A Picture of a Fresh Air Family
“When I made the decision that I was ready to host a child through the Friendly Towns program, my husband was hesitant,” recalls Maegan Powers. As a child, Maegan was very close to a family who hosted a child from the Bronx. “Hosting a Fresh Air child was always a part of my life and something I planned to do when I was settled.”
“We had three kids at the time, a business and Maegan’s grandmother living with us who was in her early 90s,” Maegan’s husband Chad said. Little did he know what a positive impact a young girl named Johdelnys (affectionately nicknamed “Jo”) would have on their lives.
“I initially looked at hosting as something we were doing to give back, but after the first visit, I saw it as something that we were also doing for our family because of the impact Jo was making on us,” remembers Chad. “She made us better people.”
This year marked the eighth summer that Jo traveled from the Bronx to Dartmouth, Mass. to stay with Chad, Maegan, and their children, Hannah (18), Ava (12), Chace (8) and Lainey (6). She’s been visiting every summer since she was eight years old.
Maegan will never forget the moment she met Jo.
“She was very excited when she got off the bus, and she immediately hugged me,” Maegan said. “It was very natural.”
When they arrived at the Powers’ home they were all planning to take a swim, but Jo shared that the closest she’d been to swimming was to sit on the edge of a pool with her feet in the water.
“She was so excited but needed to learn to swim,” Chad said. “I swam with her that entire day. We were in the pool so long because she didn’t want to get out.”
Jo had captured Chad’s heart along with the rest of the family’s.
When in Massachusetts, Jo is immersed in the Powers’ typical summer activities. They go to the beach, have family cookouts, go on neighborhood walks and enjoy cheering for Chace at his baseball games. They also love swimming, paddle boarding, boat rides, and dance and yoga classes. After dance classes during the summer, Jo returned to school and joined the school step team. And a favorite summer tradition is always having a special birthday celebration before Jo goes home, even though Jo’s birthday isn’t until October.
“Our youngest child was born after Jo started visiting, so she doesn’t even remember a time when Jo wasn’t part of our family, and my daughters Hannah and Ava have a really close friendship with Jo, too,” Maegan said. “Jo visits us during the year, and we have a great relationship with her parents.”
“The Friendly Towns program is a really great way for us to provide opportunities and experiences to Jo that she may not have, and she’s giving back to us with her perspective,” Maegan said.
The Powers Family feels incredibly lucky to have Jo in their lives and encourages others to become a host family.
And Chad, who was at first unsure about hosting a Fresh Air child, had his misgivings melt away that first day in the water. “After playing with her for two hours in the pool, she looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to call you my Massachusetts Daddy.’”
That’s a Fresh Air family.
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Learn more about hosting a Fresh Air child this summer.