OSWEGO, NY – The Hall family of Oswego has hosted their Fresh Air child, Xiomara, (Nena for short) for two summers through the Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program.
She has become a part of their family.
Fresh Air host Lisa Hall and her husband, Michael, have been able to give simple outdoor pleasures that have forever changed Nena’s perspective. From swimming to cows, the Hall family has shared the beautiful area of Oswego to a Fresh Air city child.
“Witnessing a child’s face light up from seeing a hill or cow for the first time can truly be a humbling and inspiring experience,” Hall said. “It’s something frequently felt through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program.”
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.
“My involvement with the Fresh Air Fund is that I am a host family,” Hall told Oswego County Today. “I have two girls age five and six. My first memory of Nena was a humbling experience.”
“The first thing Nena said on the drive back to our house was ‘Do we have to go up the hills? Can we go around them?’ Later when she saw a cow she said, ‘Oh my gosh! There is a cow. I have never seen a cow. I love cows now!'” Hall added.
Lisa and Michael originally thought they would want a young Fresh Air child to visit their family due to their younger children.
But, now they’re thankful for Nena, who acted like an older sibling for their daughters.
“My girls look at Nena as their older sister. They like to swim in our pool together, color together and even bake chocolate chip cookies together,” Hall said.
The family has a pool, a swing set and a large yard where they like to ride bikes and four wheelers.
“I have not encountered any challenges this far. When our Fresh Air child comes up, we usually have her from one to two weeks and we bring her to our local park, a petting zoo in Henderson Harbor, local parades and picnics,” Hall said. “She enjoys swimming, playing in the grass and car rides in the countryside. The reward is the feeling I get from knowing she is having fun and enjoying the little things in life that we (country folk) take for granted. I enjoy the look on her face when she sees something for the first time (a cow, lake, a long road with ‘big’ hills). It warms my heart to know that I am helping someone see the countryside who might not otherwise have the opportunity to.”
It is these basic experiences that make a Fresh Air trip so memorable and important; something many Fresh Air host families do not realize until becoming a Fresh Air host.
Michael Barbera and Lisa Hall, and their two daughters, Hailey and Hannah, have opened their hearts and Oswego home to their Fresh Air child Nena for the past two summers through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program.
“My husband and I like being able to help people, especially children. We think it is important to experience different parts of New York State other than New York City. The Fresh Air Fund gives us the chance to open up this different world to a child that otherwise would not have the opportunity,” Hall said.
The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods since 1877.
Each summer, Nena enjoys taking photos of the outdoors, recording her own cooking show with Hall, picking flowers and fresh fruit at Ontario Orchards, swimming at Fair Haven Beach and gazing at the lighthouse and boats at Breitbeck Park overlooking Lake Ontario, Hall said.
“Nena was definitely in love with the scenery and animals. She took more than 1,000 photos last summer so I made her a photo album to take home with her,” Hall said. “Her excitement with nature allows my family to remember the simple things. We don’t have to have a lot of money or bring her places to make her happy.”
The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city.
More dedicated volunteers and hosts are needed in the Oswego area for next summer. To learn more about how to become a host family, call Kathy Froio at 315-200-0765 or visit www.freshair.org