Last year, nine-year-old Saraiya had an opportunity to spend her summer days at the lake doing crafts, visiting the local library and riding a bike. This may sound like a normal summer experience to many, but for Saraiya, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The young girl spent 10 days with the Stickley family in their Kinnelon home through The Fresh Air Fund, which gives inner city children from New York City the chance to spend some time in a more suburban setting. Since 1877, the Fresh Air Fund has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million children from low income neighborhoods in New York City.
Amy Stickley, a Kinnelon teacher, said she first learned about The Fresh Air Fund last year and soon after, she inquired about the possibility of hosting a girl that was her daughter’s age. That was how the family first came to meet Saraiya.
“She was a very sweet and loving kid,” Stickley said. “She was so excited to be out here. She wanted to participate in everything.”
Stickley said they spent a lot of their time together at the lake, the beach or swimming in various pools. They also enjoyed visiting the Kinnelon Public Library and doing art projects together.
“It was a really great experience for everyone,” she said, adding that a highlight was seeing how happy Saraiya was to spend some time in Kinnelon.
Stickley said that both her children, Jenna, 9, and Andrew, 5, learned from Saraiya, who was used to being responsible for herself and preparing her own meals.
“And she got to be pampered a little bit,” Stickley added.
Stickley said she would recommend hosting a child through The Fresh Air Fund to anyone who would be able to be home during the time the child would be visiting, which ranges from a week to ten days or longer, depending on what is agreed to.
“It is a very good experience,” she said. “(The child) gets to learn what someone else’s life is like.”
Stickley said that her children and Saraiya have kept in touch since summer through letters and phone calls and the family looks forward to spending more time with her this summer.
For additional information about The Fresh Air Fund or to volunteer to host a child, visit their website here or contact Donna Perch, the Morris County Fresh Air Fund Chairperson by calling (973) 838-2721 or by emailing email@example.com.