From left, Nancy Salvage brought Chasity Ortiz, visiting from New York City by way of the Fresh Air Fund, and Autumn Cheviette to visit Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey at city hall last week. Chasity was invited to sign Port Colborne's guest book.
PORT COLBORNE - When the weather grows warmer and summer vacation is near, Chasity Ortiz begins counting down the days until she makes the long trek from the Bronx, one of the boroughs of New York City, to Port Colborne.
Each summer, Chasity comes to visit through the Fresh Air Fund, an independent non-profit organization created to allow inner-city kids a chance to get away from the hot, noisy city streets to enjoy the country.
When she rolled into town last Tuesday after an eight-hour bus ride, Chasity looked forward to eating an ice-cream cone — a tradition to celebrate the beginning of a 10-day visit with her host family.
Nancy Salvage, who oversees the Port Colborne chapter of the Fresh Air Fund, has welcomed Chasity into her home for the past four years.
Being a host parent and opening up her home to a child from New York City is a rewarding and profound experience, she said.
“It’s something I always wanted to do. It’s a program I felt strongly about and I felt it was something I could do.”
Salvage has been a part of the organization for six years. She is currently overseeing 18 children who have come to stay for the summer.
Fresh Air children aged six to 18 are welcomed by host families and can stay anywhere from one to six weeks. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old, said Salvage.
There are no costs in welcoming a Fresh Air child. All that host families are required to give is time and love.
The program is a chance for kids to be a part of someone else’s family to share new experiences and to make lifelong friendships, Salvage said.
The Fresh Air Fund began more than 130 years ago when an epidemic of Tuberculosis was rampant and fresh air was considered a cure for respiratory ailments.
“Children were sent away to breathe in the fresh air and that’s why it’s called the Fresh Air Fund,” Salvage said.
Through the program, more than 4,000 children visit host families each summer in rural and small town communities in Canada and the U.S.
Salvage said she has grown close to her Fresh Air daughter and looks forward to her visit each summer.
“When Chasity arrives we always pick up right where we left off.”
Chasity said she enjoys everything about Port Colborne — the cool air, the wide-open space and the freedom to explore and enjoy all that the community has to offer.
Staying in a house with a backyard in the lakeside community is a big change from living in a 14-storey apartment building in the hustle and bustle of New York, she said.
“I like it here, I like everything and it’s nice to just hang out.”
Chasity remembers that her initial shyness in arriving in Canada soon changed to excitement when was able to explore Niagara. Niagara Falls has become one of her favourite sites to visit because the falls are nothing like anything she has ever seen before.
For more information about the Fresh Air Fund call NSalvage at 905-835-0442 or visit www.freshairfund.org.
About the Fresh Air Fund
The Fresh Air Fund provides an opportunity for inner-city kids aged six to 18 to take a break from the hot, noisy streets of New York City.
More than 4,000 children visit volunteer host families each summer in rural, suburban and small town communities.
Since 1877, more than 1.7 million children living in New York City’s toughest neighbourhoods have spent summers living with host families across Canada and the U.S.