New Canaanite discusses Fresh Air hosting experience
New Canaan resident Kim Finnerty has been familiar with the Fresh Air Fund since she was a child and her mother was involved with the organization. Once Finnerty grew up and had a child of her own, she signed up to host a child through the Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program.
"I thought it would be kind of fun for my daughter, Kiera, since she is an only child, to have a friend around for the summer," Finnerty said.
Eleven-year-old Victoria started visiting Kim and Kiera Finnerty in 2009 and has returned every summer since.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, nonprofit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, more than 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small-town communities across 13 states, from Virginia to Maine, as well as Canada.
Kim, Kiera and Victoria spend their two-week visit enjoying the simple summertime activities in New Canaan. Victoria enjoys going to the pool with the family where she can not only enjoy swimming for hours, but she can also spend time with Kiera's friends from school.
"Victoria's favorite activity is visiting the New Canaan Summer Theatre," Finnerty said.. "She loves the plays and she is a great singer and dancer. After the plays we get to meet the actors and she loves that."
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Over the past three years, Finnerty's family and Victoria have grown close and their relationship extends beyond their summer visits. Last December, the Finnertys visited New York City to celebrate Victoria's birthday and this fall they are planning to attend Victoria's mother's wedding.
"Kiera and Victoria really just enjoy hanging out," Finnerty said. "Last year, they made jewelry together, little friendship bracelets, and then went to the park and had a jewelry sale."
Finnerty said she would recommend the Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program to all families.
"I think it's a way to give back that's really not hard," she said. "It doesn't cost anything and it's easy to do. My family has gotten as much out of it as she has.
"I remember one time we were all driving back from running some errands and we were driving through a woodsy area. A deer crossed the street in front of us and stopped to eat some grass on the other side of the road.
"Victoria was amazed. She had never seen anything like that before and she was so excited that she started taking pictures."