A taste of nature

| 30 Jun 2014 | 05:02

Some are empty nesters. Some are single mothers. Some live in spacious homes, while others live in modest condos. All have one thing in common. They open their hearts and their home to a child who has never had the chance to experience the joy of feeling lush grass under their toes and a fresh country breeze in their hair.

For Lorraine and Mike Tully, two empty nesters living on Pleasant Valley Lake in Vernon, the decision to host a child through the Fresh Air Fund seemed like a natural choice. Originally from Bergen County, the Tully's have enjoyed living in Sussex County for 29 years and wanted to share the vast country activities with a child who has not had the privilege of attending outdoor barbeques and state fairs.

Welcoming Jesus
In the summer of 2011, a shy soft spoken 12 year old boy, dressed in his Sunday best, bravely stepped off the bus from New York City and was met by the warm smile of Lorraine Tully. Jesus has been returning every summer since then.

"The first day Jesus was at our house he was in awe of all the flowers and trees," says Lorraine. "The kids don't realize what country is. I will never forget the first evening Jesus was here, sitting outside he looked up into the trees and asked, 'Do you guys have monkeys out here?'"

Around since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund is a non profit agency that provides free country adventures to inner city children from any of the five boroughs of New York City. Host families open up their homes to children starting at age six up to 18 years of age. Many children often return to their host family every summer, as was the case with Jesus and the Tully's.

"Before his first visit I spoke to Jesus on the phone to ask him what he likes to eat and what he enjoys doing," says Lorraine. "He was so shy and polite and his parents were very nice, I thought he was so brave for coming... once he got used to us he came out of his shell and let loose."

Jesus and The Tully family spend their time together going to Space Farms, Waywaywanda and Land of Make Believe. Jesus enjoys dining at The Chatterbox and has even gone as the Jersey folks call it, "down the shore."

"We had a big barbecue and had everyone over to meet him and he just sat and talked about cars with the guys," laughs Lorraine.

Becoming a host family
The Tully's had always heard about The Fresh Air Fund through the media and decided to look it up online. Living in Pleasant Valley Lake, Lorraine Tully felt she wanted to share the lovely atmosphere with a child who never got a chance to experience lakes, fire flies or Saturday afternoons at the local Dairy Queen.

Lorraine, who is now a Sussex County chairperson for the Fresh Air Fund is quick to point out that a host family need not have a lot money, or be the traditional two parent household in order to host a child. A committee member will visit the host family and interview all members, check the house for adequate lighting, and safety and checks personal references.

The family is required to have a bed for the child, but does not need a separate room. The host family can pick an age group in which they are comfortable with. The Fresh Air Fund also has a program for placing children who have special needs. A background check is required for all host families.

For Lorraine, she would most like the community to know how important it is to get the children out of the city for a few weeks and into the fresh air, stating that the bonds that are formed between the host family and the child, last a lifetime.