Fresh Air kids are here for a spell

PETERBOROUGH — An enthusiastic batch of youngsters from New York City ran off the Fresh Air Fund bus Wednesday to greet the host families they will spend time with this summer.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent nonprofit agency established in 1877, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children between the ages of 6 and 17 from low-income communities. Each summer, a bus comes to Peterborough to drop off children who will spend time in the Monadnock area.

“We used to have 20 or 25 kids. A lot of kids in the program grew too old to participate, and we haven’t had a lot of interest with new [host] families joining the program,” said Fresh Air Co-chair Rachel Soney of Jaffrey, as the bus unloaded at the Peterborough Community Center. This year, 14 children came to the region.

Every year, the program is looking for additional families to host Fresh Air kids during the summer. Families have the option to participate for one or two weeks, depending on their comfort level and the wish of the child. Because of the decline in participation in recent years, the program is now offering a one week visit to families in the Monadnock region and is pitching to empty nesters, who are more likely to have time to host children in the summer.

“We put posters and fliers up this year. We are trying to get the word out. The program needs a new generation of [host] families,” said Soney, whose family hosts two kids, Lourdes, 15, and Unique, 13.

“The experience has been just as valuable to my own kids as it has been to the children we host. The experience helps children to embrace all the differences there are in the world,” said Soney.

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