WILLIAMSBURG - Doug and Linda Hilling have four children - but every summer their family expands by one when a Fresh Air Fund child from New York City comes to stay with them.
Dayquan Love-Moore, 15, whose nickname is "Day-Day," has joined the Williamsburg family each year for the past eight years.
Dayquan ends up with four siblings for the summer - Jamie, Erin, Jericho and Vlad. Linda Hilling said he is especially close to Jericho, who is about six months older.
(From left to right) Vlad Hilling, Jericho Hilling and Dayquan Love-Moore stand together during a summer visit through the Fresh Air Fund program.
Through the Fresh Air Fund program, children from low-income city communities are matched with host families in more rural areas. Since 1877, the program has provided vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children.
Kathleen Bickel, the local Fresh Air chairwoman, said 46 children will visit central Pennsylvania this summer. There are three trips planned- July 2-16, July 18-30 and July 31-Aug. 10.
The visiting children are able to stay longer than two weeks if their host family reinvites them, Bickel said.
"Some kids may come for the first trip and stay until the third," Bickel said.
She said there aren't a lot of requirements for host families, although they must undergo a thorough background check.
Bickel said the host family completes an application that tells a little about their family and then they are interviewed prior to being matched up with a child from New York.
"I think the kids come and build such a relationship with the host family and their children," Bickel said. "There ends up being a special attachment."
In her experience as a host, Bickel said the family feels just as blessed as the child.
"My son got to learn a lot about the different cultures of a city child," she said. "It also really made him appreciate what he had."
Linda Hilling said she became interested in the Fresh Air Fund program after she became good friends with a little girl hosted by her neighbors when she was younger. She then later called the program and requested a visit from a boy who was around Jericho's age.
"He used to be little and now I have to look up at him," Hilling said of the changes she has seen in Dayquan.
She said her husband, Doug, has encouraged Dayquan to attend college and has talked to him about the benefits of an education. She said she thinks Dayquan appreciates the male guidance and advice her husband has provided, because he and his two sisters were raised by a single mother.
"It's good to have another family that loves you and looks out for you," she said.
Hilling described hosting a child as an eye-opening experience. "It's a different way of life for him, and it's good for our children to see how families are different."
"City living is very different from rural living," she said, adding that her family has learned from Dayquan as much as he has learned from them. She said, for example, that Dayquan uses his bike in New York for transportation, whereas her children use a bike mostly for fun.
Hilling said during his first visit, Dayquan was scared to death and very quiet, but now he makes himself at home and heads straight for the pantry as soon as he arrives each summer.
She said he likes to ride bikes, play video games, go to baseball games and go out to eat. He has also learned to swim and fish over the years he has stayed with them.
He enjoys hanging out with Jericho and his baseball team members, and was the bat boy for Jericho's Little League All Star Team during one of his stays. The team won a trophy and made sure Dayquan received one as well.
"We didn't realize it was his first team experience," Hilling said. "He slept with the trophy every night, and it was the first thing he packed to take home with him."
Hilling described Dayquan as very funny and genuinely easy to like. He entertains the family with his New York City dance moves, she said, and laughs at the way people in this area dance.
"He has the best laugh ever," she said. "It makes you want to laugh with him."
When asked why she decided to become a host, Hilling said she and her family were looking for a way to give back.
"But what you get in return is so much more," she said. "You get another person who is part of your family and part of your life."
Anyone interested in applying to be a host family should contact Bickel at 941-2683.