CHURCHVILLE — From Nurf games in the grass, to riding around in a car with the windows down, Amir Rhodd, 12, is experiencing something new this summer.

Amir, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, is staying with the Smith family in Churchville as part of The Fresh Air Fund.

This is Amir’s fifth year of staying with the Smith family. Parents Melissa and GW along with their children Riley, 12, and Reid, 7, have enjoyed welcoming him back each year.

Melissa is an Augusta County teacher. She now teaches in Churchville, but when she taught in Riverheads, she interacted with an aide who went through the program and met her husband that way. The Smith family decided to give it a try.

“I remember seeing it on TV when I was little,” Melissa said of their interest in the program. “I thought it was cool. I decided to sign up. Amir came the first year and it was a good fit for us.”

Amir’s stay is two weeks — they stay in Churchville for one week. The second week, he goes on family vacation with them. They’ve gone to the beach, visited the Football Hall of Fame, swam in the Great Lakes, visited the safari park and more. This year, they plan to go to a cabin in West Virginia to ride the train, tour the caverns and go white water rafting.

“[I like] all the cool things we do every year,” Amir said. “When I went to the beach, I learned how to boogie board.”

He likes the house in Churchville and riding in the car with the windows down. There are a few differences he’s noticed between Augusta County and New York.

“There’s a lot of bugs,” he said of the country. “It’s very dark.”

The country smells were also something new for him. Playing on real grass is different too. Amir spoke of the parks in Brooklyn having turf grass.

Amir and Riley are the same age. Melissa spoke of the boys playing Nurf games and said Amir always looks out for Reid, the youngest brother, and covers him with protection.

“We like that the boys get a chance to meet someone from the city with different experiences,” Melissa said. “We love showing him around.”

Riley liked having another playmate.

“I enjoy having him here,” he said.

The Smiths enjoy the program. While it’s designed to focus on the New York children, the Smiths believed they get as much out of it as Amir does.

“It’s a great experience,” Melissa said. “I wish more people would take advantage of it.”

The Blue Ridge Area Committee welcomed 19 New York City children on Monday.

The Fresh Air Fund is a nonprofit agency that provides a summer experience to New York City children. Founded in 1877, the nonprofit has catered to more than 1.8 million children. Each summer, thousands of children stay with host families along the east coast and southern Canada. The idea of ‘A Fresh Air summer’ is running barefoot in the backyard, riding bikes down country roads, learning to swim, catching fireflies, building sandcastles on the beach, making new friends and more.

For more information on the program, visit

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