#FreshAirForever: Fresh Air Alumni Share Inspiring Stories
We can’t wait for this summer when the Friendly Towns program will reconnect host families and Fresh Air children!
The program would not be possible without a network of incredible volunteers. Volunteer leaders help recruit and screen host families and ensure that they are supported throughout the entire process. Each year, we host a Friendly Towns Conference for volunteers to participate in trainings and workshops. We were thrilled to have our conference in-person again this year! A favorite part of the weekend was inspiring speeches from four incredible Fresh Air alums – and the volunteers also had some time to enjoy NYC!
Evelyn Del Cerro
Excerpts from Evelyn’s speech
My Fresh Air experiences are all about family. After all – what does family really mean? It’s the weddings and the funerals, the joy and sadness, sharing the ups and downs and being there to catch you when you fall and lift you up again.
I am an only child who was raised by a single parent and then I met the Jodickes and I loved being welcomed into their family and enjoyed being the center of their attention.
The Jodickes lived across the street from a farm with cows and chickens. At night it was so quiet and as a kid I was afraid of the dark. Country life was a big change from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
I remember when I first got the job at ABC News back in 1988 and I called my host mother – that’s Aunt Marion – and she was thrilled! It felt great to share my excitement with her. During those early days at the network news, I sat behind Peter Jennings on air in the newsroom and Aunt Marion would call me and say I saw you on the news tonight! Sometimes I wondered if Aunt Marion thought I was the news anchor – not Peter Jennings!
My host family had the amazing gift to meet me where I was. They didn’t question why I might be afraid or ask me to be someone I wasn’t…and that life lesson was far more valuable than anything else they could teach me…how to meet and appreciate people for who they are…and to embrace each other and learn from our similarities and differences.
My host parents, Aunt Marion and Uncle Fred, (which is how they introduced themselves to me my first summer) along with their five children and 11 grandchildren became my second family and I am forever grateful for their love and support.
Excerpt from Jeffrey’s speech
I have been visiting the Browns in Harvard, Massachusetts since I was 10 years old. They are like a second family to me and they treat me like a son. We stay in close touch to this day.
My Fresh Air summers were all about stepping outside my comfort zone and learning new things. I went swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing, tubing…all things I did for the first time.
We also enjoy learning about our different cultures. The Browns teach me about their Jewish traditions and since I am Chinese we talk about my customs like celebrating Chinese New Year.
My host family visited us in New York City a few times and we went to a traditional Chinese dim sum restaurant. My mother enjoyed describing the various foods of our culture.
The Fresh Air experience has made a significant impact on my life. It has expanded my horizons in exploring new things that I would never have imagined doing and it has built a solid connection with my blended family.
Excerpts from Briana’s speech
My mom and my Fresh Air mom became fast friends – now they talk all the time!
Everything that Fresh Air has done for me has grown in connections in exciting and often unexpected ways.
I am now in college at Drexel University in Philadelphia studying engineering. My Fresh Air experience has come full circle. My (host) family in Lancaster is never too far away and it feels great to know that if I ever need someone who I can trust… they are nearby.
Another interesting connection…my college is located across the street from the University of Pennsylvania… so I also get to stay in touch with my incredible mentors from the Fresh Air Summer Teen Academy.
I want to say thank you to my amazing host family, the Astheimers… you are a gift and I love you.
Trevon (TJ) Williams
Excerpts from TJ’s speech
I started visiting my host family when I was nine years old and we are still in touch today. They are like my second family and the love is real.
My Fresh Air family, the Lonergans, live in South Hadley, Massachusetts and the experience of sharing those warm summer days together gave me a new perspective and opened up a whole new world.
My host brother Tommy is like a brother to me…we are that close. Tommy and I literally grew up together – and I miss our visits but we text and talk all the time…staying in touch even during the pandemic. I know he is there for me and I am there for him.
Fresh Air has helped me gain more independence and self-confidence. I am proud to be a part of the Fresh Air Fund family.