh Air Fund stand for a photo after meeting at BUHS last week.(Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Local host families and children from the Fresh Air Fund stand for a photo after meeting at BUHS last week. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
If they are already in the program at 12, they can continue until they are 18.

According to a press release, the Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million children from low-income communities since 1877.

"It's just simply to give the city kids a breath of fresh air during the summer time," Kosiba said. "I think it's even more important now with the issue of safety in the city. Sometimes, it's hard for the kids to even be able to get outside from their apartments and enjoy some fresh air some place."

This year, 11 area families volunteered for the program. Families came from as far away as Dorset and Springfield to pick up kids in Brattleboro.


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The program also brings children to other rural areas such as Pennsylvania and Virginia. Its benefits to the hosting family are also touted.

"I think my kids learned a different perspective, another living circumstance," said Kosiba. "I think they carry that with them through their adulthood."

In most cases, Kosiba recommends a first-time hosting family try it for one week. For their first time, Kristin Anderson, Matthew Blau and their 7-year-old daughter Lila did just that when they welcomed Davin Baker, 6, of Staten Island, into their home in Dummerston.

Davin Baker, 6, of Staten Island, N.Y. stands in shocked excitement as her host family, Kristin Anderson, Matthew Blau and Lila Blau, 7, of Dummerston,
Davin Baker, 6, of Staten Island, N.Y. stands in shocked excitement as her host family, Kristin Anderson, Matthew Blau and Lila Blau, 7, of Dummerston, tell her that they just got a new trampoline. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

Baker and Lila had a tea party on Sunday morning before heading to South Pond in Marlboro to swim.

"Lila's been having fun. It's a week-long play date for her," Blau said.

Over the weekend, they had gone to Bromley Mountain Resort for alpine sledding. It was Baker's first time on a chair lift. According to Blau, she was not crazy about that experience.

They also visited a petting farm.

"The goat kept licking me!" said Baker.

The family sends Baker's mother a daily photograph to show what she's been up to. It was her first time being away from the city and in the country.

"I think it was very, very brave," said Anderson.

While in Vermont, Baker tried eating tacos for the first time. Blau owns Milagros Mexican Kitchen as well as Fireworks in Brattleboro.

"I didn't like it," said Baker, shaking her head left and right. She also tried a green pea out of the pod, which was not her favorite food either.

Baker did enjoy feeding the dog, the fish and the guinea pigs during her visit. She has a dog at home she named Pink after her favorite color. The dog is white and gray but she plans on using "doggy dye" to change the dog's hair color to pink.

Lila and Baker have enjoyed having tea parties together. They both have fun dancing, jumping on a trampoline and playing with stuffed animals. Weather permitting, they have plans to see a movie at the drive-in theater and make a pie.

Former special education teacher Deborah Reed was introduced to the Fresh Air Fund program when her grandmother hosted children in Middlebury. Reed herself hosted children in Bennington when she was married.

When she got divorced and was single with no children, she did not think a child would want to stay She soon learned that was not the case at all.

Lia Sanchez, of the Bronx, who was 7 years old at the time, said she wanted to stay with Reed after being given her description. Since then, Sanchez has stayed with Reed in Halifax for the past six summers.

"I like to swim, garden and read. And she said, 'That's what I like to do too!' So, we really hit it off the first year," Reed said.

For her first night back in Vermont, Sanchez and Reed visited the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Mass. They like to get ice cream, walk around the town and reconnect even though they regularly keep in touch throughout the year.

Since she retired this summer, Reed invited Sanchez for a trip during the winter so she could try skiing and see the area during that season. Sanchez says she wants to attend college in the Green Mountain State.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.