Bronx alum shares her Fresh Air Fund experiences

From left, Ralph, 15, a Fresh Air alum from Brooklyn; Wendy R. Flanagan, Fresh Air Fund Board president and interim executive director; William P. Lauder, Fresh Air Fund Board chairman; Olivia, 17, from the Bronx, Fresh Air alum, at Tavern on the Green.
Photo courtesy Jenna Bascom Photography

On Oct. 6, The Fresh Air Fund celebrated 145 years of giving New York City children the magic of summer at a cocktail reception at Tavern on the Green. Olivia, 17, from the Bronx, shared her Fresh Air experiences with more than 150 friends and supporters.

“When I was 10 years old, I arrived at Fresh Air Camp Hidden Valley, and it was green and pretty and felt like a quiet little town compared to the Bronx,” said Olivia. “There were lots of fun activities, and I took my first steps toward independence.

“The following summer, I visited a host family who volunteered for The Fund’s Friendly Towns program. They were warm and loving and treated me like their own child. I had a terrific time with my Fresh Air sister.”

Her Fresh Air adventures continued in 2016 when she attended The Fund’s Camp Mariah and spent the next three years participating in the year-round Career Awareness Program. Last summer, Olivia was an intern in the Bronx supervising children in the Fresh Air Summer Spaces program.

“It was the greatest. Every day we had new activities with the children who were outdoors learning and playing on a Bronx street that was closed off to traffic,” she said. “Above all, I really came to love these kids and cherish our conversations.”

Olivia is now making plans to apply to colleges with the support of The Fund’s College Connections Program.

“My mentors are always there for me helping me focus on my future goals,” she said. “Now I am writing my college essay, and it’s about personal growth and learning about who I am. I want to say thank you for caring and welcoming me into the Fresh Air family. I plan on staying here forever.”

In 2021, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, The Fund provided New York City children with safe outdoor experiences and enriching virtual programming.

“The Fund continued its commitment to Fresh Air children by developing and implementing programs that made an impact on their lives, their families and communities,” said William Lauder, chairman of the board.

Other speakers included Fresh Air Board President and Interim Executive Director Wendy Flanagan, Fatima Shama, former Fund executive director, and Ralph who is a 15-year-old Fresh Air alum from Brooklyn. The event was generously presented by Bloomberg Philanthropies with special thanks to Michter’s Distillery.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit organization has provided free summer experiences in the outdoors to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. For more information, please visit FreshAir.org.

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