May 02, 2022 Category: Our Impact Our Alums Meet Fresh Air

#FreshAirForever: A Bond Through Generations – From Host Mom to Grandma 

Linda’s Fresh Air story starts more than 20 years ago in the town of Westminster, Massachusetts when she first saw an advertisement for The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program in her local newspaper. Not long after, Linda was on her way to pick up 8-year-old Aaron from Brooklyn who would be spending two weeks with her and her son, Jake.  

In Massachusetts, Aaron quickly adapted to his new environment – he was introduced to the outdoors where he lenjoyed exploring nature with the other kids on their block. 

“When I would visit, we would go swimming versus in Brooklyn where I didn’t really have that much outdoor activity unless you go to a park or a center,” Aaron shared. “The Friendly Towns program exposed me to all types of people and all walks of culture in life.” 

Aaron (right) with his fresh air brother Jake (left) enjoying a trip to the beach! 

Linda shares how initially Aaron’s first summer visit with her son Jake was a challenge, but they soon turned from strangers into siblings. “We kind of did what all brothers do, we sometimes argued and then we were best friends at the end of the day,” Aaron said. “I have a lot of good memories with Jake where it was just me and him hanging out.” 

At the end of Aaron’s first visit, he wrote a letter addressed to Jake where he expressed how much fun he had during his Friendly Towns visit. Linda has treasured this letter and was eager to have Aaron return for the following summer and create more special memories. He even expanded his visits to include holidays!

 Aaron wrote his host brother, Jake, a letter after his first Friendly Towns visit. 
Jake (left) and Aaron (right) together at the Mt. Washington Summit. 

For more than 20 years, Aaron and Linda have stayed in contact. This year, Linda came to New York for The Fund’s annual Friendly Towns Conference and was excited to reunite with Aaron and his four-year-old daughter, Mia.  

“My grandbaby is in the picture with him. She’s technically not a Fresh Air child yet but she’s been coming here since she was born,” said Linda. “They come and visit up here with Mia all the time. She calls my husband Grampy and she calls my son Uncle Jake.” 

Linda (left), Mia, and Aaron (right) enjoying pizza together in Brooklyn.

Aaron shares how Linda cares for Mia as if she was one of her own children. From his experience with the Goodell’s, he stated, “They’re pretty much my family as much as my own family is my family. If I never went, I wouldn’t know this part of myself.” 

After her two sons decided to start their own families, Linda happily rejoined the Friendly Towns Program and currently hosted two Fresh Air children, Laila and Emma. During their visits, Linda encourages them to enjoy the outdoors and discover new experiences! 

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