March 30, 2022

#FreshAirForever: 20 Years Later – A Timeless Fresh Air Family Reunion 

DeVaughn Branch-El, from Brooklyn, first visited the Malesky family in 1988 when his mother was in search of a free summer opportunity for her two sons. DeVaughn remembers his years in The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Host Family Program filled with beautiful memories spent outdoors.  

After DeVaughn’s first summer with the Maleskys, he knew he wanted to return the following summer. To his excitement, the Maleskys re-invited him to stay the following summer and each year after – sometimes even during his school breaks! DeVaughn said that after only two summers, he felt part of their family.   

Over his six summers in New Hampshire, DeVaughn experienced life-changing adventures including learning how to swim and watching movies outdoors! 

DeVaughn with his host Dad, Bob.

DeVaughn first learned about carpentry at a young age when he watched his host dad, Bob, working as a carpenter. Years later, it influenced his future career path. “Bob was a carpenter who built houses, so I just picked up an interest. I never realized why I started being so interested in it until I started reflecting on the summers with the Malesky’s,” said DeVaughn. 

DeVaughn also learned how to have positive, long-lasting relationships by witnessing first-hand his Fresh Air parents, Bob and Michelle’s marriage. “They taught me how to create a committed relationship. Now, it seems like my wife reminds me of Michelle,” said DeVaughn. “They’re still together to this day!” 

Michelle Malesky smiles with the Branch-El twins. 

The Malesky’s did not have children of their own and DeVaughn, coming from a household with a twin brother, enjoyed the unique, individual time he spent with them. However, he recalls one of his favorite summers was when his twin brother joined him to visit the Maleskys! 

DeVaughn (left), host dad Bob (middle), and host mom Michelle (right) reunite in the Malesky’s Florida home. 

DeVaughn recently took a trip with his wife and son to visit his Fresh Air family – it had been the first visit since he was 14 years old!  

At their recent reunion, DeVaughn was excited to introduce his family to his Fresh Air family who he had spent so many of his childhood summers with. Today, DeVaughn’s wife and Michelle stay connected through social media! 

Drawing from his experience with the Friendly Towns program, Devaughn is excited to have his son participate in Fresh Air programs and start his own summer adventures! 

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