RANDOLPH, NJ- Four years ago, Danielle Sapone, of Randolph, New Jersey, came home from school eager to show her mother, Monica, a flyer she received about The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. Monica was familiar with The Fresh Air Fund because her cousin was a Fresh Air child growing up. Monica and her husband Edward both grew up in New York City, so the hot, crowded summers were all too familiar; but it was the enthusiasm in Danielle’s face that convinced Monica to sign up to host Lakema, of the Bronx, in 2010.
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, over 4,000 inner-city children visit suburban, rural, and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program.
Lakema, whom the Sapones have hosted for three summers, is a young girl with an open heart and a love for summer. Whether she is running through the grass or learning to ride a bike, Lakema is always having fun and loves being part of the Sapone’s every day summer activities. Together they have enjoyed trips to the Land of Make Believe, the mini golf course, and the bowling alley.
One of Monica’s most cherished memories with Lakema is from their first summer together when the family went to Randolph Lake beach. Lakema didn’t know how to swim so Edward signed her up for swimming lessons. Lakema was immediately in love with the water. She started off in the shallow end with a lot of younger children, but nevertheless, she was having the time of her life. Monica was proud to say that she was the one to give Lakema this opportunity.
The Sapones’ children always look forward to having Lakema back. They welcome her into the family as another sister and the relationship the children have built together is effortless. Monica has used the experience to teach her children the importance of giving back and not to take what they have for granted.
This summer, although Monica is juggling four of her own children, she is excited to open her home to Lakema again. The Sapones are looking forward to spending time in their backyard, barbecuing, and swimming. “Fresh Air children just want to run in the grass, sit on a swing, ride a bike in the street, and hang out with the family. It’s just so easy to connect and bond with Lakema, she always has great manners and she’s very grateful,” Monica said.
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. To learn more about how to become a host family in the Southern Morris County area, please call Jennifer Baxter at 203-470-2297 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.