RANDOLPH, NJ- Karen Stecker, her husband Steve, and their three children Alison, 11, Jill, 13, and Leah, 10, celebrated the holidays with their Fresh Air child, Tori, 13, of Brooklyn, NY.  First welcoming Tori into their hearts and homes during the summer of 2011 through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program, they were excited to share a special holiday visit together.

“Hosting was something I always thought I would like to do, and when we asked our children about The Fresh Air Fund, they were immediately excited about the idea of making a new friend from a different place,” said Stecker.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 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.

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Tori and her host siblings enjoyed five days full of wintertime fun at the Steckers’ Randolph, NJ home. “There was snow the first day Tori arrived.  It was melting but the girls still managed to make a snowman.” During the rest of the offseason visit, the girls played lots of games and enjoyed each other’s company. “My girls adore Tori.  They are happy staying in their pajamas all morning, watching movies, playing card games and goofing around.”

While the winter allows for more “indoor fun” the family appreciates exploring all that the Randolph area has to offer during the summer: “The girls love to go to the lake in our neighborhood, eat frozen yogurt, play outside with water balloons, barbecue, bike ride, and take road trips to places like Hershey.” During the year, the children keep in touch through phone calls and text messages.

“I'm always amazed how easy and relaxed we are when Tori is visiting.  My kids fight less and enjoy spending time together more when she is in the mix. Tori gets along with each child regardless of their age. I think my 10-year-old is just as close to her as my 11 and 13 year olds. They just get along amazingly well.”

The Fresh Air Fund has always been in the back of Stecker’s mind, something she knew she wanted to get involved in when she had children of her own. “I remember knowing about The Fresh Air Fund for a very long time, before I had children, but didn't consider hosting until my own children were old enough to benefit from the experience and enjoy having a visitor.” And her family’s experience has been positive all around. “I'm just so happy that we met Tori and her family.  They are such wonderful people who have similar values and therefore our kids blend so well.”

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 for this summer, please call Jennifer Baxter at 973-895-2324 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.