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.