Fresh Air Fund seeks host families

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Have you ever thought of what it would be like to never be able to go swimming, horseback riding, or even feel the grass in between your toes? Unfortunately, some children from inner cities such as New York have never been able to do these things. Fortunately, you can be the person to help these kids gain a whole new experience of what life outside the city is like by becoming a host family.

The Fresh Air Fund is seeking host families to provide a home and an unforgettable summer experience to children.

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund has provided more than 1.7 million children growing up in the New York City's toughest neighborhoods the experience and joys of fresh air vacations. The Fund is a not-for-profit agency, and primarily supported by the generosity of contributors.

The Fund is looking for friendly host families to volunteer their suburb or small town community homes in the Punxsutawney area from July 5-19, and in the Indiana area from August 10-19. This will not only be a unforgettable experience for the child, but an enriching experience for the host families. Celine Tursine, chairperson of The Fresh Air Fund out of the Punxsutawney headquarters, enjoys speaking with the host families about their experiences at the end of the summer.

"The families always say they learn a lot and enjoy having the children from the city. The families say they try to make the time the kids are with them a mini vacation," Tursine said.

Host families may request the age group and gender of their child. These children range from six to 12 years of age and will stay for a two-week time period. Children that are invited back into the family home may continue with The Fund through age 18, and may enjoy longer summer visits. Sixty-five percent of children are re-invited back to their host family year after year.

Shannon Plyler and her family of Brookville are a third-time host family to a 10-year-old girl named Saphire Anderson from the Bronx in New York. Plyler explained how she and her family felt that they were being led by God to help a child in need.

"Hosting Saphire has been a real blessing for me and my family,” Plyler said. "She is definitely a big part of our lives."

All transportation expenses are funded by The Fresh Air Fund, as well as any medical expenses for children without insurance. The Fund also provides liability insurance for the host.

A medical examination will be given to each child before arriving to their new summer home.

Each host family is required to have a home visit, fill out a background check form, and provide four references prior to being accepted into the program.

Summer vacation is fast approaching, and there is still time for those interested to become part of this experience. For more information on hosting an inner-city child, contact Tursine at 814-938-8416, or e-mail The Fresh Air Fund at