Home Away from Home: A Decade of Memories
Kara Svendsen always knew she wanted to volunteer as a host family with The Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns program, as she has fond memories of her family participating years ago. When it was the right time for her family, Kara applied to be a host family and could not have imagined what an incredible experience it would be!
Abigail, now 15, has been visiting the Svendsen-Tehan family almost every summer since she was six years old! Some of her favorite memories are spending time at the lake, swimming and boating.
“Although we do a lot of fun activities, my favorite thing is just hanging out. Any time we get to spend together, I’m excited. My favorite thing to do is go out to the lake and go boating and swimming together – it’s all so much fun. I never kayaked before coming here, so I learned to do that. At first, I was a little nervous and didn’t want to go in the water, but, coming here, I got that opportunity and now, we have so much fun kayaking, swimming and going to the beach” said Abigail.
The Svendsen-Tehan family looks forward to Abigail’s arrival all year long. Host mom, Kara, shared that for their family, “It is a staycation! We love going to the beach, trying new things, exploring our own community. We always try and do at least one thing that we have not tried before, and we definitely also do all the girls’ favorite summer activities. Kayaking, going to drive in movies, going to the beach…we try and do it all when Abby is here.”
While Abigail and the Svendsen-Tehan’s have shared countless adventures together, Kara shares that “The most impactful thing, at this point, is Abby’s relationship with my daughter Maura. When Abby first visited, she was 6 and my daughter was 3, and I remember thinking, ‘Will they be friends, or is it too many years apart?’ Abby is the best big sister figure I could ever imagine. She has such a love for life and gives great advice.”
Maura and Abby keep in touch frequently throughout the year. When the Svendsen-Tehan’s came to New York to visit Abby, they all went to the Rockettes! Kara has been delighted watching Abby grow into the “strong and wise” young woman she is today and loves to hear about everything she’s up to during the year.
“I had no expectations that Abby would be going into her junior year of high school and still coming every summer, it’s been wonderful. It’s such an exciting time for her, I’m energized for everything she has coming up and I hope we remain a part of everything she does. She is so enthusiastic and just finds joy in everything she does.”
Abby encourages her friends to also participate in the Friendly Towns program! She said, “I tell my friends about my Friendly Towns experience all the time! If I were to use three words to describe it, I would say: family, caring and adventurous. It is incredible!”
Learn more about the Friendly Towns program and how NYC children and volunteer host families form friendships and make memories that will last a lifetime!