Jul 17, 2014 Tami Scott Uncategorized
For three summers in a row, Baldwinsville residents Mike and Janelle Ancillotti have shared their home with 13-year-old Jahvon Richards, a New York City native who hails from the Bronx. They met through the Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that matches host families across 13 states with NYC children from low-income communities, to provide free summer experiences away from the hustle and bustle of urban city life.
“We decided to participate in the Fresh Air Fund after moving to our home on the Seneca River, which we felt was the perfect place for a kid from NYC to spend a vacation,” said Janelle, who learned of the program through friends. “Jahvon was matched with our family because he is the same age as our youngest son, Johnny.”
The family has two older sons, too. Tom, 19, is a sophomore at University at Buffalo and works as a camp counselor at Camp Talooli in Pennellville. Their oldest son, Dan, is a project engineer for Statewide Aquastore in East Syracuse, and also works part-time as a personal assistant through Resource Center for Independent Living. Mike Ancillotti is the president and owner of LP&M Advertising in Syracuse, and Janelle has a home staging business, Seneca Home Staging.
The Ancillottis picked up Jahvon in Camillus on July 8 for a one-week stay. He and other kids who participate in the volunteer program are bussed to their respective area to stay with host families for up to two weeks or sometimes longer. Each summer, more than 4,000 inner-city children visit suburban, rural and small town communities from Virginia to Maine and Canada. Children on first-time visits are 6 to 12 years old and stay for one or two weeks. Children who are re-invited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. Like Jahvon, more than 65 percent of all children are re-invited to stay with their host families, year after year.
“When [Jahvon] comes to CNY, [he] enjoys tubing and swimming at Cross Lake and boating on the river the most. Over the past three summers we have taken him to Seabreeze, Thunder Island, Syracuse Chiefs games, fireworks, downtown festivals, Beaver Lake Nature Center, Abbott Farms and Hickory Hills Miniature Golf,” Janelle said. “In the evenings, he likes to roast marshmallows in our fire pit near the riverbank, play billiards, darts, ping pong, basketball and board games and watch movies.”
“We pack a lot into his eight-day stay every year, and we plan to have him back next summer,” she said.
The Fresh Air Fund is currently seeking more families to give inner-city children a Fresh Air experience this summer. For more information on hosting a Fresh Air child, contact Sam Bachman at 212-897-8929 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at freshair.org.