May 15, 2020 Category: Stories

Close to Home – Meet the McMahon Family from New Jersey

When host mom, Heidi McMahon, first learned about The Fresh Air Fund she thought it was a great opportunity and wanted to share it with her family.

“When I told my husband, it turned out that his family had hosted through The Fresh Air Fund, twenty, thirty years ago,” Heidi said.

After hearing host dad, Richard, share his memories, the McMahons decided to volunteer to host a Fresh Air child.

Fast forward five years, and the McMahon family from Oak Ridge, New Jersey has hosted 11-year-old Xavier of Brooklyn now for five summers.

“It has been a great experience for my children. We believe that the more people in your family, the better as you grow up,” Heidi says.

During Xavier’s summer visits with the McMahon family, he was always excited to try something new – like swimming and riding a bike.

“Every year we have to swim as much as we can. The more he swims, the more comfortable he is in the water,” Heidi says. “The first summer, he was wearing a floatie when he swam, and now he swims like a fish and goes down the water slides – he has no fear. It’s really been awesome to see.”

Bike riding is also a big part of Xavier’s Fresh Air summers. He actually learned to ride a bike with the McMahon family. During his first summer, Xavier saw all of his Fresh Air siblings riding bikes, which encouraged his determination to learn. With the McMahon family cheering him on, Xavier learned to ride a bike in just one week – and never looked back!

“He loves to go on bike rides here because I don’t think he gets to ride his bike very often. We live on a cul de sac, so the kids can ride their bikes all day long and he thinks it is pretty awesome when we bike to a near-by park.”

Xavier has two Fresh Air brothers, ten-year-old Aidan and eight-year-old Finn. They’ve built a strong bond throughout the years and have grown to be brothers.

“They’re like siblings! They have an awesome relationship and get along wonderfully, and are excited to spend time with each other,” Heidi says. “My boys look forward to him coming – all of my kids do – but my boys are much closer in age to him. They are so excited when they know it’s almost time.”

Xavier also enjoys spending time with his three Fresh Air sisters, 15-year-old Elizabeth, 17-year-old Anya, and 18-year-old Emily. “They’re older so he’s definitely a little brother to them – where they look out for him,” Heidi says. “They just want him to have fun and to have as many new experiences as he can.”

Sometimes, the McMahon family just can’t wait for the summer and have invited Xavier to visit during his school breaks.

“We picked him up, just for the weekend to come out. So that was really cool to be able to take my kids to New York City and see his apartment building and his neighborhood,” Heidi says. “Having access to a backyard 24 hours a day – is all he wanted to do because he can’t just leave his apartment and play. That was really cool for my kids to see – ‘Oh, this is why he was so excited about the backyard because he lives in this huge building!’”

Xavier has truly grown to be part of the family. “The relationship we’ve been able to build with Xavier has been phenomenal. His mother and I text and talk fairly often, as well, and even throughout the year. It’s nice to have more people that we consider family,” Heidi says.

The McMahon family is one of many host families in the Tri-State area. As part of the Friendly Towns Program, host families across the East Coast and Southern Canada open their hearts and homes to children from New York City’s low-income communities. And, while some children travel as far as Canada and Maine, many children visit host families closer to home. It may be a shorter bus ride but children experience many outdoor adventures, visit incredible national parks, beaches and more. 

Learn more about the Friendly Towns Program here.

Your support will help children, like Xavier, learn and grow while making new friends.