For the second year in a row, Wilton resident Courtney Lilly and her family are hosting eight-year-old Melanie from Bronx, N.Y., for a week as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. Fresh Air Fund is a cultural exchange program that has been providing New York City children from low-income communities the opportunity to spend a week or two with volunteer host families like Lilly\u2019s since 1877. First-time Fresh Air children range in age from 7 to 12, and stay with host families for a week or two. Lilly said her family decided to participate in the Fresh Air Fund program after she read an article about another family who had done it and \u201cthought it would be a very positive experience for [her] family.\u201d Melanie took a coach bus from New York City\u2019s Penn Station to Darien, where the Lilly family picked her up Saturday, July 29. \u201cThe Fresh Air Fund has been in existence for a long time and they arrange trips of kids to come to towns like Wilton,\u201d said Lilly. \u201cThey have coach buses that take the children to various communities throughout the summer depending on where the host families are.\u201d As far as she knows, Lilly said, Fresh Air Fund hasn\u2019t been scheduling stops in Wilton \u201cand it might be because we don\u2019t have a big enough critical mass here yet of host families.\u201d Lilly said she hopes that will change as more people learn about the program. Hosting Being a host family is a \u201cbig responsibility,\u201d said Lilly. \u201cYou are assuming the responsibility of caring for another person\u2019s child during the time that they\u2019re here,\u201d she said. \u201cThat means making sure there\u2019s food that they like to eat, that their sleeping arrangement is comfortable, and that there are things planned that are of interest to them.\u201d Hosting a Fresh Air child is not only a \u201cspecial\u201d and \u201cpriceless\u201d experience, said Lilly, but a learning experience as well. \u201cShe introduces us to new things and we introduce her to new things,\u201d she said. The first year Melanie stayed with her family, Lilly said, \u201cwe couldn\u2019t believe how well she acclimated to a super new situation at a very young age.\u201d Lilly said having two children of her own in the home \u2014\u00a0nine-year-old Clara and 12-year-old Darien \u2014 \u201cdefinitely helps\u201d makes hosting an easier experience. \u201cI think it\u2019s definitely helpful with regard to having toys and being in that frame of mind of what children enjoy,\u201d said Lilly. Lilly said her nine-year-old thinks of Melanie as a younger sister and \u201cgoes out of her way to make her super comfortable.\u201d \u201cThey\u2019re just thick as thieves,\u201d she said. \u201cWe all feel so much affection and connection to her.\u201d Lilly said Melanie and her daughters \u201cshare some of the same interests \u2026 with regard to pop culture.\u201d For example, she said, they\u2019re talking about going to see the Emoji Movie later this week. Activities Melanie is spending some of her time this week attending camp at the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club\u00a0\u2014 one of several places that allow Fresh Air Fund children to attend camp free of charge, said Lilly. \u201cShe had fun there last year,\u201d said Lilly, \u201cso we got her in there a couple days this week.\u201d Aside from that, Lilly said, \u201cwe kind of try to keep our plans simple because she enjoys a lot of the simple pleasures like getting ice cream together.\u201d \u201cWe live next to a pond and she likes to catch fish and dig for worms. If a frog is found, that\u2019s thrilling,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s just the simple pleasures of being in a different setting.\u201d Lilly said there are also plans to teach Melanie \u2014 who had never put her head under water before last year \u2014 to swim. \u201cLast year, we scheduled a swim lesson and she made a lot of progress,\u201d she said. \u201cThis year, we hope to get her to the next level of being safe and more comfortable in the water, so we do a lot of swimming and splashing around.\u201d Takeaways Being a host family, Lilly said, has helped her family realize how fortunate they are to have things like a garden, a yard and access to a swimming pool \u2014 and that Melanie is lucky to live in an environment where she doesn\u2019t have to travel by car everywhere. \u201cLast year, Melanie talked about how much driving there was [in Wilton]. I laughed and agreed,\u201d said Lilly. \u201cThere are different things about our lifestyles that are lucky on both ends.\u201d Lilly said her family also feels \u201clucky\u201d that Melanie wants to come and stay with them, \u201cand I think she feels lucky that she gets to do it as well.\u201d \u201cWe plan a lot of special trips and do different things throughout the summer,\u201d said Lilly, \u201cbut the week that we have her is kind of in the top experience of the summer.\u201d Information: 1-800-367-0003, freshair.org.