Zelienople family relishes opportunity to host children during summer
Since the late 1870s, The Fresh Air Fund has helped more than 1.7 million inner-city children living in New York City experience the joy of the great outdoors.
The nonprofit agency brings children to communities in 13 states, including Pennsylvania. Volunteers hosting these children from low-income neighborhoods are called Friendly Town hosts and strive to create everlasting memories with the help of a strong community.
Families in Cranberry hosting Fresh Air kids got together on July 13 at Glen Eden Homes Lake and Park Pavilion for an afternoon of outdoor activities.
Alanna Kriess of Cranberry organized the event. Kriess, who has been hosting children for eight years, says the experience is rewarding for her family.
“Even from day one, when Elijah, our Fresh Air child, first started coming, right away we treated him just like our child or brother and he treated us the same. It was an instant connection,” Kriess said. “It's gotten better year after year because everybody has matured, including my own children and that's what's made it easier, I think, seeing my kids connecting or forming a brotherly bond with him has been the most rewarding experience.”
Children involved in the Fresh Air program range from ages 6 to 18. The first-time visitors usually range from ages 6 to 12 and stay with a host family for two weeks during the summer. Host families are able to re-invite a child until the child is 18.
According to many Friendly Town hosts, providing a child the opportunity to experience life outside of city streets and cement pavements is one benefit, but the relationships built from the two-week stay is the best part.
March Creeks of Zelienople and her family have hosted three children in nine years with the program. Her family has brought back Adrian Dabney, 16, of the Bronx, N.Y., for seven of those years.
“The best thing was building a relationship with Adrian because I feel like he is part of our family, and I treasure him like I do my kids, my nieces, and my nephews,” Creeks said.
Community-building Pirates games and trips to the zoo called Tickets for Kids are some of the activities offered for The Fresh Air program. Dabney said that he enjoys watching the Pirates play. His favorite player is Andrew McCutchen.
“We call his shots every time he hits a home run,” Dabney said. “He's a lot of fun to watch.”
Kimberly Loja, 10, of Manhattan, N.Y., is staying for the second year with the McMahon family of Zelienople.
She enjoys spending time there and rates going to Kennywood amusement park as her best experience with the Fresh Air Fund.
“My favorite ride is the Thunderbolt, and I really love all the roller coasters,” Loja said.
Mindy McMahon, Loja's host, said that despite a few nervous feelings, hosting Loja has been a wonderful experience.
“It was a match made it heaven,” McMahon said. “Having Kimberly has been really great, she is so comfortable around our family, and we are close with her family in New York.”
For more information about the Fresh Air Fund, visit www.freshair.org.
Alex Klukaszewski is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Fayette extends winning streak in dominating fashion
- State woos Kennametal with $1M in incentives to stay in Pa.
- Feds aim to bring Chinese military leaders to Pittsburgh for trial
- Brown’s return makes difference for Apollo-Ridge in victory over Shady Side Academy
- Waivers granted for Garden Theater block development
- Belle Vernon tops Ringgold in battle of unbeatens
- Baldwin students take in film on Nobel Peace Prize winner’s activism for girls, education
- Freeport takes chances, cashes in during shutout of Highlands
- Penn-Trafford QB Laffoon sets career TD pass mark in rout of Hempfield
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- Armstrong runs past Greensburg Salem