Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Breath of Fresh Air... With Thanks to the Drive for Charity Program

Each summer during the past decade, dozens of Loudoun's children have enjoyed the robust activity, healthy socialization and memorable experience of a trip to a Loudoun summer camp -- thanks to the work of Fresh Air/Full Care.

Fresh Air/Full Care (FA/FC) is a non-governmental, non-profit, volunteer-run organization whose singular goal is to provide underprivileged children of age 12 and younger with safe, secure, nurturing daycare and camp programs while their parents are busy with work.

In the summer of 2011, 105 kids participated in 531 weeks of camp through FA/FC, valued at over $74,000. Similar numbers of youth will be so lucky in 2012.

For the last seven summers, Loudoun's children were granted such valuable experiences thanks to donations from the Dulles Greenway.

"Critical," said FA/FC President Charles Harris, describing with one word the importance FA/FC places on the annual contribution made by the Greenway through its Drive for Charity campaign, held this year on May 17. Every penny of all tolls collected by the Greenway on that day will be distributed to five Loudoun-based charitable agencies, including Fresh Air/Full Care.

Since some sources of funding have recently become unavailable to FA/FC due to economic and political circumstances, the dollars generated by the Drive for Charity have become even more important.

"The only funding for summer camps for the working poor is what Fresh Air/Full Care provides, and most of that comes from the Dulles Greenway," Harris said. "For the last couple years that's basically been the only funding for summer programs." He added, "If it weren't for the Greenway, we wouldn't be able to fund this program."

Harris is a former Loudoun County Supervisor who assumed the FA/FC presidency in 2004, responding to "a tremendous unmet need for childcare services for the working poor in our county." Having his own background with public assistance, he knows first-hand the vital need for youth to benefit from productive experiences in secure surroundings.

"It's crucially important to help young people, especially pre-school and early grade school kids, have safe environments in which to be raised, especially when the family is going through some trying situations." That's what Fresh Air/Full Care has been doing: Helping young people as their family goes through trying situations. That's what the Dulles Greenway has been helping Fresh Air/Full Care to do.

The results are tangible. Theresa Smith and Chris Shadwick of the Loudoun County Department of Family Services (DFS), which works closely with FA/FC, delight in regaling others with successful tales from the camp trails. One such story tells of a local father who maintains his restaurant job an hour's drive away while being the sole parent for his two children, both of whom have attended summer camp through FA/FC for the past several years. The man's eldest child recently took it upon herself to undergo formal training as a camp counselor. She will have gone from regular camp goer to a paid position and a potential career.

 "He's a very grateful man," said Smith as Shadwick finished the story. "He can't afford to give them this himself so it's been wonderful for them and a real success story for his daughter."

Fostering an environment in which success is achievable by all of Loudoun's children -- regardless of finances -- is a touchstone of the continuing partnership between the Dulles Greenway and Fresh Air/Full Care, according to Janis Light Chamblin of DFS. "It's just a wonderful thing that the Greenway does this for our families and our community. It's great for the kids and the parents. It addresses a huge need in Loudoun County," Chamblin said as Shadwick and Smith nodded, agreeing.

Article courtesy of the Dulles Greenway; By Jason S. Rufner

Editor's Note: Plan to take a trip -- or two or three -- on the Dulles Greenway this Thursday, May 17, and support the 7th annual Drive for Charity event, where 100% of the tolls collected on that day benefit Loudoun County charities.

   For the latest Loudoun County traffic news and information, subscribe to Loudoun County Traffic via your favorite RSS reader, or get Loudoun County Traffic by e-mail.

No comments:

Post a Comment