This summer, over 4,000 children will enjoy a summer vacation outside of the city with volunteer host families in suburban, rural and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program.
On July 8, 18 children arrived in Williamsville to meet their host families. Jennifer Kreutz-Castro interviews families interested in participating. Careful thought is given to matching children with particular families for a "comfortable fit.". This is the third year that the same child has come to stay with the Kreutz-Castro household. That child is now 11. Jennifer was very upbeat about the program, and quickly put me in touch with Sara Marsowicz of Dunkirk. Sara, her husband Jeffrey, and son Nicholas, age 11, welcomed 9-year-old Sequan Roberts into their home.
It was short notice, but Sara was very gracious. An hour after my call, I met everyone except Jeffrey. As the boys played basketball outside, Sara discussed the experience. She said that this is the third time in four years that the Marsowicz family has hosted a child.
Nicholas Marsowicz and Sequan Roberts enjoy a Bisons game. Sequan was staying in Dunkirk as part of the Fresh Air program.
A trip to Niagara Falls was part of Sequan’s experience in Western New York. Pictured from left to right front:Sequan and Nicholas. Back: Jeffrey Marsowicz, Sara Marsowicz and Lisa Woelfe, Sara’s sister.
She learned of the program years ago by reading a little article in the OBSERVER.
Sara said, " Sequan is a good fit for our family. The boys have many of the same interests. Sequan is polite. He has manners. We wouldn't hesitate to ask him back."
She said that the agency calls and checks with the families, and provides a great deal of information; for example, suggestions for handling difficult situations that may come up. "They're very supportive," she said.
When asked about some of the favorite things they've done, Sara described a busy, fun-filled time together.
She said, "Niagara Falls, the Cave of the Winds - that was a big hit with everybody. We went to the beach a couple of days. Today we went to miniature golf. "
They also attended Bisons and Jammers games, and Nicholas' soccer games.
Nicholas and Sequan joined us inside, and neighbor Eric Baumgartner stopped by. The boys were friendly, polite, and attentive. They displayed an easy camaraderie.
Sequan said that he found out about the program because his Mom told him, and he saw it on the internet.
Sequan has brothers age 11 and 7, and a sister age 6. His older brother is participating in the Fresh Air program on Long Island, in the Hamptons. When asked how he thought his siblings would react to the experience, he smiled and said, "they would like it!" Sequan said that this is his first year in the program, but he would do it again.
Sequan said that he lives in Brooklyn. When asked what he usually does there in the summer, he said that he plays basketball and soccer. He likes movies, the beach, and board games. Monopoly is his favorite.
When asked about differences between this area and his home, he said, "There's a lot of golf courses (here)." He was also surprised at the size of Lake Erie.
Nicholas gave positive feedback about the experience from his perspective. "It's fun having another kid around. I'm an only child," he said.
The three boys went back outside to shoot some hoops. Their skills were impressive. The conversation turned to Nicholas' upcoming soccer game. When asked what position he played, he answered, "forward."
"He scored three goals last time," Sequan chimed in proudly.
A day at Waldameer was also planned before Sequan returned to Brooklyn with other Fresh Air children by bus from Erie Community College North on Friday, July 18.
When asked if anything surprised them about this experience Sara summed it up by saying, "The smooth transition. He really opened up. It's been a joy".
The Fresh Air Fund is providing another trip for first time visitors from August 12-22. There is still time to sign up to be a host family. Places are needed for kids ages 6-12. The host family can choose the age of the child and whether to host a boy or a girl. For more information about hosting a Fresh Air child, call Jennifer Kreutz-Castro at 901-4222 or Cheryl Flick at 984-7642 or visit the website at www.freshair.org.
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