By Rachel Hawkins\r\nFor The Dominion Post\r\nFAIRMONT \u2014 For inner-city children, the sound of a goat\u2019s bleat or the hum of crickets in the night may be foreign concepts.\r\nOne nonprofit organization, known as the Fresh Air Fund (FAF), seeks to change that by sending underprivileged children from New York City to the country during the summer for a little fresh air.\r\nAccording to the organization, the program is \u201can independent, not-for-profit agency, (that) has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.8 million New York City children from low-income communities\u201d since 1877.\r\nOne of the ways the organization seeks to do this is through the Friendly Towns Program, where children age 7-12 visit towns along the East Coast and Canada for one to two weeks of fun, cultural sharing and bonding in the fresh rural air. Children may then be re-invited to visit a family during the summer until they are 18 years old.\r\nBob and Rachel Eubank are the co-chairpeople and co-fund representatives for West Virginia, in charge of advertising and educating people about the program, finding host families and supervising visits. They are looking for families who may be willing to participate this summer.\r\nRachel Eubank said her family has hosted two children in their home.\r\n\u201cBob and I were driving to work one afternoon 14 years ago and heard an advertisement on the radio,\u201d she said. \u201cWe knew this program was for us right away and we called the lady who was the coordinator at that time.\r\n\u201cOur first FAF son was 6 at his first visit and is now 19 and in his second year of college. He has never missed a summer and has also spent time here at Christmas. This summer will be our fifth visit with our FAF daughter who is now 10 years old. We have been recruiting and working as leaders in the program for about five years.\u201d\r\nEubank said the family\u2019s first child, Matthew\u2019s first visit to the state was to stay with them.\r\n\u201cHis first evening here he played in the yard and loved being outside until it was dusk,\u201d she said. \u201cAs soon as the sun started to go down, Matthew ran inside the house and began locking every door and window we had. We asked him what he was doing, and he simply said, \u2018It\u2019s dark. We don\u2019t play in the dark.\u2019\r\n\u201cBob took him around and unlocked everything and let him know he was safe, and then took a jar and poked holes in the top and let Matt out into the dark to catch lightning bugs. Matt was shocked that they were real, he thought that they were just made up for stories.\u201d\r\nEubank said even things like a trip to Taco Bell or going on a hike can be something special for kids to experience.\r\n\u201cHonestly, we just tell families to do what they love to do in the summer,\u201d she said. \u201cThe point is to share your lives with a child from NYC, so really every hosting experience is a little bit different. We have gone camping, swimming, canoeing, caving, hiking, playing at parks, fires in the backyard, walking on the rail-trail, tea parties, amusement parks, spent whole days just reading books and watching movies \u2014 just anything.\u201d\r\nJennifer Robinson and her husband Clark heard about the Fresh Air program from the Eubanks at their church and chose to participate.\r\n\u201cWe have a little girl from the Bronx who has visited with us for the last two summers,\u201d she said,\r\n\u201cWe are looking forward to having (her) back this year. She is the same age as our youngest daughter Hannah, and they\u2019ve had a great time together.\r\n\u201cIt has been a great opportunity to learn about what life is like living in the city and to have the opportunity to give to her to see what living in the country is like. I believe it is wonderful to exchange cultures and make friendships. We have taken her to many of West Virginia\u2019s beautiful places such as Blackwater Falls and Coopers Rock. She especially enjoyed Ace Adventures and Kennywood. She has said she loves how quiet it is where we live.\u201d\r\nEubank said new volunteers with the organization might not realize how much they will gain from the experience.\r\n\u201cMany times people become interested in the FAF because they want to \u2018do good.\u2019 It is certainly a part of this program, but what we find time and time again is that the host families receive just as much or more from the program than the NYC children do,\u201d she said.\r\n\u201cMy children gained a brother and a sister. In many cases, these aren\u2019t just summer relationships, they are family-builders. My children are able to see that there is life outside the life that they know. Here in West Virginia we are often not exposed to a great variety of people, cultures and ways of living. The FAF has helped my children to grow in an environment that says \u2018not everyone is like me, and that\u2019s OK,\u2019 and they are better people because of it.\u201d Eubank said the children\u2019s parent or parents are brave to send their children to the country. \u201cMore often than not these children have someone in New York City who loves them very much and is willing to fill out forms and send them on a bus to a stranger\u2019s house just so they can have a fun summer experience,\u201d she said. \u201cThink of your own children. Would you put your 7-year-old daughter on a bus to stay with a family you don\u2019t know for a week? These city mothers are so brave and are willing to do this so that their children can have more.\u201d\r\nEubank said they would encourage families interested to give a week during the summer and see how it goes. Robinson encouraged all families to learn more about the program.