AUBURN, Mass. – Many area families, like the Chestna family in Auburn, have welcomed New York City children into their homes this summer as a part of the Fresh Air Fund.
Cindy Chestna of Auburn is hosting a 16-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy from New York this summer, as she gives the city children a taste of Central Massachusetts.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and it’s great to bring these kids in and give them all these fun opportunities,” Chestna said. “We take for granted going outside, or to the beach, but these kids can’t do those things in New York.”
There are other host families in Dudley, Charlton, Spencer, Webster, North Oxford, Fiskdale, and Oxford.
The Fresh Air Fund of Southern Massachusetts has families “share their summers for up to two weeks with Fresh Air children, ages 6 to 18, who leave behind the city streets to run barefoot in the grass or see the stars at night. Some youngsters are leaving home for the first time, while others are returning to visit the same host families for consecutive summers.”
Chestna started hosting Sabrina from the Bronx when she was 6 years old in 2002. Now Sabrina has been in Auburn for 10 summers, and Chestna said that Sabrina has changed a lot over the years.
“When Sabrina was little, she wouldn’t put her head under water in the pool,” Chestna said. “But jumping in is like nothing for her now.”
Chestna said that Sabrina gets along great with Chestna’s three daughters, and Andres, the 6-year-old boy from New York, makes a great playmate for Chestna’s son.
“We’ve gone camping, took them to a Fourth of July cookout, played mini-golf and other fun activities they don’t get to do in New York,” Chestna said. “More families should definitely get involved in this. It’s a great opportunity for families and the kids who come here.”
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, more than 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban, and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.