Friendly Towns Program

Frequently asked questions

  • Q. Who Can Go To Friendly Towns?
  • A. Friendly Towns accepts new children between the ages of 7-12. If children are invited to return to the same host family, they can continue in the program until they are 18.
  • Q. Where will my child be staying?
  • A. Families from across the Northeast and Canada volunteer to host children through The Fresh Air Fund, and your child will be matched with one of them to stay in the family's home. Volunteer hosts live in rural, suburban and small town communities, which we call "Friendly Towns". These Friendly Towns can be far away as Maine and Virginia and as close as Long Island and Westchester County.
  • Q. How are the host families selected and screened?
  • A. Prospective host families are pre-screened over the phone. Next, an in-person interview is scheduled to take place in the home of the prospective host family. All members of the family must be present as well as any caregivers or others who will be spending large amounts of time with the child (grandparents who live nearby, cousins, etc.).

    The interviewer spends between 1 ½ and 2 hours with the family. The interviewer observes interactions between the family members, discusses the Friendly Towns program, checks the home for safety concerns, and covers many other important areas (How do the parents communicate with each other? How do the parents communicate with the children? Is there an extra bed for the child? How do the pets behave with a stranger, etc.).

    If the interviewer is comfortable with the family (we ask each interviewer to ask themselves “Would I place my own child in this home for two weeks?”), three references are checked. The prospective host family must provide at least one professional reference (a teacher, day care provider, family doctor, etc.). All adults (18 or older) in a host family's household have a background check completed through an independent contractor.

    Host families can request the age and gender of their Fresh Air visitor.
  • Q. Who supervises the host families while my child is staying with them?
  • A. Each Friendly Town has a Chairperson, a volunteer trained and supervised by The Fresh Air Fund, to oversee all families in their area. The Chairperson checks in with children while they are visiting their host family, and sometimes organizes activities for all host families while the children are visiting. The Chairperson is always available while children are visiting host families in their area. Chairpeople are supervised by the volunteer Fund Representative from their region, and all volunteer leaders are supervised and supported by Fresh Air Fund staff in the New York City office.
  • Q. When will I know where my child is going?
  • A. After your child’s paperwork is completed, returned to your community agency and forwarded to The Fresh Air Fund office, we will register your child for a volunteer host family visit. Our Outreach Partner or The Fresh Air Fund Community Outreach Staff will choose a host family's invitation that seems appropriate for your child, and will then contact you to review the invitation and to get your final approval. The invitation lists the host names, address, phone number, pets and family activities. Invitations are assigned from mid-March through early August.
  • Q. Can siblings be placed with the same host family?
  • A. It is not recommended that siblings be placed with the same host family. We believe every child should have the opportunity to experience new things on their own for their individualized growth and development. Over the 135 years of our program, the children have told us that they love having their own special Friendly Town family. The time that they spend with their family is unique and this provides them with the opportunity to develop long lasting relationships.
  • Q. What will I know about the family my child is visiting?
  • A. The invitation lists the host names, address, phone number, pets and family activities. We strongly encourage you and the host family to communicate with each other, by phone or mail, prior to your child’s vacation.
  • Q. How will my child travel to their Friendly Town?
  • A. Most children travel to their host family by charter buses, leaving from The Port Authority Bus Terminal. Your invitation will tell you the date, time and location of your child’s departure and return.
  • Q. What things should a child NOT bring with them?
  • A. Money, valuable items including jewelry, electronic equipment such as portable games or music players. It is not recommended that your child bring a cell phone to their host family.
  • Q. How can I communicate with my child while he/she is away?
  • A. You will receive a safe arrival call when your child arrives at the host home. Please remember, it can take all day to travel to a Friendly Town (depending on where the host lives). Even if the bus is due to arrive in the Friendly Town at 3:00 PM, the family might live another hour away from the bus stop and/or the family might choose to go out for dinner or to stop for ice cream along the way. Do not worry if you don't hear from the family until bedtime on the first night.

    After the safe arrival call, you and the host family can decide how often you will communicate with each other by phone. Phone calls sometimes make a child homesick. Please do not call, especially at night, if you sense that your child is homesick. Hearing your voice can make it harder for a child to adjust to their new environment. We suggest that you call at the start of the day, when your child is excited and can share with you the planned activities for the day.

    You can also write to your child. It is always fun for a child to receive mail while away from home.

Summer Camping Program

Frequently asked questions

  • Q. There are five Fresh Air Fund camps. Which one will my child attend?
  • A. Children are assigned to a camp by age and gender to provide the best possible summer experience:
    Camp Anita Bliss Coler (ABC) – Girls only, ages 9-12
    Camp Hayden-Marks – Boys only, ages 9-12
    Camp Tommy – Boys only, ages 12 ½-15
    Camp Hidden Valley – Girls and boys, ages 8-12, serving children with and without special needs
    Camp Mariah – Girls and boys, admission is restricted to children who are currently in the 6th grade
  • Q. Where are The Fresh Air Fund’s camps located?
  • A. All five camps are located on Sharpe Reservation, with close to 2,000 acres boasting multiple lakes, ponds, streams, and hiking trails. Located in the Hudson Highlands near Fishkill, NY, Sharpe Reservation is 65 miles north of New York City.
  • Q. How do children get to and from camp?
  • A. The Fresh Air Fund provides bus transportation to and from camp. Parents will receive a letter of confirmation a few weeks before camp begins stating the time and date of departure.
  • Q. Who will supervise my child at camp?
  • A. Each of our five camps have an experienced Camp Director, specialized program staff, and counselors who are selected after a comprehensive interview process. There is a 1:6 staff to camper ratio at all times.
  • Q. Will my child need to bring money to camp?
  • A. There is nothing to buy at camp, so please have your child leave all money at home.
  • Q. What will my child eat at camp?
  • A. Our dining halls are full of kid-friendly foods. There’s something different each day, but plenty of old favorites to go around. Breakfast might include cereal or waffles. Lunch could include sandwiches, veggie sticks, and pasta. A typical dinner menu features fried chicken, lasagna, or meatloaf. Camp meals are well-balanced and approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Q. Do children swim at camp? What if my child isn’t a strong swimmer?
  • A. Swimming is one of our children’s most beloved activities and there are plenty of opportunities to get wet all summer long. With the exception of Camp Hidden Valley, which has a pool, campers swim in beautiful lakes that are also used for boating and fishing. Swimmers are always supervised by a Red Cross certified lifeguard; with colored wristbands designating each child’s swimming level. For children who are just learning how to swim, camp is the perfect place to get some one-on-one instruction.
  • Q. What if my child gets sick at camp?
  • A. Each camp has a live-in nurse. In the event that your child isn’t feeling well, the nurse is available at any time of the day or night. Additionally, the nurse is responsible for dispensing any medications your child takes on a regular basis. Should your child need additional medical attention, someone from camp will accompany him or her to a nearby medical clinic. You will be phoned if your child must be seen by a doctor or is in the infirmary for more than 24 hours.
  • Q. What are the sleeping arrangements like at camp?
  • A. Campers' bunks in boys or girls cabins of four to 12 children, plus one counselor. Camps Hayden-Marks, Hidden Valley, and Mariah have electricity in all cabins, but some cabins at Camps ABC and Tommy do not have electricity. Remember to pack a flashlight and extra batteries!
  • Q. Can I stay in touch while my child is at camp?
  • A. Of course. Campers are encouraged to write letters and postcards on a regular basis, and parents are invited to do the same. Phone calls, however, are not permitted. Camp life can be an adjustment for some kids, and talking to parents on the phone may make them feel homesick. If there’s an emergency at home, parents are always welcome to call the camp office. Additionally, The Fresh Air Fund New York office can be reached 24 hours a day.
  • Q. My child doesn’t know what to pack for camp. Do you have any pointers?
  • A. Campers should bring enough clothes to last the duration of their stay at camp. Please pack shorts, t-shirts, long pants, pajamas, and a few sweatshirts – and don’t forget bathing suits! For a full packing list, please see the Camp Handbook.

     Please leave the following items at home: cell phones, valuable jewelry, electronics such as video games or iPods, hairdryers, and snacks.
  • Q. Where do I send mail to my child? 
  • A. Name of Child 
    Name of Camp 
     Sharpe Reservation
     436 Van Wyck Lake Road
     Fishkill, New York 12524

    The Fresh Air Fund Support Services Department is available 24 hours a day if you have any concerns while your child is away - just call 1-800-367-0003.