A breath of Fresh Air

TUPPER LAKE - Thanks to some local volunteers, kids from the heart of New York City are getting the chance to experience life in the Adirondacks.

The Fresh Air Fund, an organization that facilitates summer vacations for New York's inner-city youth, is continuing to foster connections between urban children and Adirondack families.

Last year, eight children were hosted in the region through the Fresh Air Fund, including homes in Tupper Lake, Wilmington, Keene, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid.

Tupper Lake resident Deolinda Jessie is the volunteer leader for the region and said more host families are always needed.

Jessie has been hosting a Fresh Air child for the past 13 years, most of those being spent with a particular girl named Ashley.

"My daughter still stays in contact with her," she said."They e-mail, they IM. They've become good friends."

Though they generally come from low-income families and are not accustomed to dark, quiet nights, Jessie said the kids themselves are not all that different from those around here. They simply appreciate the chance to enjoy some wide-open space.

When families volunteer to host, they can indicate a preference for a child's gender and age. They must provide references and submit to a background check and home inspection.

The child's parents choose which host family to match their child with. First-time participants are between the ages of 6-12 and can stay for up to two weeks. The Fresh Air Fund pays for medical care and liability insurance for the children while on their visit.

"All people need is a bed and a drawer for the child," said Jessie, who said problems can be dealt with if it turns out not to be a good match.

The children can be invited back each subsequent summer to stay with the same family, and may continue to visit each year until they turn 18. Sixty-five percent of children who participate are invited for multiple years.

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