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The holiday season is always special for the Preddy family, of Fredericksburg, VA, but this recent Christmas was especially memorable because their Fresh Air child Yareli – along with her mother and brother - were able to take part in the festivities at their Virginia home. Ruth, her husband Mark and their two daughters, Maria and Melanie have been hosting Yareli through The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program since 2011.

The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Each summer, over 4,000 children visit volunteer host families in rural, suburban and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

Although they had never met Yareli's mother and brother, everyone had a wonderful time. "It was really great to meet her family," says Ruth, who stays in touch with Yareli's mother on phone. "We have just bonded so well and her mom is so open and friendly."

The holidays at the Preddy household are very family-oriented and they were very happy to have their Fresh Air friends join in their celebrations. "We didn't have any big holiday plans but enjoyed making Christmas cookies and other crafts. Yareli's mother made cutout cookies for the first time and it was snowing outside; it just felt 'Christmasy.'"

"Our kids always hate to see Yareli go. Last summer, Yareli wouldn't get on the bus until she had to – all of my children were standing with her and hugging until the very last minute. They just didn't want her to leave," Ruth recalls. "We love Yareli and thank The Fresh Air Fund for sharing her with us. This is an awesome program and I think we are probably getting more out of it than Yareli."

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, is always seeking host families to enable as many New York City children as possible to benefit from a summer experience outside of the city. To learn more about how to become a host family for this summer, please contact Shannon McCartney or Theresa Kinser, the local volunteers leader for the Fredericksburg area, at 540-854-7241, or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches learned about a very important resource for families who have lost loved ones to sudden tragedy, an organization called LLOST.

keepsake box

The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.

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