#FreshAirForever: Meet Benjamin “Benji” Nwachukwu
“I remember we were at my brother’s wedding with his friends and family from New Hampshire and here I was the kid from the Bronx. That was really cool seeing everyone we grew up with, reflecting and celebrating this union. I even had my biological parents there which was great,” Fresh Air alum, Benjamin “Benji” Nwachukwu, said.
Benji’s Fresh Air story starts in 1993 in Brooklyn when his mom signed him up for The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program and he went on a six-hour bus ride to New Hampshire! He remembers that first bus ride filled with snacks, making new friends and singing songs. After jumping off the bus and realizing that he was far from the city, he met his host family, The Rodds.
“My Host Dad is Kerry Rodd, he was hardworking, and my Host Mom is Beth Rodd, a stay-at-home mom who took care of the kids. When I was there, their daughter, Carrie, went to work every day. They also had two sons, Will and Holly. Will is the oldest and ten months younger than me and Holly is about two and a half years younger than me. When I first met them, I was six, Will was five and Holly was three,” Benji shared.
Benji and Beth were quick to share stories about Benji’s first summer like how scared he was of the family dog. It might seem simple, but for Benji it was a big adjustment to have a dog as a pet because big dogs are not as common in NYC. Aside from the trees and nature, that was a key memory for Benji where he realized that things were different outside of the city.
In New Hampshire, Benji thrived in the sunshine – playing outside, going on hikes, taking a trip to the local farm but his favorite activity was swimming. For Beth and Kerry, it was important for the children to spend time outdoors, play with the neighborhood kids and enjoy the simple things like playing tag.
“Learning how to swim is a big part of my childhood there with my feet in the water – something I had never done. The water was a whole unique experience for me. I even remember swimming in the lake for the first time. I loved being in the water and just being able to have that freedom and try different things that I wasn’t necessarily getting exposed to in NYC,” Benji said.
Benji visited every summer until 1999 and eventually got accepted into St. Paul’s prep school in New Hampshire where he attended with both of his Fresh Air brothers. Throughout the years, Benji became really close with Will and Holly.
“Benji was the peacemaker between Will and Holly. They are all like best friends and they adore him. We all do,” Beth shared.
Fast forward almost 3 decades later in 2021, Benji and his family were invited to Will’s wedding in Connecticut where Benji was the Brother of the Groom right next to Holly. Benji attended several weddings to celebrate with the Rodd family including cousins, but it was a special moment for Benji to stand next to his brother and share a beautiful speech about how it all started with The Fresh Air Fund.
“Everyone was there during the wedding including friends I have met from my Fresh Air summer experiences. It was amazing. I introduced them to my parents, and it was an opportunity to thank everyone who was part of that process of becoming one big family,” Benji said.
The Rodds continue to have a close relationship with Benji and try to spend time together through annual trips. They even stay in touch using family group chats! Benji is truly part of the family.
Today, Benji works in the financial services industry for Wells Fargo. He first learned about banking when his Fresh Air grandfather talked about the industry as he served as a member of the Board for JP Morgan. Benji was given an opportunity to do internships to learn more about working in finance which then turned into a full-time job after college and now a career.
Benji continues to be a part of The Fresh Air Fund’s Council, a dynamic group of young professionals who are passionate about The Fund’s mission and are an integral part of the organization’s volunteer and internal leadership network. Photo by: Katie Borrazzo
“I am very grateful to Benji’s parents for allowing him to be here with us when he was younger. We have known Benji for around 30 years, so we don’t even think about it – it’s seamless, he’s just part of our family,” Beth said.