CAROGA — Caroga Lake resident Sharla Wager has been involved with The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program since she was a young adult.
Now, with fully-grown children and a grandchild, Sharla decided to open her heart and home once again to a New York City child. She just spent her seventh summer hosting Dejanaya, a 13-year-old Manhattan resident.
Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free, enriching summer experiences and academic programs for more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income neighborhoods. Each summer, close to 4,000 Fresh Air children visit suburban, rural, and small town communities across the East Coast and Ontario, Canada through The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program.
Sharla describes Dejanaya, or, as she likes to be called Nay, as quiet, sweet, and very attentive.
“You wouldn’t believe the things she remembers,” Sharla said.
She said she can recall all of the little details of her past visits to Caroga Lake, something that both helps out and amuses her Fresh Air host.
Nay really enjoys her summer days with Sharla. She comes from a very big family back in New York City. Sharla says that her own home, a house with lots of space and lots of one-on-one time, is a nice change for Nay. This change of pace and place has given Nay lots of fun and enriching experiences while in Sharla’s care. The pair go swimming in a neighbor’s pool, go camping on Lake Ontario and play outside with Sharla’s two dogs. Their favorite thing to do is watch the area’s nighttime fireworks together.
Overall, Sharla’s experience hosting Nay for the past seven summers has been an overwhelmingly positive one.
“It’s so good to be able to share what you have with a young child,” she said. “You’re giving them unforgettable life experiences, and by seeing it all through their eyes, you’ll have your own an amazing experience as well.”
Sharla says that not many other people host Fresh Air children in the Caroga Lake area, and wishes more people could experience what she has. “You don’t need to have a lot of money, and it’s only one week of your time. I think it’s definitely worth it to take the chance.”
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 the Amsterdam area, please call Dave Floyd at 518-883-8029 or visit www.freshair.org.