Thursday August 01, 2013
Compared to the busy streets of New York City, South Burlington is akin to a quiet village. Yet, for eight-year old Denim Beauchamp, the similarity is obvious: these are both places that he is loved, thanks to big hearts and The Fresh Air Fund. This was the first summer he participated, and the first summer South Burlington residents Jen and Paul Savas signed up with The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family Program. The consensus? “We want him to come back next year,” host mom Jen Savas says confidently.
“We had the most amazing experience as host parents,” Jen declares. She and her husband Paul, along with son Jack (8), explain that the moment they saw Denim clamber down the steps of the arriving bus, they knew that everything would be fine. “He walked right up to us with no shyness, and greeted us with a long ‘wasssssup’!” Jen laughs.
While the greeting with the Savas family was exuberant, Denim’s mother Cher had been nervous about the experience. “He wanted to go, and I didn’t want to baby him … but I will admit, I was nervous. I just had to believe that everything was going to be ok,” explained Cher. “Something that really helped was when Jen contacted me a week before Denim left. She made me feel so comfortable.”
The rest of the week followed with the same enthusiasm as Denim’s arrival. Activities included a pool party, the Fourth of July parade in Williston, and even a Lake Monster’s baseball game. Despite the excitement, at the end of the day, Denim just wanted to play in the backyard with Jack. “He was always happy, but really just enjoyed hanging at our house the most,” admits Jen.
The boys even set up a lemonade stand outside their home on a hot afternoon. “We made $12!” says Denim excitedly. While the young entrepreneurs were happy with their loot, board games and time in the pool highlighted the week. “Jen let me borrow a pair of goggles to use when I was swimming. I really liked playing Labyrinth, too. That’s a board game,” he explains knowingly. “It’s pretty complicated.”
Denim’s adventures in South Burlington made the summer for the Savas family. Jen confides that she loves to talk about The Fresh Air Fund. “It’s just a wonderful program,” she says. Cher agrees, noting that the experience outside the city is truly priceless. “I just hope that he enrolls his kids one day,” she smiles.
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. There is still time to get involved for this summer!
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. To learn more about how to become a host family in the Champlain Valley, please contact Mary Sherman at 802-868-2771 or visit www.freshair.org.