Living in Southampton, NY, Michelle Malone admits is “almost like having a vacation in your backyard every day of the year.” Michelle, her husband Matthew, and three children, 13-year-old Thomas, 11-year-old James and 10-year-old William, were eager to open up their “vacation” home and backyard through The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program, sharing the simple joys that Southampton has to offer. In 2008, 14-year-old De’Quan (DJ) joined the Malone family. This past summer, the Malones also welcomed 12-year-old Jimmy for the first time.
The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.
Michelle remembers first noticing The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program through the bi-annual New York Times Fresh Air Fund insert. She and her husband wanted to give back, but also wanted their children to gain a new perspective. “I wanted Thomas, William and James to see life through this child’s eyes. I wanted them to see that not everyone just has a beach in their backyard,” said Michelle. And that’s exactly what the three boys did. Looking up to DJ like an older brother, the three boys included him in their everyday activities, such as basketball, days at the beach, fishing, video games, and talking about the newest and “coolest” iPhone apps. “We really do family type stuff. The first year DJ came we took a fishing trip and he was the first one to catch a snapper. It was his first time ever, and when he caught that fish he had such a big grin,” said Michelle. The family also frequents local spots including Scott Cameron Beach in Bridgehampton and The Drive-On Beach in Southampton.
Throughout the year, DJ, Jimmy and the Malone family stay in contact through Facebook messages and phone calls. Michelle recalls how special it has been for her family to watch DJ grow. “This year, DJ transitioned to high school and it was a big move for him. It was amazing to see how focused and driven he has become. He really has matured,” said Michelle.
Michelle and the entire Malone family want to express the benefits for those families who are considering hosting a child. “You get as much if not more out of it than the child you’re hosting. It’s so exciting and refreshing to share your life with someone new.”
The Fresh Air Fund is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family in Southampton, please contact Deb Asirifi, a volunteer leader for the East End area, at 212-897-8900 ext. 8969 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.