Fairfield family participates in Fresh Air Fund’s volunteer host family program

Karen Biggs, of Fairfield, always knew she wanted to be a volunteer host for The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. “I lived and worked in New York City, so I was familiar with the program,” said Biggs, “I always knew that it was an amazing thing to do for someone else and something that I wanted to do with my family one day.” When she and her husband, Charles, along with their daughter, Coco, and son, Pearson, settled in Connecticut, the family decided to sign up and host nine-year-old Dante, of Staten Island, for a week last summer. “From the minute he got off the bus, Dante had this huge smile on his face,” said Biggs, who described her first encounter with the city child. “We had a sign with his name and he ran right up and gave us all a big hug,” said Biggs, “and that’s when I knew we were going to have a great week.”

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, close to 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.

It was Dante’s first time ever visiting Connecticut and the Biggs intended on making the most of the seven days he stayed with them. “We did everything with him!” said Karen, “we went to the beach, he took swimming and tennis lessons, we took him hiking at the Audubon Center, we had water gun fights in the yard and family barbeques…but his absolute favorite thing to do was just being outside, running around the yard with my son.” Biggs said that Dante is a happy, outgoing child who is the “life of the party” and “willing to try anything.” “Just seeing him smile and happily exhausted at the end of the day,” said Biggs, “it is truly wonderful and it reinforces why signing up for the program was such a great decision for my family.” The Biggs had a wonderful time with Dante last summer that the family is reinviting him this year to enjoy another summer at their home in Fairfield.

Biggs said that hosting Dante has helped her family “appreciate the smaller things” and has taught her children to be open to different people and new experiences. She also spoke about the impact that the program has had on Dante, saying “it’s such a small give on your part-only one week!-but it can really change the child’s life. They can try new foods and new activities and have a sort of summer freedom that they might not have experienced before. One week of your life can open up a whole new world to this child.” Biggs said that her family is excited to have Dante back this summer and they look forward to creating more summer memories with their friend from New York City.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer vacation outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family in the Southwest Coast area, please call Amanda Hanson at 720-880-8564 or visit www.freshair.org.

Karen and Charles Biggs with their daughter, Coco and son, Pearson, along with Dante, of Staten Island.

Karen and Charles Biggs with their daughter, Coco and son, Pearson, along with Dante, of Staten Island.

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