Sometimes, the willingness to try something new is the simplest way to learn from others. This motto is something the Payson family lives by. By opening their home with welcoming arms, the Paysons realized that sharing summertime experiences with Zion, of the Bronx, through The Fresh Air Fund meant much more than just a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program, families from Virginia to Maine and Canada open their homes to New York City children from low-income communities. Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund has given the joy of a free summer vacation to more than 1.7 million inner-city children, creating thousands of childhood memories in rural, suburban and small town communities every year.
In 2011, Kerry and Mark Payson, of Mansfield, welcomed Zion into their home through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. Prepared with a smile and a passion to experience new things, Zion found his summer haven playing hockey with the Payson boys, running through the backyard and swimming in the pool. For the Paysons, it was the little things that really made Zion’s experience unforgettable.
“Seeing Zion try new things were some of my favorite memories. When we brought him to an amusement park, he wanted to go on every rollercoaster. He was so daring and willing to embrace new experiences,” said Kerry. But it was the time the Paysons and Zion spent together at home that left a lasting impression. “Watching Zion throw a football with my children in the yard was one of the simple, most eye-opening things. It occurred to me that he can’t just step outside and do that at home. It is the little things like that we often take for granted.”
By hosting Zion, the Paysons have been able to instill the importance of generosity with their children. “You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I hope to share opportunities with my children by showing and doing instead of telling,” said Kerry. “We’re so isolated in our own worlds sometimes. I want my children to grow up and learn that there are no barriers, that we’re all connected.”
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 Mansfield, please contact Bev Northam, the local volunteer leader for the Southern Massachusetts area, at (508) 286-2234 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The Fresh Air Fund at www.freshair.org.