Our History & Mission

In 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, an independent not-for-profit organization, was created with one simple mission – to allow children living in low-income communities to get away from hot, noisy city streets and enjoy free summer experiences in the country.

When The Fresh Air Fund began, New York City was overflowing with children living in crowded tenements. Many of these youngsters were hit by a tuberculosis epidemic, and “fresh air” was considered a cure for respiratory ailments. More than 130 years ago, the Reverend Willard Parsons, a minister of a small, rural parish in Sherman, Pennsylvania, asked members of his congregation to provide country vacations as volunteer host families for New York City's neediest children. This was the beginning of The Fresh Air Fund. By 1881, the work of The Fresh Air Fund was expanding so rapidly that Reverend Parsons asked for and secured support from The New York Tribune. By 1888, The Fresh Air Fund was incorporated as “The Tribune Fresh Air Fund Aid Society.” Today, The Fresh Air Fund continues to benefit from the support of the media with invaluable assistance from The New York Times.

The Fresh Air Fund's tradition of caring provides children with a much-needed respite from the inner-city streets. Thousands of youngsters enjoy summer experiences with volunteer hosts or attend one of five Fresh Air Fund camps in upstate New York.

The simplicity of our program is its strength. Looking back to 1877, we can reflect on how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same. The Fund began with a small group of youngsters heading for the country and went on to benefit more than 1.7 million needy children.